Illegal downloading is somewhat of a mixed barrel. There’s no clear way to feel about it, to me at least. It is entirely true that in terms of music, movies, and other forms of entertainment, that people worked hard to produce a work which they should be compensated for. It is not at all a victimless crime. I would say the biggest victim would be the music industry. Illegal downloading and file sharing distribution has single handedly killed the music industry. The amount of records an artist sells these days is nil compared to even 15 years ago. Illegal downloading will also make the downloader the victim if caught, with the fine of downloading illegal music at $250,000 per FILE. Downloading a single album can cost you over a million dollars. These charges are meant to make examples of the people they do catch, but they are ridiculously overpriced.
Illegal downloading isn’t entirely a bad thing though. While maybe not a good thing, illegal downloading has become the new standard of measuring TV show popularity. Game of Thrones has become the most pirated files on the internet over the last few years. Netflix uses top torrent files in choosing which TV shows they acquire for their streaming service. Some people use illegal downloading as a form of protest. It is well known that when purchasing music from less popular bands, the record company gets most of the money, especially when bought digitally, the standard nowadays. Illegal downloading has generated immense popularity for bands that would otherwise never receive it. Illegal downloading has also opened access to music that people in some parts of the world would never have access too. For example, say the band Weezer releases a new record that you buy. Two weeks later, Weezer releases the same album in Japan with two Japan-Only deluxe bonus tracks on that edition of the CD. It is the only legal way of obtaining the songs, and the cost of a deluxe physical album, imported from Japan, after converting currency, ends up being far too much money to obtain two songs. Does that make it right? Absolutely not. But it might persuade the music industry to adapt to the times; change.
Is illegal downloading the same as stealing? That is a hard question to answer. Do I think it is? Yes. I believe that if you are going to download a file illegally, and you keep it/enjoy it, you should buy it to show real support for the artist.