I've been told it's cool to download something if you own a hard copy. For example, if you own a game and still have the installation code but the disk is scratched/missing. Similar with downloading DVDs if you actually own them, you're not really stealing since you've already purchased it.
It's also worth noting that even downloading when you haven't paid is sometimes fine, some musicians have said they're cool with their fans downloading the music illegally because at least it gets the music out there.
Pretty much all of this.
Even though stealing is wrong, it does benefit musicians quite a bit in that it spreads their music, so that people know about it. The more people know about it, the more people are going to buy it. I sort of imagine it like giving out samples of cake, and then word spreading that the cake is awesome so people go to buy the cake.
I do hear about people stealing a game just to try it out, which is understandable, especially since a lot of games these days don't do the whole trial/demo thing anymore. What really bothers me is when they claim they're only trying it out to see if it's good but having no real intention of buying the game.
However, to be honest, I believe that the definition of pirating is to have a ship and burn and pillage sea-side villages, but I might be being a bit old-fashioned.
Also, bands may be alright with fans downloading then buying albums/singles, but unless they're completely self-funded, the record label who owns them and publishes/distributes said albums and singles has the final say on that one.
That answer always being "GIVEUSYOURMONEYNAONAONAONAO".
The thing I've always wondered about is TV shows. Surely downloading TV shows wouldn't be particularly different from watching them on TV and recording them back in the days of VHS, especially if you're already paying for a TV service which includes a channel on which that particular show is being broadcast.
I suppose downloading a show which is no longer being broadcast and is only available via buying it on DVD is a black and white situation, but what about downloading, say, Family Guy for example, which is available on DVD, but is also broadcast on several different channels?
[Edited by Skyheart, 1/20/2012 5:01:45 AM]
It's slowly becoming obsolete to download things you own due to the rise of digital distribution (I mean both Microsoft and Apple already figured out how to distributed their own operating systems digitally. If they can do that, any company can really).
Strangely enough, copying content to an analog medium (VHS and others), it is not considered illegal and is one of the extremely few exceptions. I wonder if this right will be taken away as well (as the entertainment industry does not like it at all).