How to Download Music and Videos Legally

We've traveled a long road to arrive at our modern understanding of concepts like file sharing, media piracy, royalties, and copyright. File sharing sites like Napster and Limewire introduced many of these issues by promising what we all knew was too good to be true: free media downloads, whenever we wanted them, without consequence. 

Peer-to-Peer file sharing sites like BitTorrent and Pirate Bay, today's descendants of those groundbreaking sites, still openly flaunt certain notions of legality. But the omnipresence (and expectation) of free streaming media has only confused the issue when it comes to deciding whether its legal (or ethical) to download and stream music, movies, and tv. We expect access at no or little cost to us, the user, without always considering what that means for content producers. 

But if you're intent on you and your family downloading movies and music legally, which of course we always recommend, follow these rules to understand copyright laws and responsibly download media: keep current, keep communicating, and keep checking.

Keep Current

Whether or not downloading music and movies are illegal depends on the particular copyright attached to it. To be sure you and your child are downloading music and movies legally, it is important to go to a trustworthy site, for example, iTunes, 7digital, Amazon, Playlouder, HMV, and Virgin. Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, and Pandora all stream music for free and provides links to legal downloads.

For movies, stream shows from legal sites such as network television stations websites (HBO, CBS, Fox, NBC, and ABC), or rent/buy movies online through authorized vendors and dealers like Amazon, Redbox, Netflix, and the iTunes Store. Also, because many streaming sites have developed relationships with movie studios, they are sometimes able to legally show clips or even full-length versions of films.

Keep Communicating

Sometimes it’s difficult for children (and adults) to understand the legal protection that copyrights offer products, and to realize the serious consequences they may face for downloading illegal material. Teach your children that copyrights grant the exclusive right for those that create music or videos to dictate when copies are made, but more importantly, teach them why it matters.

Help children understand that downloading music and movies illegally for free is stealing because it robs its owner of the profit. While we may associate our favorite media stars with glitz and glam, hurting for nothing in a material sense, the numbers relating to lost profits from piracy are staggering, and they affect entire industries. It's estimated that media piracy was the source of $31.8 billion in lost revenue in 2017 alone, for instance. 

Openly discuss with your children how they are obtaining music and movies. Involve them in the search for reputable sites that offer legal downloads. You may consider establishing, with your children, one or two official sites for downloading media.

Keep Checking

Frequently review the media files stored on the computer or your devices. If there seems to be an unusual influx of files, ask your child to explain his or her download strategy. Visit your child’s favorite downloading sites to make sure they are legal and legitimate.


1Recording Industry Association of America (n.d.). For Students doing Reports. Retrieved from

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