Pirating copyrighted materials over the Internet, either as the provider or a recipient of a particular item, opens the doorway to legal charges being filed against the individuals who are suspected or found to be directly responsible for the copyright infringement. As such, in the U.S., piracy falls under the general coverage for intellectual property protection law enacted in the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8.
This Section, the Copyright Clause, empowers Congress to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” by protecting “for limited Times” the rights of authors to control and profit from their works. As such, digitally pirating copyrighted works can result in both civil and criminal penalties to any person found to be responsible.
Piracy may also come under the coverage of additional legal prohibitions and enforcement measures enacted according to internationally-based agreements with other nations as well as internationally-based decision-making bodies.
Copyright Laws contains more information on U.S. intellectual property protection laws and the penalties which may be incurred by breaking them.