RIAA to Hunt CD Rippers Next?

By PatB
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

I have never downloaded an MP3 song from a recording artist off of the Internet.  I think this makes me somewhat of a rarity in the cyber world.  I never did it, not because of some sense of morality, or stance on copyright issues.  I saw first hand the dangers of P2P applications from a cyber-security perspective – the constant port probes, the dangers of downloading trojanized files, the denial of service effects of becoming a Gnutella supernode, etc.

Even when downloading music and video became all the rage with iTunes, I skipped it.  I thought the prices were too high.  And while a buck per song seems trivial at first, hundreds times trivial equals substantial.  I don’t even own an MP3 player anymore since my last one broke.  But when I did have one, I just copied by own songs ripped from CD’s I own.

In fact, the first thing I do when I open a new CD is rip a backup copy and put it on my server at home.  I was stung too many times in the past by CD’s that became scratched or cracked and vowed to never again buy a duplicate CD because I damaged the original media.

But now there are a few lawyers that want to criminalize my sensible backups of recorded music media.

From FoxNews here:

You could be sued for thousands of dollars by the major record companies — even if you’ve never once illegally downloaded music.

That’s because at least one lawyer for the Recording Industry Association of America, the Big Four record companies’ lobbying arm and primary legal weapon, considers the copying of songs from your own CDs to your own computer, for your own personal use, to be just as illegal as posting them online for all to share, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Arizona.

In a supplemental brief filed in a P2P case responding to the judge’s technical questions, the RIAA’s Phoenix lawyer, Ira M. Schwartz, states that the defendant is also liable simply for the act of creating “unauthorized copies” — by ripping songs from CDs.

“It is undisputed that Defendant possessed unauthorized copies of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted sound recordings on his computer,” the brief states. “Virtually all of the sound recordings on Exhibit B are in the ‘.mp3’ format. … Defendant admitted that he converted these sound recordings from their original format to the .mp3 format for his and his wife’s use. … Once Defendant converted Plaintiffs’ recording into the compressed .mp3 format and they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies distributed by Plaintiffs.

In other words, according to Schwartz’s logic, every single person who’s ever “ripped” a CD for portable listening on an iPod or other MP3 player could be liable for astronomical damages.

The RIAA’s own Web site is more conciliatory, but implies that the organization reserves the right to go after music “rippers” should it change its mind.

However, Schwartz isn’t the only RIAA bigwig who’s recently implied that those concerns may be raised more often.

Copying a song you’ve paid for in CD form is “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy,'” Sony BMG top lawyer Jennifer Pariser testified during cross-examination in the Jammie Thomas case in early October.

This story went wide last week with some articles published on the WaPo and Wired Magazine.  I’m certain that using CD burners to backup copies of legitimately purchased CDs won’t be outlawed.  But lawyers for the RIAA need to be careful on how they parse their words on these legal briefs.

Advertisements
Advertisement




9 Responses to RIAA to Hunt CD Rippers Next?

  1. This makes me wonder if they will argue the reverse is true: buying mp3s from a service like iTunes and copying them to a CD is also a break of authorized use. Essentially they argue, trying to convert it from its original format into anything else. Don’t like the quality of mp3 and want it in flac? Nope, that isn’t cool either. Are you a DJ with a lot of vinyl? Don’t you mess with it.

  2. This makes me wonder if they will argue the reverse is true: buying mp3s from a service like iTunes and copying them to a CD is also a break of authorized use. Essentially they argue, trying to convert it from its original format into anything else. Don't like the quality of mp3 and want it in flac? Nope, that isn't cool either. Are you a DJ with a lot of vinyl? Don't you mess with it.

  3. There is a lot of confusions about what they own.
    They own their work and any copy is illegal but a orchestra singer singing it is illegal or not… if he is singing for TV shows making money out of it then is it illegal? it should be as it is a derivative of original work.. if not then a person playing the song on Keyboard should not be doing anything illegal and selling the derived Midi file (may be as a ringtone) should not be illegal too… is there any clear doc showing what is legal and what is not?

    • Jalaj,

      Great points. And I guess that’s one of the reasons for all the court hearings- since no one really has clear guidelines on music copyrights and how the copyrights apply to a changing industry, and because our legislators have not helped to clear things up,we are left with the courts to decide.

      Unfortunately there are no large non-profit legal groups that work to protect copyrights for the consumers like the EFF does for Internet issues and the ACLU does for civil rights.

      But to me, an “unauthorized copy” cannot mean a certain file type residing in a specially named directory on a hard drive.

  4. There is a lot of confusions about what they own.

    They own their work and any copy is illegal but a orchestra singer singing it is illegal or not… if he is singing for TV shows making money out of it then is it illegal? it should be as it is a derivative of original work.. if not then a person playing the song on Keyboard should not be doing anything illegal and selling the derived Midi file (may be as a ringtone) should not be illegal too… is there any clear doc showing what is legal and what is not?

    • Jalaj,

      Great points. And I guess that's one of the reasons for all the court hearings- since no one really has clear guidelines on music copyrights and how the copyrights apply to a changing industry, and because our legislators have not helped to clear things up,we are left with the courts to decide.

      Unfortunately there are no large non-profit legal groups that work to protect copyrights for the consumers like the EFF does for Internet issues and the ACLU does for civil rights.

      But to me, an "unauthorized copy" cannot mean a certain file type residing in a specially named directory on a hard drive.

  5. In legalise there is huge different between “unauthorized” and “illegal” and I’m surprised that most of the stories written never mentioned that.

  6. In legalise there is huge different between "unauthorized" and "illegal" and I'm surprised that most of the stories written never mentioned that.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.