Well, I suppose it would be appropriate to include the primary example if I’m going to discuss another one.
You download a particular piece of software, the company who owns the intellectual rights to it requires that you do not distribute the file, although it is freely available and no registration is required. This is legitimate.
Your friend who does not have internet access utilizes your computer to download said file, puts it on a cd to take to their home, and install. This is also legitimate.
You download the file, and put it on a cd, for the friend to take home nad put on their computer. This is technically in violation of the licensing of the file, although it is really not different than Part 2.
The new scenario relates to an argument the RIAA has apparently made in one of their legal cases. Their claim is that merely having a copyrighted file in a shared directory constitutes a violation of the copyright law.
You have a copyrighted file that you own a copy of/have a license to possess. It is in your /pub directory on your ftp site, available to the public via l/p anonymous/email login. This constitutes a violation under the above argument.
Same as above, yet the file is encrypted. It is unclear whether this would constitute a violation, but it is likely it would not.*
Same as Part 1, but the file is on a webserver, in a public directory, but one which is unlinked to, and not available through any public directory listing. Example: http://www.dogspace.co.za/~user/ goes to an index.html file, rather than a directory listing, and the file is in:
This is probably a violation under the argument.*
Same as Part 1, but the file is named something that gives no indication that the file is any sort of meaningful content. Example: file is named The_Bible.txt
*It is an interesting thought experiment to consider what exactly can be considered a barrier/form of encryption.
Anyway, the meat of this post is to get you to consider the reality of the law, and how two actions with no difference in intention, and very little difference in circumstance can result in one of the actions being fine, while the other one is at least technically a violation of the law (either criminal or civil).
Also, as someone kindly pointed out, I had moderation for comments turned on. Damn me. Fixed.
And, I’ll probably scan this rather plain drawing I’ve been working on later today – “so you can see what a waste of time looks like.”