Sometimes, of course, artists or promotional sites will offer free downloads. And if you purchase a song or movie before downloading it, then there’s generally no problem. Still, the Internet is running rampant with users who illegally download — commonly via peer-to-peer networks like Limewire or BitTorrent, and also from friends who will pass on the goods. So how illegal is this, and what are the potential penalties?The act of illegally downloading something falls under the Copyright Act of 1976, a federal statute that governs copyright law in the United States.
Types of works protected by copyrights include “works of authorship” such as literary works, musical works, and motion pictures, among others. Songs and movies, therefore, definitely fall within the category of works protected by copyright.Copyright infringement occurs when the works are reproduced, republished, or used without permission from the copyright holder. This is where illegal downloading kicks in. The violation is typically enforced as a civil matter, although specific penalties vary by jurisdictions and some may apply criminal punishments.