When you download free music, that is a violation of copyright
law. Copyright law exists to protect artists’ work so that no
one can make unauthorized profit. Thus, downloading music without
purchasing the original work is unauthorized, and therefore,
illegal. On the flip side, it is legal if one already owns a copy
of the CD and makes duplicate copies for convenience, as long as
this person doesn’t sell the copies.
Since it generally takes artists years to create original work,
copyright exists also to give them all the credit they deserve. The
original intent for the music industry when they provided
downloading Web sites was marketing. The music industry was using
the Internet as a way to bring more business, not for others to
make unauthorized profits.
One must be reminded that music downloading Web sites exist to help
consumers decide what to buy, not what to steal.
Downloading music is like shoplifting.
Forms of art that are protected by copyright include: literary
works, musical works, including any accompanying works, dramatic
works, including dramatic music, sound recordings, motion pictures,
architectural works. Keep in mind that when enjoying the fruits of
someone’s creative brilliance for free, you may be stealing
from that person. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the
likelihood for consumers to record music from the Internet is
higher than the likelihood for them to actually purchase a real
copy of any specific album.
The safest thing to do is to always get a copy of the music (which
creative artists spend years to come up with) and only make the
duplicate copies for private use. If you’re studying for an
exam that requires you to record music from any library, this is
legal as long as you don’t make copies of this CD to share
It is against the law to make unauthorized reproductions of any
forms of art, criminal penalties for first-time offenders can be as
high as five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Civil penalties
can run into many thousands of dollars in damages and legal
The minimum penalty is $750 per song. The most severe consequence
can even lead to jail. It is safest to double-check the
consequences before taking any music downloading action.
Lori Lu is a graduate student studying music. Reach her at: