Wednesday, January 02, 2008

RIAA denies 'fair use' of music

There must be more to this story. [And there is! See this update.]

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is insisting that it is illegal for anyone who has legally purchased CDs to transfer that music onto their computer. Huh?

The RIAA has stated in a lawsuit that Jeffrey Howell of Scottsdale, Arizona created "unauthorised copies" of copyrighted music when he copied 2,000 or so MP3 files onto his hard drive.

That seems to deny over two decades of legal precedent. From Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., decided by the US Supreme Court in 1984:

Manufacturers of home video recording machines could not be liable for contributory copyright infringement for the potential uses by its purchasers, because the devices were sold for legitimate purposes and had substantial non-infringing uses. [emphasis mine] Personal use of the machines to record broadcast television programs for later viewing constituted fair use.

Contradicting their own website, the RIAA's prima facie case seems to be that Howell had simply copied the files. [This may not be the case. See UPDATE 2008.01.03] There must be more to this story, because as the case publicly stands now, this isn't about selling or sharing copies of music. This is about the fair use of a purchased product.
... 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 [emphasis mine] 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.

More from the Washington Post here.

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