Download music for free – File sharing, etc. – what is permitted?

Download music for free: Quickly done but not legal

Downloading music for free – even years after Napster, Kazaa, Limewire and suchlike, exchanges and file sharing services are as popular as ever. But when are you actually doing something illegal, and who is liable when members of your household download music for free? We have the answers.

Numerous courts have already dealt with music exchanges and the free uploading and downloading of music. In principle, the following rule applies: Anyone downloading music for free is liable to prosecution. The record industry and musicians have fought for that throughout the world for many years. The question as to what constitutes a music download and the question of liability are a bit trickier, though.

Is downloading music for free, illegal?

Download music for free = fine or prison? When it comes to exchanges and music downloading, everything hinges on the question of copyright law. If the copyright has been unblocked, you are entitled under the law to exchange the relevant music files or films back and forth to your heart’s content. But here is exactly where interested readers should recognise the crux of the whole problem: Who (and why) would anybody just relinquish the rights to his music composition? Correct: Nobody does so (except perhaps a little unknown high school rock band that hopes that their songs will go 100% viral and they will have 3 million YouTube subscribers in a flash).

Every artist wants to (and must) make money with his art in whatever form. This is why it is wise to assume you are doing something illegal when you download music without any money changing hands. By the way, the music download of works protected by copyright is generally banned in one way or another. The sole exceptions are “creative commons” for which the creators have consciously and deliberately expanded usage rights. These platforms can only be found in targeted searches, and they certainly do not contain hits found on the charts.

Sources for music downloading

As mentioned above, it is highly likely that the range of offers on the most popular exchanges includes forbidden goods. One legal limbo often referred to, is related to copyright law itself, though: It only states that a mere download (not upload) is O.K. so long as it is only intended for private use by an actual person. To prevent downloading on a major scale from getting off the ground and being seen as completely legal, an additional passage was incorporated into copyright law whose importance should not be underestimated. According to this provision, a download for private use is also banned if it comes from an “obviously illegal source”. Various rulings by all sorts of courts have shown: There is nobody alive who will believe you when you claim you didn’t know that or Limewire are illegal Web sites. Instead, use legal streaming services, where you have access to millions of songs for a small monthly fee, or buy them on a completely legal basis from iTunes and suchlike in the first place.

Liability of parents for children with respect to music downloads

As a parent, you may be held responsible if your child has downloaded some content illegally and the music rights owner decides to sue. This is the case even if your child had no idea that they were accessing content illegally.

Is the free YouTube to mp3 converter legal?

At first glance, so-called mp3 converters are an alternative to illegal music exchanges. By means of a software program, only the audio track of a YouTube video is downloaded. The audio file can be saved in the usual way, converted into other formats and, with a little technical know-how, transferred to the iPod, for instance. The question of whether YouTube converters are legal or illegal is also not really decided.  Many record companies and artists launch their music videos online. YouTube’s terms of use actually do not permit such an approach. But yet again, there’s a loophole: When you access YouTube, at no point are you requested to accept the terms.

As you can see, the topic of file sharing and music downloads is anything but simple. Basically, we advise you against accessing Web sites where you can download music for free.