Music piracy typically involves a theft of intellectual property in the form of illegally distributing or obtaining music. In the past, music piracy was limited to the distribution of illegally copied physical media, such as cassette tapes. At one time, there were concerns in the music industry that the ability to easily copy compact cassette tapes at home would damage album sales. Similar concerns were raised much later when advances in computer technology allowed people to encode their albums to digital files. Fast broadband Internet allows these files to be shared via illicit webpages and software, leading to entirely new venues for music piracy.
The argument that sharing music can lead to people discovering new bands and ultimately purchasing more albums was made in regards to compact cassette dubbing to counter record industry fears. Similar arguments have been made in regards to current methods of music piracy, including illegal music downloading. Some record labels and bands have responded by making certain songs or albums freely available, while others have pursued legal action. A variety of high profile media law cases have involved people accused of uploading or downloading music illegally.
In addition to consumers that illegally share digital music, certain businesses have engaged in music piracy by selling songs and albums without the rights to do so. These businesses sometimes operate in a legal gray area, as they are based in countries that may not recognize international copyright law or the laws of various other nations. Consumers may be participating in music piracy if they purchase songs from such a business, depending on the jurisdiction they live in.
A number of legal methods to purchase digital music exist, though industry concerns regarding music piracy have led to a variety of digital rights management (DRM) protections. DRM allows restrictions to be placed on music files, such as limiting the number of computers a music file can be played on. Certain digital music stores sell files without any copy protection at all, while others offer DRM-free files at a premium price compared to files that contain DRM.
Increases in Internet bandwidth have made other types of media piracy possible as well. Illegally downloading entire movies and television shows can be just as easy as obtaining music, depending on the speed of the available Internet connection. Legal methods exist to obtain much of this content through both subscription and advertisement supported services, though viewers in certain countries may find themselves unable to legally use many region-locked websites.