I need to hunt down and read some more pleadings in the case of Atlantic Recording Corporation et al v. Howell, about which I blogged in disgust yesterday. But after reading this brief and this online discussion thread, my anger may have been misplaced. And – is it possible? – the Washington Post may have published a story that was less than a full, frank and accurate depiction of the lawsuit.
It may well be, that the RIAA’s focus in the case is Mr. Howell’s use of the file-sharing service Kazaa to share the music he ripped into his ‘puter from his purchased CDs. Which is a whole other issue entirely.
I burrowed through a very long page on the RIAA’s website about what consumers should know about copyright law, and found this:
- It’s okay to copy music onto an analog cassette, but not for commercial purposes.
- It’s also okay to copy music onto special Audio CD-R’s, mini-discs, and digital tapes (because royalties have been paid on them) – but, again, not for commercial purposes.
- Beyond that, there’s no legal “right” to copy the copyrighted music on a CD onto a CD-R. However, burning a copy of CD onto a CD-R, or transferring a copy onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player, won’t usually raise concerns so long as:
- The copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own
- The copy is just for your personal use. It’s not a personal use – in fact, it’s illegal – to give away the copy or lend it to others for copying.
- The owners of copyrighted music have the right to use protection technology to allow or prevent copying.
- Remember, it’s never okay to sell or make commercial use of a copy that you make.
So what the RIAA says, is that it I am outside the law when ripping music from my purchased CDs onto my PC for my own listening convenience. But I shouldn’t worry about it unless I give away or sell the copy or even lend it to others for copying.
I may be a criminal in the RIAA’s eyes, but they have bigger fish to fry, so I can rest easy for now. Besides, the RIAA may be on thin legal ice about the copying to PC (and mp3 players) for personal use being outside the realm of legal rights. Courts have held that it’s not a violation of copyright law for consumers to tape TV shows on their own VCRs for time-shifting, i.e., so that they can themselves watch the shows at another time, when no distribution is involved.