Facts About Portable Music Everyone Should Know

As the portable music industry really kicks off, there is some confusion surrounding this new format. Piracy concerns top the list for record labels and consumers find themselves a little unsure what's legal and what's not.

Let's look at some of the basic questions about portable music and the answers to help you steer clear of piracy concerns:

What is portable music?
Technically this is anything that can be listened to on the go. Whether it's a CD in a CD player or an MP3 in a download device, if you can take it with you, it's portable. The most common definition of this today, however, is the download format, or MP3.

Where do you get portable music?
There are a variety of legal download sites on the Internet. Specialty companies, music labels and even big-name department stores offer music for purchase by the song or by the album over an Internet connection. There are even gift cards available for portable music downloads so friends can buy their own choices of songs.

How can you tell a site is legal?
Reputable sites that offer portable music downloads have licensing agreements with the record labels. This means that for each song that's downloaded the correct labels and artists will get their cut of the royalties. If a site offers copyrighted music for free, it's very likely the downloads are not legal. There are, however, lots of songs in the public domain, which means their download is free and legal. If you're unsure, check into a site's background before making the downloads.

Can you really get caught?
Yes. Illegal sites are being shut down all the time and music labels are tracking downloads from the sites via IP addresses. This means it is possible for a record company to track who has illegal downloads and who doesn't. This doesn't necessarily mean they'll prosecute everyone who makes an illegal download, but it can happen.

Can you make backups of music downloads?
Yes, in most cases you can. Some download sites even offer special programs that enable the creation of backup CDs or they'll store the buys online for you so if your hard drive crashes, you still have access to your purchases. Some portable download sites will even enable the copying of music on to multiple devices, but this will depend on the site music is purchased from.

Can you make copies of downloads to give away?
No. You can buy music for others as a gift, but buying a single song and copying it for 50 people is called piracy. Exercise common sense here to avoid any issues.

What stops a person from making copies of portable music?
Digital Rights Management, or DRM, protection is often included in downloads. This is a special programming key that disables copies after X amount or it can stop correct copying all together. What kind of DRM is included in the music you buy will depend on the site and the individual record labels involved.

Portable music and portable music devices are great for helping music lovers enjoy large collections without the hassle of CD cases and storage issues. They must be used and purchased with common sense, however. Piracy is a real problem in the download industry and record labels are getting very serious about prosecution.


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