This is a question that I've discussed with many other people through the years. I'm curious about people's feeback on this. Do you consider downloading theft? Do you think it is the same as walking into a store and stealing a CD? Or do you somehow consider it different because it's not actually taking anything tangible (ie - just a sound)?
Here are the 2 sides as I see it.
For theft: You are downloading music that costs money if you wish to purchase it at the store. You will likely not go to the store and purchase the music if you download it for free, and can easily burn numerous copies of it onto a CD for your use, or for anyone else's use if they so desire. It is no different than going into the store and taking it off the shelf.
Non-Theft: There is a huge difference between a tangible package that you steal from a store and the sounds contained therein. Some of the costs associated with that package, and the desireability of that CD, are tied up in the packaging itself (notwithstanding the old phrase "don't judge a book - or CD - by it's cover). Furthermore, that music is there for the taking if you so desire and are patient - record it off of the radio for free, or copy a song from your friend's CD if you want - both are perfectly legal. It is the convenience that has the music companies up in arms, and convenience is no basis for calling something theft. This argument does not even address the notion that people are more likely to purchase when they are able to download and listen before buying (something that probably doesn't change the morality of the situation). Finally, you can't actually steal a sound, that is there for anyone to listen to.
Now I'm curious, if you call downloading theft, would it still be theft if the person sent money anonymously to the band when they downloaded some of their songs? What if they calculated the approximate amount the band receives per CD and sent them that amount for every 10 songs they downloaded, or something to that effect.
What about downloading songs that aren't readily available commercially. For instance, you hear a song you love performed on Saturday Night Live, but you can't find a recording anywhere. Is downloading that permissible? What about Grateful Dead concerts, since the band generally encouraged their fans to record and trade their concerts, and even had quieter recording sections set up at their shows.
Any thoughts on this, I'm curious where everyone's views lie.