What are the dangers of downloading illegal music?

Written by kay ireland
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What are the dangers of downloading illegal music?
Consider the risks before you authorise an illegal download. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Since illegal downloads, P2P networks and torrents are so commonplace online. Downloading the latest album from your favourite artist without paying can seem inconsequential. But before you agree to the download, consider the dangers you're imposing on yourself, as well as the effect you're having on the music industry as a whole. When the disadvantages are weighed against the relatively small fee of downloading music from a legal source, you may find that the illegal download simply isn't worth the risks. Illegally downloading music isn't only unethical; it's against the law and can have serious repercussions.


Sharing another person's creative work and content without a license is illegal. This leaves little leeway for cases involving music piracy. While the pool of illegal downloaders is admittedly massive, recording companies have taken a clear stand against illegal music downloads by suing a select few users for cash rewards. In 2010, Jammie Thomas-Rasset was found guilty of downloading and distributing just 24 songs using the P2P program Kazaa. She was ordered to pay £1.0 million for copyright infringement damages -- £40,625 per song. While this is an extreme example, it allows recording companies to take a tough stance on illegal downloading. The bottom line is that it's an illegal practice and you can be prosecuted for your actions.

Viruses, Malware and Identity Theft

Since illegal downloaders often obtain music from disreputable sources, it's an easy way for hackers and identity thieves to target those who may not fully scan a file before downloading. Infecting a seemingly harmless music file with a virus, spyware or malware that collects information about your identity and computer usage could be putting you and your computer at risk. Downloading from a reputable, pay site such as Rhapsody or iTunes allows you to rest assured you're downloading safe files legally.

Explicit Content

File sharing programs such as Kazaa, Morpheus and Limewire aren't only used for sharing pirated music -- you can share videos as well. Because of this, explicit online content is readily available without any regard for a users age. This is an especial concern when those downloading illegal content are adolescents and are being exposed to explicit content, such as adult film clips. Often the downloads are disguised as regular music clips, bombarding the downloader with explicit images. Reputable sites that allow legal downloads have protections in place to stop children from ordering explicit movies and videos.

Music Industry

It's clear that downloading music can be dangerous for the individual, but it can be especially devastating to the music industry as a whole. In fact, Tower Records filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2004 to combat the effects of music-lovers simply no longer purchasing CDs. While the music industry is adapting by offering digital downloads for songs and albums, the industry is widely affected by piracy. While you may justify piracy since the singer you're downloading already has millions of dollars, consider the others that you're stealing from by downloading illegally; producers, promoters, graphic designers, assistants, record execs and literally hundreds more rely on the purchase of music for their livelihoods.

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