Online Music

The Internet is revolutionizing how we access and listen to music. The development of MP3s, or digital song files, has made it easy to download virtually any piece of music online.


The Internet has revolutionized how we access and listen to music. The development of MP3s has made it easy to download music online, which has led to the rise of online music retailers such as iTunes, streaming services and Internet radio stations and file-sharing sites and programs. As a result, both musicians and the music industry have had to find new ways to survive in a world where nearly any song can be downloaded for free. Canadian teens have embraced music downloading: more than four in ten say they download music from free online sources at least once every few days. [1]

Downloading copyrighted material without paying for it, by any means including file sharing, is illegal. In Canada, the Copyright Act protects all intellectual property and forbids unauthorized copying.

Users who share files break the law in two ways:

  • by copying files for other users: Under the Copyright Act, private copying of copyrighted music is legal: this is limited to making a single copy of a musical work for your own personal use. There is no private copying exception for movies, software, or non-musical sound recordings. File sharing does not count as “private copying” because you are making a copy of something for someone else’s use when you make it available to be downloaded.
  • by sharing with other users: The basic principle of “file sharing” is sharing; other people provide us with access to their files and we give others access to ours. However, it is a violation of the Copyright Act to open to public access works that are protected by copyright because the copies are no longer “strictly for personal use”. Damages for this type of offence are between $500 and $20,000.

The debate surrounding downloading versus paying for music isn’t black and white – even among the artists themselves. Some are in favour of users downloading their music because it gives them free publicity for their concerts, which is where they make most of their profits. Others are fervently against it as it takes away from profits they could be making by selling their recorded music.

Access to Inappropriate Music

Audio files, video clips and lyrics for many songs can be freely downloaded from the Internet by anyone, regardless of age. In some cases, the songs come with additional lyrics that have been censored in the retail version.

Because music lyrics are freely available online, the Internet can also be a handy tool. To find the words to any piece of music, simply type the name of the song and the word “lyrics” into your favourite search engine. Keep in mind that if you use filtering software, it may block websites containing explicit lyrics.

[1] Hajar, Kelley. Teens & Movies: A Look At Canadian Teens’ Movie Preferences and Behaviors. Connect 13, April 2012.