Addressing Illegal Distribution of Music in the US


This paper discusses the ways of illegal distribution of music, as well as the measures that the state is taking to stop this. Copying music is a feature of the internet age where new digital ways of distributing information are being built. The state is able to restrict access to pirated content and implement technologies to prevent duplication of material but cannot fully resist this trend.


Copying music and distributing it on the Internet is a pressing issue for intellectual property and a direct threat to digital media, which includes music. Piracy is an activity in which many people are unknowingly involved yet causing financial harm to the music industry. It is required to outline the main factors that determine the existence of copying music in everyday life, including ignorance of the laws or neglect of them.

Illegal Music Distribution

Digital technologies and their distribution have changed the traditional idea of music distribution that used to exist on physical media. The rise of Internet technologies has provided a challenge for copyright holders to raise funds and control the musical property. Digital technologies, in particular digital audio workstations, have made it possible to copy, compress, and distribute music in seconds, making the process simple and mechanical.

Digital duplication of music, reusing already recorded sound, can be used for creative purposes but unknowingly infringe copyrights. In modern music, for example, attention is drawn to the underground genre of vaporwave music popular among Internet users. Often this style of music is presented by popular songs and lounge music from the 1980s slowed down or distorted by the effects [1]. This manipulation creates a new way of aesthetically appreciating music, but still presents a problem for copyright holders. In music that uses a sample from another track as the basis for its own, it is impossible to say exactly how creative the manipulation is, and how much of the music is plagiarized.

The main factor that influenced the massive illegal distribution of music was the emergence of peer-to-peer networking. Programs such as Napster or Soulseek have been used since the 1990s as a way to distribute music to listeners by using technology to access another user’s remote hard drive [2]. With the help of such special programs, one can extract music files, as well as open access to them. On the one hand, this technology served to disseminate a large amount of unknown music and opened up access to a large number of obscure performers for listeners. The problem with this innovation lies in the threat to the music business and the individual artist who loses the opportunity to receive a stable income from music. The dual situation is thus that the listener receives much more music, but the music industry is losing more and more customers.


The way to combat this type of piracy is to create an alternative in the form of official stores where you can legally buy music and thus support the artist. However, online platforms such as Spotify are infamous for giving an artist a tiny amount of money from each audition, leaving listeners to question whether such support even makes sense.

Another barrier to copying music on the Internet is the Digital Rights Management system. Codes sewed into digital versions of tracks using this technology allow one to determine the number of one-time accesses to a particular track before one needs to pay for it [3]. One can only copy a track a limited number of times to multiple media like an MP3 player. In the event of an attempt to illegally use a copyrighted audio track, access to it is automatically blocked.

In US law, the system of restrictions on illegal copying of music is represented by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA has enforced copyright since 1998. This Act consists of two parts representing the main functions of restricting and removing illegal content on the Web [4]. The first part establishes legal responsibility for bypassing encryption and the resulting violation of established software restrictions. The second part of the Act allows one to track illegal content on the Internet and remove it. Traditionally, the system works in such a way that first the resource is given a warning from the copyright holder, consisting of a statement of conviction that the content is illegal and a wish for removal along with a warning about the consequences. Any service provider and hoster in America must independently control the facts of violations of the Act but is not responsible for the very fact of the presence of pirated content. In this way, access to pirated content is restricted through search engine sweeps, which reduces the level of access to illegally downloaded music.


Thus, there is an established legal institution that allows you to restrict access to pirated music on the Internet. Music distributors offer convenient Internet platforms for legal downloading of content and limit the ways of distributing music through CD encoding. However, this does not stop users of P2P systems who continue to distribute and multiply music content illegally. It is borderline impossible to completely eradicate this issue due to the endless reproduction of information inherent in the modern Internet era.


A. Whelan, “Do you have a moment to talk about vaporwave? Technology, memory, and critique in the writing on an online music scene,” in Popular Music, Technology, and the Changing Media Ecosystem, T. Tofalvy and E. Barna, Eds. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, pp. 185-200.

E. Mazierska, L. Gillon, and T. Rigg. Popular music in the post-digital age: Politics, economy, culture and technology. New York, Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.

S. D. Hassan, F. Nihar, M. Rahman, W. Razu, R. A. Tuhin, and A. K. Das, “A behavioral model of music piracy in Bangladesh: Factors influencing music piracy,” 2nd International Conference on Applied Information Technology and Innovation (ICAITI), 2019.

S. B. Nair, “Digital piracy in music records industry: An economic and legal analysis on DRM provisions in India,” International Journal of Research in Engineering, Science and Management, vol. 1, no. 10, pp. 11-17, 2018.

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LawBirdie. (2023) 'Addressing Illegal Distribution of Music in the US'. 7 July.


LawBirdie. 2023. "Addressing Illegal Distribution of Music in the US." July 7, 2023.

1. LawBirdie. "Addressing Illegal Distribution of Music in the US." July 7, 2023.


LawBirdie. "Addressing Illegal Distribution of Music in the US." July 7, 2023.