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Teachers: Citizenship:

Last Updated: Friday October 05 2007 16:28 GMT

Downloading music

Business and its changing nature

Maddy investigates illegal downloading

Watch Maddy's report


People who work in the entertainment industry are asking the government to get tough on people who download or share music, TV or films illegally.

They want politicians to force internet providers to cut off anyone who ignores warnings about repeatedly downloading or sharing stuff without paying for it.

Learning aims
  • The effect of downloading on the music industry
  • The law surrounding downloading


Read out this story to the class.

Ask students:

What does the law say?

Students test their knowledge of the law about downloading music by trying our online quiz.

Main activity

Find out how much students know about the law and downloading music.

Music on a computer

In small groups, students discuss and answer these questions:

1. If you download music from the internet, are you breaking the law?

2. If you swap files on American sites, will you get into trouble?

3. Can you be sued for swapping just a few songs?

4. Can children be sued?

5. Are music industry bosses planning to sue anyone in the UK?

Students can check their answers against this printable page of our guide to the music business.

Illegal downloads

The record industry in America is suing more than 200 people who've been downloading music from the internet. They face paying the music bosses a huge amount of money.

Ask the class:

1. Has anyone ever copied their work or idea?

2. How did it feel?

3. Illegal music swapping has been blamed for a drop in global record sales. How might this affect the music business?
Prompt: Less cash for videos and promotion, fewer MTV style channels, fewer professional musicians, maybe less good distribution system.

4. Who benefits from illegal music swapping?
Prompt: In the short term music is free if you copy it, smaller companies could do better if the industry is more of a level playing field.

5. If global record sales drop, who loses out?
Artists who rely on lots of promotion would suffer as revenue would not be there to pay for campaigns, small companies who are not very profitable could disappear, there may be less music available for consumers.

6. Will musicians stop making music if there is less money in it?
Prompt: If you are making music to express yourself you will still make music, it will be harder to make a living from just music.

Extension activity

Students devise a marketing campaign that will publicise their own method for reducing illegal downloads.

For example:

  • Lower CD prices
  • Stronger penalties for file swappers
  • Better law enforcement
  • Action against people who run file swap websites
  • Educate the public about copyright

They can draft leaflets and posters or storyboard a video clip to go on the internet or TV.


Individual students tell the rest of the class one new thing they have learned about:

  • Downloading music
  • The chart merger
  • The law surrounding downloading music

Make a class list to reiterate all the points.

Teachers' Background

What is music downloading?
Using the internet to transfer songs in digital format to your computer. These can come from websites and other home computers around the world.

Why bother?
You can play downloaded songs on a computer, copy them to a CD or put them onto a portable device like Apple's iPod.

Also, songs cost about 79p-99p online compared with £1.99-£3.99 for a CD single.

Authorised sites
These are official services which work with record labels and artists. Most require payment to cover royalties and other music industry costs.

Unauthorised sites
These usually offer free tracks that have been copied by other fans and put there without the permission of labels and artists. Fans get lots of choice - but no money goes back to those who made the music.

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