Film and music piracy

Piracy isn't just limited to dodgy DVDs. Even though downloading tunes from the internet may be a great way to get your music, if you're getting music for free that you'd usually have to pay for, you're committing a crime.


Piracy is the name given to the illegal copying and selling of DVDs and CDs. Many people see it as a crime that doesn't really matter because no-one is getting hurt, but this is not the case. Money generated by piracy is used by gangs of criminals to fund the sale of drugs and guns.

If you do buy an illegal copy, the quality of the recording may be poor. If it's a DVD, the picture may be grainy or change to black and white at some points, while the sound quality can often be muffled and very quiet. You may not be given a receipt so if it doesn't work, there is a chance you won't be able to get a refund or an exchange.


You may come across illegal pirate copies of DVDs or CDs in markets, car boot sales or online auction sites. They will be cheaper than they are on the high street, so they may have been recorded on a camcorder at the back of a cinema or downloaded illegally from the internet.

Sometimes they are easy to spot but there are things you should look out for including:

  • the cover not being good quality
  • if the film has just been released at the cinema, any DVD of it will definitely be illegal
  • if the DVD packaging has any foreign languages on it, or if the description or cast list doesn't match the film you're buying, it's probably been produced on someone's home computer
  • if the cover of the DVD doesn't have a film certificate on it that you recognise, such as 'PG', '15' or '18', it's likely to be a pirate copy
  • The Industry Trust website
  • Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) website

Illegal music downloads

Downloading music directly to your computer or an MP3 player is now as popular as buying CDs over the counter. It's cheaper and you can choose to pay per download or a standard fee every month for a certain number of tracks.

There are lots of different sites that allow you to buy music online or get some legal downloads for free, but there are users of other sites that are breaking the law by using file-sharing networks to share copyrighted music.

Although file sharing or peer to peer (P2P) networks can be used legally to share photos that you've taken, or music and video files that you've produced yourself, you should not use them to download songs by your favourite artists for free, as they'll be copyrighted.

If you're caught illegally downloading copyrighted music or video from the internet, you may be faced with a fine that costs you thousands of pounds.

Copying CDs

If you've bought a CD, you can lend it to your friends if they want to listen to it. However, it's illegal to make copies of CDs and give them to your friends or to sell pirate copies of CDs for a profit.


Share this page


Would you like to leave feedback about this page? Send us your feedback