Think about all the ways you connect online – e-mail, IMs, blogs, user-content sites like YouTube, your profile pages on sites like MySpace and FaceBook.

When you put them all together, these networks give you lots of personal space on the Internet, where you can say and do pretty much anything you want. But no matter how personal it might be, there’s no place online where you can operate outside the law.

You’ve probably heard that sites like YouTube and MySpace are cracking down on members who upload copyrighted content to their sites without the copyright holder’s permission. Why? Because it’s illegal!

The law prohibits any copying of a copyrighted work without the copyright holder’s permission. It doesn’t matter that you’re just doing it for fun, or that you’re just doing it inside your circle of online friends. Any unauthorized copy is copyright piracy. That means you could be breaking the law if you:

  • copy a photo and post it on your profile page
  • cut and paste an article into your blog
  • copy parts of a video for content you upload to your social networking site
  • put copies of your computer software on your website

And the same goes for copyrighted works that your network of friends might send and post to you. No matter how they got there, you’re risking real trouble if you’ve got illegal copies in your personal space.

So take another look at your private network. It’s all yours, just make sure the content you keep there is really yours, too.

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