You like free stuff, everyone likes free stuff. On the internet, you can find music, movies, television, games apps and books to download for free. File sharing websites, known as Peer to Peer (P2P) sites, allow anyone to download or upload all types of digital media to and from Illegal Download Sites. 

When you access one of these online music sites to download the new Rhianne single or the whole album, are you breaking the law?

P2P and torrents, modern-day piracy

File sharing websites offer services for a monthly fee or at no charge. Torrent websites will issue passwords to a limited number of people or allow anyone to use the site. Some torrent download sites have rules requiring members to upload and download files in equal numbers. All torrent sites require everyone to download the same software, called a bit torrent, and share computer connections.

Downloading, uploading and sharing unauthorized copies of a song, television show or movie is called internet piracy. Before you burn season 3 of The Big Bang Theory or the season finale of Game of Thrones, think of the consequences if you get caught.

Intellectual property and copyrights

File sharing websites often ignore intellectual property and copyright laws by allowing anyone to download and distribute digital media. Illegal manipulation of features built into computer software and games that normally stop the program from functioning without proof of legal purchase breaks more laws.

In the United States, artists and producers have protection under laws passed by Congress. The laws protect musicians, actors and producers by not allowing others to:

  • Download digital copies of their work for free
  • Sell copyrighted or intellectual property without paying the creator
  • Give the work away
  • Make and distribute copies without permission

In 1996 the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) made the protection of intellectual property enforceable in other nations.

Canada recently passed digital download laws making it mandatory for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to report the IP addresses of those using illegal music downloading sites. ISPs must send a letter of warning to the suspected pirate, as well.

The United Kingdom, Australia and the United States have similar laws in effect. Suspected pirates receive warning letters from their ISP. If customers ignore the warning, the legal owners of the pirated material can file criminal or civil charges. Two copyright infringement cases filed against suspected pirates have gone to court in the United States.

In federal court, a jury decided that a Boston University graduate must pay $675,000 to four record companies in payment for 30 songs he downloaded and distributed while in college. The 25-year-old admitted to uploading and distributing over 100 songs on mp3 download sites while attending the university. His lawyer plans to appeal the jury’s decision.

A 32-year-old Minnesota woman was ordered to pay $2.5 million to record companies for illegally downloading 24 songs. She refused an offer to settle the case for $5,000 and refused, later, to make a $25,000 donation to musicians in need.

After two trials and an appeal to the Supreme Court, which was denied, she must pay $222,000 to the record companies. Attorneys for the record companies proved that she illegally downloaded and distributed over 1,500 songs but sued her for only 24.

Ripples through industries

Worldwide, illegal downloads account for more than $40 million in movie revenue losses each year. In the United States, the music industry loses more than $12.5 million in revenue a year to internet piracy.

A recent study of music downloading habits in Japan shows people illegally downloaded more than 4 billion songs and videos in 2010. Only 4 million legally purchased downloads were made during that time.

Guilty countries

These five countries pirated the most digital media in 2014:

  • China
  • Russia
  • United States
  • Ukraine
  • Taiwan

Top music pirating countries, the United States and the United Kingdom continue to see declines in their country’s music industry revenues.

According to the Telegraph, the first six months of 2015 saw over 10 million songs and 30 million albums illegally downloaded in the UK. The music industry lost approximately 500 million pounds to illegal online music download sites.

The director of Beggars Group, Andy Heath, told the Telegraph,

“Clearly the biggest problem with illegally downloaded music is that there is a generation who feel it is natural that music and all creative content is free.”

A British study shows that 15% of all internet music pirates are under 30 years old and see no reason to pay for albums or singles.

The dangers of illegal download sites

Aside from the possible legal consequences of downloading illegally, other reasons for avoiding these sites will make you think twice before signing up.

  • Bit torrents open your computer to identity theft
  • Viruses disguised as music or video files destroy computers
  • Pornography also comes disguised as other file types
  • All connected computers can see your private files
  • Child exploitation using P2P connections

Internet piracy comes with threats to personal information and family safety. Monitoring all the computers in your home and discussing the potential hazards with children keeps the internet safe.

Songwriters, singers, actors and producers work hard to entertain their fans and deserve payment for their talents. As a new generation grows up believing internet piracy is normal, the entertainment industry loses money and pirates risk their personal and family security on music and movie download sites.