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December 11, 2007

Is Ripping Legally Owned CDs Legal?

The blog Recording Industry vs The People is highlighting a court filing by the RIAA that claims that ripping legally own CDs to MP3s is a violation of copyright, or as the RIAA puts it, an "unauthorized copy."  The case is Atlantic v. Howell.  This is contradicted in the oral arguments the RIAA lawyers made to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Grokster case where they said ripping legally owned CDs is perfectly legal.  The story is picked up and commented on by Wired and others.  The filing is linked at RIvTP.  The site specifically notes the quoted text from the Grokster oral argument.  The Wired story mentions the statement by Sony BMG anti-piracy officer Jennifer Pariser that ripping songs was a nice way of saying "steals one copy."

The RIAA brief doesn't directly make the argument that ripping one's own CDs is illegal in all circumstances.  The organization links that activity with making the ripped files available for distribution, irrespective of whether file sharing takes place or not.  The evidence they point to shows that the ripped files were in a shared KaZaA folder, and the brief is careful to always mention that connection.  Still, it shows that the RIAA is always pushing up to the line of fair use with the idea of moving it further and further away from traditional consumer rights. 

Consumers, of course, get lots of mixed messages on this.  Virtually all of the mainstream media players have the ability to rip CDs into MP3s or other file formats without any restrictions.  Vista's Media Player library comes with file sharing capabilities, at least for a home network.  Microsoft has also partnered with various hardware manufacturers to create the home server that stores music files among other media for sharing on the home network.  That's probably all within the legal realm provided one doesn't give away copies to friends.  All of this shows, if nothing else, that what is practical and what is legally possible with digital music is no where near reconciled in spite of these legal pronouncements by the RIAA.  And it's not going to be any time soon.

December 11, 2007 | Permalink


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