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Supreme Court to illegal music downloaders: Ignorance is no defense

Think you can get away with illegally downloading music if you didn’t know you were breaking the law? Nice try. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of a Texas teenager who was making that argument, effectively shutting it down for the foreseeable future.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Supreme Court declined today to hear an appeal from Whitney Harper. Several years ago, when she was a high school cheerleader living with her family in San Antonio, Harper used the file-sharing service Kazaa to download 37 songs by artists like Eminem, Mariah Carey, and the Police, according to a 2008 Wired story. The Recording Industry Association of America sued her years later under a law that would require her to pay $750 per downloaded song.

Harper in turn argued that she shouldn’t have to pay such high fines because she hadn’t realized she was doing anything illegal. “She argued that she was not aware that the file-sharing program on her computer was dealing in stolen property,” per the CSM. “She said she thought the songs could be downloaded for free, just like listening to the radio on the Internet.” While one federal judge sided with Harper at first, an appeals court overturned that decision.

By refusing to hear Harper’s latest appeal, the Supreme Court is essentially letting the RIAA’s approach stand. So from now on, all the record industry has to do is post copyright notices on CD jewel boxes. If you somehow miss those warnings and pirate music anyway, you’re officially out of luck.

What do you think of the Supreme Court’s stance on this issue? Let’s hear it.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

Originally posted November 29 2010 — 4:53 PM EST

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