Illegal Downloading of Music

What is the law in relation to illegal downloading of music?

Since the onset of the internet one of the biggest areas which have caused problems for large business and industries is in relation to the illegal access to and downloading of music. Prior to the internet it was much easier for the music industry to protect the music produced by their artists as this was restricted to formats such as vinyl, audio tape or compact disc.

Although there may have been some illegal copying of tapes and CD’s this did not have much of an effect on the music industry as sales for both of these formats were still high.

Since the onset of the internet, practices such as illegal downloading and file sharing has significantly reduced the revenue made when music artists release new singles or albums.

Why do record companies wish to restrict illegal downloading of their music?

When record companies put out singles or albums by a particular artist money will be made by both the artist and the record companies dependent upon sales of CD’s and legal downloads of MP3’s. If people are continually downloading music illegally then neither the artist or the record company will be able to make any money therefore weakening the rights that they have in the original music.

What rights are there under UK law for music?

  • In the UK music is protected by the law of copyright under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998.
  • Copyright protects both the original musical score and the recording.
  • When dealing with illegal downloads it is the protection of the recording of the music which is the main focus. The protection in the musical score is designed to stop other artists using significant parts of the copyrighted work.

Who owns the copyright in a musical recording?

As is the case with all areas of copyright the owner is the person who has created the work – this right arises automatically once the work has been created.

As is usual, however, when music is produced for commercial gain the artist will be signed to a record company which deals will the commercial distribution of the music. Ownership will therefore usually be joint ownership by both the artist and the record company.

What protection is given to a musical recording?

As is the case with all forms of copyright the owner has the right to use the work and distribute the work in any way which they see fit.  Copyright in music therefore enables the person who created the product to get credit and financial benefit from it, as well as control over where it is distributed.

Accordingly if any other unauthorised party seeks to exploit these rights in a work protected by copyright they will have infringed the work.

If you download music for free from a site which is not a site authorised by the owner of the work to provide downloads then you will have infringed the copyright in the work.

How to record companies seek to protect the copyright in musical works?

Digital Rights Management

What is meant by Digital Rights Management?

Digital Rights Management or DRM is a process which enables the owner of the copyright control over the number of viewings, plays and copies and even the devices which the content can be played or viewed on.

How can this be done?

In the music industry this is done through something called restrictive technology. This means that the technology that the music can be listened through is restricted.

Unlock this article now!


For more information on:

  • Internet processes for obtaining music
  • Peer to Peer
  • What is meant by peer to peer?
  • Napster
  • What is napster?
  • Downloading
  • How do legal downloading websites protect the copyrighted work?
  • If I download music illegally will I be likely to be prosecuted?