What Are the Laws on Downloading Music for Free?


Quick Answer

People are able to legally download music for free if the music is covered by a Creative Commons license or another clear form of permission, reports About.com. Downloading music that the owner does not make freely available is a form of punishable copyright infringement, points out the U.S. Copyright Office.

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What Are the Laws on Downloading Music for Free?
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Full Answer

Any form of creative work such as a piece of music is protected by copyright law as soon as it is fixed in a tangible medium such as a recording device, whether or not it has a copyright notice, according to the U.S. Copyright Office. Any use of copyrighted material without an owner's permission is copyright infringement. A Creative Commons license is a notice that artists use to offer their work for free, although some forms of Creative Commons licenses carry various levels of conditions and protections, states About.com. People are able to freely download music that has a Creative Commons license as long as they abide by any terms stipulated in the license such as not using the music for commercial purposes.

Unless there is clear indication that the owner of a copyrighted work such as a piece of music allows free downloading, the work is protected under copyright law, reports the U.S. Copyright Office. Those found guilty of copyright infringement by illegally downloading music are liable for damages of up to $30,000 for each item downloaded, as of 2015. If the copyright owner proves willful infringement, the fine can go up to $150,000 per piece of music.

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