Legal vs. Illegal Digital Downloads – Setting the Boundaries


The scope of online piracy has reached startling rates. According to Go-Globe statistics, about 70% of all web users do not see illegal downloading of digital content as an illegal practice. In addition, the annual economic losses in the music industry alone amount to $12.5 billion. Moreover, over 71,000 jobs are lost in the U.S. as a direct result of online piracy. These are disturbing numbers. But often online piracy results from the fact that many web users lack knowledge on legal and illegal digital downloads.

Which digital downloads are illegal?

That greatly depends on the country in which you are located. For instance, both downloading and uploading files from and to peer-to-peer networks in the U.S. is illegal. However, in Canada, only uploading is considered a crime.

Nevertheless, the most important rule that web users must never forget is to avoid copyright infringement on the internet. That means that they should not download copyright materials without purchasing or hiring them. In addition, consumers are not allowed to distribute copyright materials which they have bought or hired themselves. This rule counts unless you are the person who has created the material in question or if you have permission from their creator to download or distribute the content.

Types of Illegal Digital Downloads

Peer-to-peer networks and torrent file-sharing sites are the main distributers of illegal digital content. However, not all of these platforms are dedicated to online piracy. There are some exceptions in which torrent or P2P websites offer free copyright materials. Still, that is the case only with 98.8% of P2P platforms and 1/3 of torrent sites.

Live Lessons Series

Downloading videos or songs from YouTube is also a form of online piracy. There are many software tools dedicated to downloading YouTube videos in various formats. However, if you take the time to read YouTube’s terms of use, you will see that the network allow its users only to stream content and it forbids all other actions, including downloading, storing, copying or redistributing the content. Similar is the case with other streaming websites. The majority do not allow the random download of files, unless it is otherwise specified. Soundcloud users, for instance, are allowed to download some of the audio files uploaded on the site. The ones that are offered for free and legally have a download button next them.


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