The turn on the 21st century brought about a new role for the internet; peer-to-peer file sharing, a.k.a. P2P. P2P came around in the late 90s abd required users to scour the internet looking for the files they desired, usually music files in the form of MP3s. This was a long process that required time, patience and a knack for navigating the internet.
That all changed when Shawn Fanning, a Northeastern student, created Napster. Napster was the first P2P file sharing program that allowed users from around the world to connect to each other and share the music that they had with others for free.
However, this made the big record labels pretty upset, and eventually a lawsuit against Napster was filed. The lawsuit from the record industry claimed that Napster was allowing for people to steal songs that belonged to the artists and record labels, and they wanted Napster shut down immediately. The world watched as the 9th Circuit Court ordered Napster to close its doors and labels the file sharing of copyrighted files illegal.
Even though the record labels won the battle over Napster, their profits are still falling and P2P file sharing is still widely used. New programs such as Limewire, Kazaa and Vuze have all succeeded each other to prove to the world that people and programmers don't care too much for what the 9th Circuit Court and the record label industry says.
My take on the matter is that in order to steal something, you must take something owned by another without permission. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stealing as: to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice.
Since P2P file sharing is the process of copy bits of information and giving them to another person; no one has had anything stolen. The first person to share the song presumably purchased it legally and then gave a copy of it to someone else. Nothing was stolen, no one is short a product - actually a new product has been created.
The person who created the new file is the sharer or more perniciously, the computer - not the record label, nor the artists and record shop. The record labels got mad because people were tired of buying way overpriced CD's that you couldn't return when you found out the rest of the songs on the album were no good. They lost in the game of business and the internet and the people won; the court simply sided with big business (as usual). But again, despite the record labels and court decisions, file sharing is still on the rise and the music industry profits are still on the decline.
The information above was taken from Download - The True Story Of The Internet "People Power," and also from personal experience.