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RIAA: CD Ripping Not Illegal
January 3, 2008
Thomas Mennecke
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There was a bit of shock and awe which reverberated among everyone that has ever ripped a CD. According to a flurry of news reports from blogs such as "Recording Industry vs. The People" and "The Washington Post", an Arizona man who was sued by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) was targeted for ripping tracks from his CD collection.

The mere suggestion by the RIAA that ripping CDs is illegal was enough to ignite tensions throughout the online community. Surely, something as common as ripping a few tracks from an honestly bought CD was covered under fair use? By the looks of things, suddenly it appeared not to be true.

However, if such a fact was true, it would be the first time in the history of the RIAA's efforts to stem P2P usage that the organization sued someone for simply ripping CDs. No one to this date - except as testified by the Washington Post and RIVTP - has yet to be held liable for copyright infringement for material being stored on an MP3 player/hard drive/etc for personal use.

Yet with an untold number of writers, blogs and news sources all trying to sum up the complexities of the file-sharing landscape, it’s very easy to make a simple mistake. It's not a stretch to see how the Washington Post or RIVTP may have misconstrued the truth. The confusion stems from a quote by the RIAA's legal counsel Ira Swartz in a legal brief:

"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."

Ok, so our defendant did rip his CD collection and store it on his hard drive. So far, our defendant still hasn't broken any laws. However there's a key point here that was looked over - his shared folder. Once the defendant committed this act and participated on a P2P network, he was now potentially liable for copyright infringement.

The RIAA's Jonathan Lamy vigorously defended his organization's position to News.com and reconfirmed to all those concerned that indeed fair use ripping is still legal, “The Washington Post story is wrong. As numerous commentators have since discovered after taking the time to read our brief, the record companies did not allege that ripping a lawfully acquired CD to a computer or transferring a copy to an MP3 player is infringement."

In any case, the Washington Post article is rather confusing to those who've consistently followed P2P dramatics. If he indeed was caught for ripping tracks, how was he caught? The Post was partially right for stating that he was caught for ripping tracks, but of course that alone was not illegal. What's illegal is where he decided to place those ripped songs - on P2P networks.

There's been a harsh reaction to the Washington Post and RIVTP's articles. However the mistake has been corrected in the virtual world (the actual article hasn't been edited) as the correct information is now more prominent than the error. We all make mistakes, and with a complex topic such as copyright infringement and the nuances between civil/criminal law, fair use/copyright infringement, it's a forgivable one.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Entertainment Industry :: RIAA

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