Since the Fraunhofer Institute invented their digital audio compression method MPEG Layer3, today known as 'MP3', millions of people around the world started using their PCs to record audio-CDs to 'MP3'-files. The big catch of MP3 is the fact that it requires only 3-5 MB of storage space for a CD-title, yet still offering excellent digital quality. This opens great opportunities. Hundreds of CDs recorded in MP3-format can easily fit on a modern hard disk and once you hooked a good audio system to your PC you can enjoy hundreds of hours of high-quality music without the need of bulky and expensive CD-changers. Due to its moderate size MP3-files can easily be distributed over the Internet, offering every Internet user the chance to listen to his favorite music without having to spend the money for a CD.
The Music Industry And Legal Issues
Above I simply told you what's possible, but it is a different question if it is legal. It does of course make sense that record companies as well as artists want to get paid for their music, so they don't appreciate if people have access to their products free of charge, because they are losing money. Therefore it has been made clear that offering copyrighted music titles on the Internet free of charge is illegal. There's still no doubt that you can find almost any song somewhere on the net as long as you look hard enough, which is one of the positive results of the archaic nature of the Internet. Still there are major legal battles going on and unless you are in a safe spot I advise against putting up music-titles on your website. Look at what is going on with Napster or RIAA and you get an idea of how touchy the music industry is about free MP3 sharing on the net.