A music download is the transferral of music from an Internet-facing computer or website to a user's local computer. This term encompasses both legal downloads and downloads of copyright material without permission or payment.
Popular examples of online music stores that sell digital singles and albums include the iTunes Store, Tune App, Napster, Zune Marketplace, Amazon MP3, Nokia Music Store, TuneTribe, Kazaa and eMusic. Paid downloads are sometimes encoded with Digital Rights Management that restricts making extra copies of the music or playing purchased songs on certain digital audio players. They are almost always compressed using a lossy codec (usually MPEG-1 Layer 3 or Windows Media), reducing file size and therefore bandwidth requirements. However, this may cause an apparent loss in quality to a listener when compared to a CD, and cause compatibility issues with certain software and devices. Uncompressed files and losslessly compressed files are available at some sites.
Music downloads offered by artists
Some artists allow their songs to be downloaded from their websites, or an online music store often as a short preview or a low-quality sampling. Others have embedded services in their sites that allow purchases of their singles or albums.
Challenges to legal music downloads
Even legal music downloads have faced a number of challenges from artists, record labels and the Recording Industry Association of America. In July 2007, the Universal Music Group decided not to renew their long-term contracts with iTunes. This legal challenge[clarification needed] was primarily based upon the issue of pricing of songs, as Universal wanted to be able to charge more or less depending on the artist, a shift away from iTunes' standard 99 cents per song pricing. Many industry leaders feel that this is only the first of many show-downs between Apple Inc. and the various record labels.
The RIAA against illegal downloading
The Recording Industry Association of America launched its first lawsuits on September 8, 2003, against individuals illegally downloading music files from the Kazaa FastTrack network. At first, the RIAA's campaign to sue illegal downloaders looked like a bad idea to many critics; however, two years after it began, the campaign had survived at least one major legal challenge and began to pick up speed. The RIAA said that it filed 750 suits in February 2006 against individuals downloading music files without paying for them in hopes of putting an end to Internet music piracy. Many say that it is unfair for the RIAA to choose certain individuals to sue out of millions, but the RIAA dismisses the charge that the suits are unfair, comparing them to those who get targeted for speeding tickets. The RIAA hopes their campaign will force people to respect the copyrights of music labels and eventually minimize the number of illegal downloads that happen every day.
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