Ask Parry - Can My Child Be Sued for Downloading Music?
I've been reading and seeing on TV that children are being sued for downloading music online. What if my child is only 12 and downloads music online without my knowledge?
A Worried Parent
Dear Worried Parent:
Direct copyright infringement in the US is a strict liability offense. That means if you download music it doesn't make any difference if you knew what you were doing was illegal, or even if you knew that the music was copyrighted. If you download music from others online without having the legal right to do so, you are liable.
Parents may have the legal obligation to pay for what their children are doing, as well, even if the parents didn't know about it. Parents are often responsible for the actions of their children. It depends in the US on the state law, where you reside. So far, parents have been paying to settle claims against their children, even as young as twelve years old.
In addition, since the parents typically own the computer and control the Internet access, they might be held liable for their children's actions under contributory theories. You can learn more about copyright online and offline in our resource section.
The best thing you can do is ask her what she is doing and try to make her stop stealing music, especially when you can buy it legally for $.99 per song online. Check her devices and the accounts she has with peer-to-peer services, like Limewire. Let her know that, on average, families have to pay about $3000 to settle a music copyright infringement claim. That’s a lot of babysitting money! We have some teen animations showing how much time it takes to work off $3000. Check them out and share them with her.