Free downloads have made a massive impact on the intellectual property industry, changing the way the industry interacts with their customers.
Downloading mostly became popular because many Internet file-sharing programs allowed fans to download music, software, videos, and other programs for free. The most notorious of these, Napster, was shut down after a series of lawsuits were filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
In addition to Napster, free downloads have come through other peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, allowing those who have purchased or downloaded products to share them with those seeking to access them without any money changing hands. Intellectual property theft is estimated to cost companies billions of dollars each year.
Not all free downloads are illegal, however, as companies often allow customers to download certain material for free as a promotional effort.