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Most people are well aware that they are breaking the law if they download music that has been illegally placed on the internet. But what does the term “illegal downloading” actually refer to?

Copyright holders have sole rights to the copying and distribution of their works to others. This also applies to the use of modern technology, such as digital copying and making products accessible on the internet. Intellectual work in digital formats has just as strong legal protection as intellectual work in analogue formats.

The distribution of copyright protected music on the internet without the copyright holder's express permission can happen in a number of ways. Illegal file sharing can be described as the main form of copyright abuse on the internet, along with the associated file streaming services, which have become far more widespread in recent times.

What is illegal file sharing?

When we use the term "illegal file sharing", we are referring to the uploading and/or downloading of copyright protected material to, or from, the internet without the copyright holder's express permission,. Such activity clearly breaches the provisions of the Norwegian Copyright Act – "uploading" implies making material accessible for others (the general public), whilst "downloading" of copyright protected content implies copying (reproduction of copies). Both activities are covered by copyright holder "sole right" legislation.

With regard to file sharing, there may not always be a sharp dividing line between uploading and downloading. Some file sharing sites stipulate that before users can copy material from others, they have to upload a certain amount of material themselves. Thus, the use of such networks may also lead to illegal uploading, even though the initial intention was just to download material.

The fact that the Norwegian Copyright Act allows the copying of music for private use does not allow you to copy content that has been placed on the internet illegally.


"Streaming" refers to the transfer of content over a network as a continuous stream of data to the consumer, but where the consumer doesn't make a permanent copy of the file. A large range of legal streaming services are now available and these services have become very popular amongst consumers, especially where music, TV and film are concerned.

But, competing with these legal services, there are counterfeiters who distribute illegal content via streaming services. The Norwegian Copyright Act stipulates that it is illegal to upload (make accessible) music content for such sites without the express permission of the copyright holder.

Given that streaming does not involve the permanent storage of a local copy by the consumer, illegal copying (content copying) affecting sole right ownership is not deemed to have taken place. In Norway, legislation states that it is not up to the individual consumer to establish whether streaming content has been produced illegally or not. Thus, individual internet users who stream work on their computer or device, are not deemed to have breached copyright laws even though the relevant item has been made available without the permission of the copyright holder.

However, you do commit a breach of the Norwegian Copyright Act if you, by the use of technical equipment, are involved in producing a permanent copy of that same streaming content.

New types of illegal services

Certain illegal internet sites use a technology called the Bit Torrent protocol, which resembles conventional streaming, but with the implication that the consumer is involved in the further distribution of the relevant content. The consumer then becomes a so-called "seeder" for others using the service. This action represents making content accessible to the general public, which is a breach of the Norwegian Copyright Act where the copyright holder has not given express permission for this. The use of such services is, therefore, illegal.

It may sometimes be difficult for individual consumers to ascertain how the service actually works in purely technical terms. For example, it cannot be ruled out that the consumer might pass on the content without actually realising it. Thus, in order to be on the safe side, we recommend the exclusive use of legal services.


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Last update: 6. May 2016