Start The New Year Right – Rip One For The RIAA!

Jan 2nd, 2008 | By | Category: Digital Music, iPods & Portable Media Players

RIAA LogoThere’s a lot of misinformation going around the Internet as a result of a report in the Washington Post that suggests that the RIAA is suing people for ripping music for personal use:

In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

A lot of bloggers now seem to think that ripping your own CDs is illegal:

  • Boing Boing says “CD ripping isn’t fair use”;
  • Electronista says “RIAA claims CD rips are piracy in lawsuit”;
  • The Drudge Reports says “Ripping CDs is Illegal”; and
  • On Slashdot “Ripping CDs to iPod not ‘Fair Use'”.

While the RIAA might want to turn back time and make ripping CDs illegal, that’s not what it’s doing.

In its legal brief (pdf) in its case against Howell, the RIAA argues that ripped files are unauthorized copies when you share them on the Internet, saying “Once Defendant converted Plaintiffs‚Äô recording into the compressed .mp3 format and they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies distributed by Plaintiffs.”

RIAA Says Rip It All Night

We checked the RIAA’s site to see what their official position was on ripping CDs. Here’s what they have to say:

Copying CDs

  • It‚Äôs okay to copy music onto an analog cassette, but not for commercial purposes.
  • It‚Äôs also okay to copy music onto special Audio CD-R‚Äôs, mini-discs, and digital tapes (because royalties have been paid on them) ‚Äì but, again, not for commercial purposes.
  • Beyond that, there‚Äôs 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‚Äôt 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‚Äôs not a personal use ‚Äì in fact, it‚Äôs illegal ‚Äì 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‚Äôs never okay to sell or make commercial use of a copy that you make.

In other words, if you’re ripping your CDs for use on your computer or MP3 player, no problem. If you’re ripping your CDs and putting them into your Kazaa folder, they’re going to sue you.

Rip One For The RIAA!

Afro Celt Sound System PodWith that in mind, start the new year off right and rip one for the RIAA.

I’m starting the year off by ripping Afro Celt Sound System’s Pod – a great CD that combines traditional acoustic instruments with elements from the worlds of DJ remixes and techno.

After that, I may tackle some CDs from the Thievery Corporation or the new 3-CD Blade Runner soundtrack. Then maybe a little Kraftwerk, Crystal Method and some Serge Gainsbourg, to mix things up a bit.

Whatever your musical tastes, though, remember that copying CDs for personal use is authorized by the RIAA, it’s fair use and it helps save the environment!

So take some time today to rip one for the RIAA!

Update: More commentary on this at TechDirt.

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No Responses to “Start The New Year Right – Rip One For The RIAA!”

  1. Ed Roberts says:

    The RIAA site doesn’t say it’s legal to rip a CD to your computer or iPod for personal use. In fact, it implies that it’s illegal because there isn’t a royalty paid on the medium (like cassettes and CD-Rs have). It simply says that burning to your hard drive “won’t usually raise concerns”.

  2. info says:


    It’s pretty clear that the RIAA is not challenging fair use rights in this case – it’s saying that it’s no longer fair use when you share your ripped music with the world via Kazaa.

    When you read that the RIAA is trying to get rid of fair use with this case, don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, somebody’s more interested in getting hits than getting things right?

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