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  • Writer's pictureCassandra L. Wilkinson

Why That Free Music You Downloaded May Not Be Free! -- Part 1

If you spend any time on the internet, you will quickly run into offers for free music downloads for your listening enjoyment. But beware, that free music that you want to download may not be free.
There are sites that claim to be licensed distributors of the music that they are offering and may even charge you a fee for their services, but do not have any legal right to offer this music. When you download from these sites, you are doing so illegally.
This was the case in 2003, when the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) sued a 12 year old girl along with 260 other individuals who illegally downloaded music from a site called Kazaa.1Three months prior to the lawsuit, the family of the girl signed up for the Kazaa music swapping service and paid a $29.99 service charge. RIAA settled its lawsuit with the family of the young girl in exchange for a payment of $2,000.2
In 2006, RIAA sued a Minnesota woman for using Kazaa to download 24 songs on behalf of six major record labels and won an appeals court ruling in 2012 that awarded RIAA $222,000.3
In light of the above lawsuits, you should always check to see if the internet music provider that you want to use is a licensed distributor of the music you want to download.
In 2008, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) established a Music Download Warning List to help individuals to identify those sites that may not be legitimate music download providers.4
Also, RIAA and the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) have developed a website called “” that helps individuals find authorized music download providers.
Since the website’s terms of use states that the information on the music provider sites are provided “as is” and that they do “not warranty the accuracy of the materials provided herein, either expressly or impliedly, for any particular purpose and expressly disclaim any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose”5; you may want to consider also searching the U.S. Copyright Office data base to determine the owner of the music you want to download by going to the U.S. Copyright website.6
Once you know who owns the music that you want to download, you can attempt to contact that entity to see if the internet music provider you want to use is a licensed distributor.
1. at,2933,96797,00.html 2. CNET News at 3. Capital Records, Inc. v. Jammie Thomas-Rasset, U. S. Court of Appeals, No. 11-2820 (8th Cir. Sept 11, 2012) 4. David Sohn, Music Download Warning List, CDT website, July 1, 2008 at 5. at 6. U.S. Copyright Office at
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