The free-for-all in Broadband Land

At our house, we've just entered Broadband Land, a largely unexplored territory.

My wife and I couldn't stand not having the ultra-quick and constant access to the Internet that we enjoy on our computers at work. Throwing cost and caution aside, we arranged for a high-speed line through our cable TV company.

Now that we live in Broadband Land, I suppose I should be busy downloading all those free albums and movies one hears about on the Internet. A fast connection makes such activities practical. But the learning curve involved, as well as the bigger issue of whether I would be receiving "stolen goods," form a barrier I've been unwilling to cross.

The entertainment industry hopes I never will. It firmly believes that the unauthorized copying and distribution of its products over the Internet, even for free, is piracy.

Overseas, where even fewer people have yet to enter Broadband Land, the issue is related but slightly different. Old-fashioned illegal copying of CDs forms the most serious form of piracy.

About 2 out of every 5 musical recordings sold worldwide last year was an illegal copy, and total sales of pirated materials topped $4.3 billion, said a report issued this week by the International Federation of Phonographic Industries.

Despite the huge scale of this illegal music CD copying, many say that online is where the future of the recording industry will be and where the issues of increasing piracy will have to be faced.

So far, the entertainment giants have mainly gone to court to combat illegal online copying. But if downloading movies and music from the Internet were made easy, legal, and cheap, many new customers might make a purchase.

Even me.

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