Music piracy: how it works
Someone uploads an album or movie to a 'file-sharing' website such as Pirate Bay. From here it can be distributed and replicated over and over. That's why, once an album has been leaked on to the internet, it is almost impossible to stop it being disseminated.
Internet users can then peruse the site for the album they want -- or, if that sounds like too much hard work, just enter the name as a search term in Google.
The album may be distributed via 'peer-to-peer' technology such as BitTorrent.
That means you are essentially downloading the music from someone else's computer.
Napster, the original music download site, operated on this basis, as does Pirate Bay, described by the LA Times as "one of the world's largest facilitators of illegal downloading".
Sometimes, users will upload the album to a file-hosting site such as RapidShare or Megaupload, from which it can be downloaded directly.
This is a far faster process than accessing music via peer to peer.
Music is downloaded in a format known as mp3.
The sound quality is far inferior to vinyl or CD -- but, on the other hand, you don't have to pay for it. There are legal downloading sites, such as the Apple iTunes store. However, less than 10pc of music downloaded on the web is done so legally.