Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 14:21 UK

Charity advice on music downloads

By Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent, BBC News

Boy listens to music
There are fears that music piracy among children is endemic

The charity Childnet is launching a global information campaign to warn children about the potential dangers of downloading music illegally.

The campaign, which is supported by the music industry, will distribute a pocket-sized guide to schools and colleges in 21 countries.

Childnet says the risks include breach of copyright, the threat of viruses and the loss of privacy and security.

The charity works to promote child safety on the internet.

Over recent years, the music industry has launched a wave of lawsuits to try to deter young people from sharing copyrighted material over the internet.

That campaign appears to have had little impact on the behaviour of young music fans.

The message can be boiled down to "Limewire - bad, iTunes - good" although it doesn't use those exact words
Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent

Now the industry is trying new tactics, including urging internet service providers to cut off the accounts of users who are frequent file-sharers.

But the music industry also believes that it can change behaviour by educating both children and parents, and this latest initiative by Childnet forms part of that campaign.

Potential dangers

The guide, which has been published with the help of funding from the music trade body the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries, sets out the potential dangers of using peer-to-peer networks to share music.

"Copying or distributing copyrighted material such as music, films, games and software without permission or payment is illegal," it says.

File-swappers are vulnerable to risks such as viruses and unwelcome content
Childnet guide

It goes on to warn: "File-swappers are vulnerable to risks such as viruses and unwelcome content."

There's also a warning that parents can be held responsible for the illegal activities of their children.

Childnet quotes research which shows that one third of young people in Europe regularly share music using peer-to-peer networks, three times the proportion that use official music sites.

Its leaflet explains that there are scores of legal music retailers on the web, which are safe and guarantee sound quality. Amongst the campaign's backers are the musician Ronan Keating, the British Musicians Union, and the Internet Service Providers Association.

Childnet also quotes 17-year-old Laura, who says she has given up using one of the peer-to-peer services: "I used to use Limewire but didn't realise it was wrong and my parents didn't know what I was doing."

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