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Music, television, movies, books, comic books and art are all readily accessible online, and consuming such media makes up a large proportion of a young person's Internet time. There are a number of different ways that users can access online media, including streaming and downloading.

This will help you to:

  • understand how the internet is used for accessing media
  • learn about streaming and downloading
  • talk to young people about internet use.
Girl sitting down looking at her phone

How do people access media online?

Streaming and downloading media such as movies, music and books is becoming the common way for people to consume media, as internet access becomes distributed throughout Australia, and integrated into all of our devices.


Streaming media is when a media file isn't saved to your computer, but it plays on a website. YouTube is one example. Sites like Spotify and LastFM market themselves as a personalised radio station, allowing users to search and play music they like, find new music and create playlists to play songs randomly or in a pre-chosen order. ABC and SBS are increasingly hosting their TV and radio content online, as are overseas channels such as BBC and the US-based Comedy Central, although these may not be available from Australia. Scans of art, books, journals and comics are also freely available for viewing in many places, such as Project Gutenberg or the Baen Free Library. Many art galleries, including the National Gallery of Australia host previews of exhibits and scans of art journals on their sites.


Media can also be downloaded and saved to be enjoyed later, including on mp3 players (portable music players) like iPods, and e-readers like Kindles. Some of these are legal ways of purchasing media, such as buying music, television shows and e-books through iTunes or Amazon. Some are free due to expired copyright, such as the novels available at Project Gutenberg. Some, the copyright holder has made available for free, such as through Baen Free Library. Some music albums, such as Radiohead's In Rainbows, are pay as you want, or free for a limited time, or free in order to boost listens and therefore later sales.

Media can also be downloaded illegally, where copyrighted material is copied, posted online and downloaded without the permission of the copyright holder. This is very common, and young people may not know that it is illegal or consider it at all risky, even though most file sharing programs require users to agree to uphold copyright restrictions before they sign up. One common way is through peer to peer (P2P) programs that allow a user to connect to other users online with media they want, and download fragments of that media from many different users at once, which shares the traffic, responsibility and cost of hosting. Illegally downloaded content can also be re-uploaded to other sites, such as to YouTube. If copyright holders, such as the network responsible for a television show, notice their content and complain to the host site, then the user can have their upload deleted (common), can be banned from that site (usually after a few warnings) or prosecuted (usually only for "leaking" or uploading content ahead of its release date).

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