The consequences of music copyright infringement are usually directly related to the worth of the music distributed or illegally obtained. Actual damages must be demonstrated in order for monetary consequences to apply, but a person can be ordered to stop distributing music that violates copyright simply by demonstrating that infringement exists. Most people are concerned with actual damages when they think of music copyright infringement because this is the only way any money can be recouped. It is usually left up to a court how much money is due to the owner of the copyright. In some areas, infringement is rampant because there are no consequences of copyright infringement or they are not enforced.
In order for there to be any consequences of music copyright infringement, there must first be someone who can be blamed for infringement. It is not necessary to show that the person willfully or even knowingly infringed the copyright, only that he or she acted in such a way that the copyright was infringed. Significant amounts of minor copyright infringement go on every day, even in areas with copyright laws, simply because it is very difficult to catch infringers. As such, there are effectively no consequences of copyright infringement for a large number of people.
If a case is brought against an infringer, the first consequence will usually be an injunction against continued distribution of the music in question. When infringement is not direct piracy but rather concerns a version of a song or some other issue like sampling, this can mean significant losses for the artist whose work is being challenged. While an injunction does not give the person whose copyright was infringed any money back, it does seriously diminish the other person's ability to continue to distribute the work.
Actual damages are the area most people are concerned about when looking into music copyright infringement. A person can be ordered to pay the entirety of the profits made from a song or may even be ordered to pay an amount of money that the person holding the copyright could have theoretically made with the song. In some cases, distribution of a single song for free online can result in fines upward of 150,000 times the purchase price of the original song. The actual amount of the fine often depends not on the value or availability of the song, but on the lawyers trying the case. Given how severe the consequences for copyright infringement can be when they do happen, it is a good idea to be very careful with copyrights.