Issue: The recording industry is increasing the legal heat on illegal downloads, and the businesses that allow it to occur at work.
Risks: Musicians can sue for up to $150,000 for each song copied. Computers and equipment can be confiscated.
Action: Erase your risk with the following four bits of advice.
Hip-hopping employees downloading tunes from the Internet can expose your organization to legal problems, not to mention sapping your computer resources.
The recording industry has sued thousands of illegal downloaders. Plus, it has sent notices to Fortune 1000 companies, asking them to curb employee music pirating and warning of potential legal liabilities.
In one case, an Arizona tech firm paid a $1 million settlement after employees were found distributing thousands of music files on the company's server.
4 steps to erasing your risk
1. Draft a policy against copyright theft. Include a section in your Internet policy that bans downloading music and movies. For a sample policy, see www.mpaa.org/ Anti-piracy/press/2003/2003_02_13.pdf.
2. Audit your system for unauthorized copyrighted material. Regularly check your network and desktop machines for unlicensed software and illegally downloaded movies and music. Several vendors offer networkservices. Examples: www.copyrightassembly.org, www.musicunited.org or www.riaa.com.
3. Delete all unauthorized copies of copyrighted material. Unless a worker can produce a license or subscription agreement, assume copies are illegal.
4. Take security steps to monitor or block future downloads. Among your options: Include firewalls that screen out such files; use software to detect employee attempts to use peer-to-peer file transfer services; use automatic audit software that maintains an inventory of applications and files on networked computers.