A friend sends me an mp3. I would like to listen to it at work so I upload it to Google Docs for easy retrieval. I later find out (or already knew) that the file was downloaded illegally. What type of privacy am I offered and am I liable for the illegally downloaded file?

  • Not sure if this is on topic or not. It's not strictly about any one web application. It's a good question though.
    – ChrisF
    Jul 1 '10 at 15:25
  • 2
    the title could be rephrased like "how to share securely files via online storage by preserving privacy" and then provide some scenarios.
    – akira
    Jul 1 '10 at 16:15

If your friend sends you an .MP3 and you don't own the CD, then that is illegal filesharing.

It's against Google's Terms of Service:

5.5.2 You agree to use the Services only for purposes that are permitted by (a) the Terms and (b) any applicable law, regulation or generally accepted practices or guidelines in the relevant jurisdictions (including any laws regarding the export of data or software to and from the United States or other relevant countries).

As always, I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice.


The first answer is, this depends on the jurisdiction you are in; "fair use" (in the USA) is different from "fair dealing" (in the UK). In the UK, the MP3 is a copyright violation unless you have a license from the rights-holder even if you own the CD, as there is no implicit right to format-conversion.

The second answer is that creating a new copy, as you do when you upload the file Google Docs (or any other web-based service) is a copyright violation in itself.

The third answer is that this isn't a criminal offence under most jurisdictions, and many privacy laws have exceptions for criminal offences, but not for civil liabilities. Revealing your private data - even if they did so to expose a civil liability - may well be a breach of your privacy rights.

I'm not a lawyer, this isn't legal advice, contact a real lawyer.

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