A download is a file offered for downloading or that has been downloaded, or the process of receiving such a file.
Downloading generally transfers entire files for local storage and later use, as contrasted with streaming, where the data is used nearly immediately, while the transmission is still in progress, and which may not be stored long-term. Websites that offer streaming media or media displayed in-browser, such as YouTube, increasingly place restrictions on the ability of users to save these materials to their computers after they have been received.
Downloading media files involves the use of linking and framing Internet material, and relates to copyright law. Streaming and downloading can involve making copies of works that infringe on copyrights or other rights, and organizations running such websites may become vicariously liable for copyright infringement by causing others to do so.
Open hosting servers allows people to upload files to a central server, which incurs bandwidth and hard disk space costs due to files generated with each download. Anonymous and open hosting servers make it difficult to hold hosts accountable. Taking legal action against the technologies behind unauthorized "file sharing" has proven successful for centralized networks (such as Napster), and untenable for decentralized networks like (Gnutella, BitTorrent).