MP3 music and legal issues

Today it is probably impossible to find a computer user who didn’t ever heard about MP3 music. The MP3 is the most superior format to store thousands of high quality music compositions on your computer’s hard drive or MP3 player. You don’t need to buy those nondurable CDs, sort and change them every five minutes just to find your favorite song. Today listening favorite music is easier than ever. However, obtaining a brand new album never was so risky. Numerous lawsuits against not only big and popular Internet music services such as Napster or MP3.com, but also against ordinary computer users already became trivial. Such situation is really confusing. Any music lover can go in jail just because he likes to download favourite music from the Internet. Most users are worried. So, is it legal to use MP3 files? If not, then what is wrong with them?

To answer these questions we must know the difference between copyrighted music materials and content suitable only for personal use. You have to understand that copying and distributing anything that wasn’t created by you or doesn’t belong to you is a real crime. Take it as a rule that can be applied to all legal stuff including computer software, music albums on CDs and, eventually, MP3 files. All this means that you CANNOT make an MP3 from your favorite singer’s song and share it with your friends, colleagues and millions of other Internet users. The situation looks unfair to you? Maybe it is not right, but you have to admit that musicians, composers, producers and everybody else who work hard bringing you that brand new composition need to get paid. When you buy a legit CD, some money goes to people involved in its production. When you encode an MP3 and share it in a peer-to-peer network or put it on your web site, you pay nothing. Unfortunately there are lots of Internet users who think differently. As a result most MP3s are illegitimate.

However, this doesn’t mean that you have to get rid of all your MP3 files. The format by itself is absolutely clean. You can encode all the music you have, store it on your PC or any other personal device and enjoy it. Just do not distribute it in any form, do not share MP3 files over the Internet, etc. As long as you keep MP3 tracks for personal use only, you are not a bootlegger. You also can purchase any MP3s you want from popular Internet music stores such as iTunes, MSN Music, SonyMusicStore, MyCokeMusic, etc. For one dollar you can download any song you want. Pay less than 10 dollars and get the whole album. Commercial Internet music stores give you the opportunity to buy quality tracks much cheaper than in a non-virtual music shop.

Some of us may have friends who refuse to pay money for MP3s. They do not visit Internet stores, but simply download favourite tracks from various file sharing networks and illegal web servers. Yes, they get the same as you. However, think about all the risks and inconveniences they encounter. Illegaly downloaded music often comes in a very low bitrate (low quality) MP3s. Some tracks are incomplete. In file sharing networks you can find lots of supposedly music files that actually aren’t MP3s, but hidden spyware and virus installs. Is is needless to say what may happen if you double-click on such a “track”. Furthermore, organizations like RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) can sue any copyright violator, even a kid. Decide it yourself, are few dollars worth such a risk?

The time when everybody could download any music track for free has passed irreversibly. Of course, there’s always free cheese in a mousetrap. The music industry have learned how to fight piracy. As long as you buy your MP3s you have nothing to worry about. It is legal.


  • M.C.

    I read your article, but I have a question that I don’t think that it clearly answered. I have legally purchased copies of all my favorite songs in mp3 format. I like to post a song along with a post on my personal blog … to accompany a poem, etc. … I have uploaded my favorite mp3’s to a web server
    where I pay for storage and the ability to listen to (stream) my files whereever I want to hear them.
    Is doing this an infringement on the copyright, which I have legally paid for?

    I’m really confused and can’t seem to find a straight answer anywhere. I even downloaded a copy of the DMCA and got nothing from it. If this were illegal, then why do so many companies offer streaming file service? Any legal text you can point me to or clarification that you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

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