Free music downloads have made a massive impact on the music industry, changing the way the industry interacts with their fans as well as the very process music fans obtain the music they love.
Downloading music became popular with fans because many Internet file-sharing programs allowed fans to download music 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).
After successfully shutting down Napster as a portal for free music downloads, the RIAA began suing individuals who downloaded free music from file-sharing programs. The RIAA successfully sued Jammie Thomas. The verdict against Thomas was overturned by an appeals court judge in September 2008. The RIAA is appealing that judge's decision.
Not all free music downloads are illegal, as labels, artists, and retailers have periodically allowed fans to download tracks for free.