Rip This, and Sue That?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Tell me this isn't confusing... Marc Fisher writes in the Washington Post that the recording industry is suing an Arizona man for copying a CD he bought LEGALLY to his own computer. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) comes right out and says, no we're not! If you've ever put a CD into your computer, this is a case you want to pay attention to. And the only way to get to the bottom of things is to go right to the source. What lead to Marc Fisher's arguments? We'll ask him. What is the RIAA's position on ripping your own CDs? Will they sue you for dumping a CD to your iPod? We'll ask Cary Sherman, the President of the RIAA.

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So, I was confused by the wording, "we have not taken the stance......". Is the president of the RIAA indeed saying, definitively, that it is legal to rip copies of legally purchased cd's and to then transfer those files to a separate audio playing device?? -Or just that the RIAA hasn't taken that stance, ....yet.

Sent by FHA Ssellbaink | 2:48 PM | 1-3-2008

I think I sent tis already to a different part of the blog site. What is the RIAA position of this situation:
I already own the vinyl lp record of an album. I download the mp3 version of the same album. Is this allowed?
How about if I already own an album (i.e. paid the royalty fee for the album the 1st time I buy it). Can I get an "updated version" of the technology of that album, without having to pay the royalty fee again?

Sent by Lewis Getschel (pronounced get-shell run together | 2:52 PM | 1-3-2008

Mr. Sherman's comment that there are few clear lines between legal and illegal copying is correct. Furthermore, there is a difference between permissible copying and unauthorized copying -- sometimes based on the law and sometimes based on "custom". Strictly speaking: the making of ANY copy of a copyrightable work infringes the copyright owner's rights in his or her work. The question is: "what is permissible copying" -- there is NO legal write to copying -- except for educational, critical use or as legal backup of computer programs. I would enjoy discussing further - and, more importantly WHY.

Sent by Michael R. Graham | 2:55 PM | 1-3-2008

Don't buy music put out by record companies...buy it from the artist.
If the record companies spent more time on the music they would have more sales.

Sent by Dr Rich Blackmoor | 2:56 PM | 1-3-2008

This whole scenario incenses me. The RIAA is vainly trying to capture every buck they can by going after innocent endeavors such as sharing music.
...Will I get arrested for loaning a friend a CD? Will I get arrested for burning a copy to keep in my car??? Uh-OH...I have copies on my MP3 player!! Gee, I better erase them...

Get real, RIAA...you can't do this!!

I have been purchasing record albums for almost 55 years and have built a substantial library. I have thousands of albums for which I have PAID THE ROYALTIES ON. What...you're going to come after me and give Beethoven money because I copied his 5th Symphony for my car?!?!?

Now...if I want to copy the occasional CD or two, it's my right, MY PROPERTY and MY BUSINESS to do this.
I have no intentions of selling them illegally!! THEY ARE FOR MY ENJOYMENT and that of my friends and family.
If you wish to continue your "Witch-Hunt" then fine...go after illegal sites that are making profit from this practice.

BACK OFF from private citizens.

Sent by Richard D. Kennedy | 2:56 PM | 1-3-2008

the heart of the issue in my mind is this: the RIAA and everyone else things they can tell consumers what to do. they can't. especially in america. 20 years ago no one got sued for dubbing casette tapes. the basic fact is this: if music was affordable no one would steal it. itunes is not a better deal. the song price is the same it's just ala carte now. bottom line: the RIAA and all the media companies are greedy and now that the consumer can circumvent their little monopoly...we are. end of subject.

Sent by Aaron Nedd | 2:56 PM | 1-3-2008

I wonder how much of this issue was caused from the original cd lie. I remember when cd's first came out and the claim was that they would be much cheaper than cassettes because they were a fraction of the cost to produce. If the music industry would have been true to this, would file sharing be as big as it is today?

Sent by Jason Foust | 2:56 PM | 1-3-2008

Under the terms of any digital format which has been purchased by an individual, whether DVD, software or music may be copied as a backup for the individual. Mr. Sherman needs to read the license terms of any DVD - in addition, the bigger point being missed is how the RIAA and the music industry is misusing the Courts and harassing 1,000s of people with un needed litgation in most of the cases not provable by the industry - instead they threaten with "lawyer" letters that anyone sued could face thousand dollar fines, but the industry will accept much less if settled short of litigation - the industry needs to be taken to task - it is going to happen in a big way

Sent by Alex | 2:58 PM | 1-3-2008

How does the industry legally determine who is "sharing" the music (i.e. computer name, user name, ip address)?

Sent by Nate | 2:59 PM | 1-3-2008

Billionaires and millionaires suing teenagers for thousands of dollars for sharing their music with their peers. Not selling it, but sharing it. And whining about the "cost" to the billion dollar industry. They whine so sadly about "piracy" and about robbing those poor, deprived artists all the while pirating money out of all of our pockets. What next, suing people for selling old CD's in a garage sale? Billionaire producers and millionaire artists should quit talking poor and complaining and be greatful that people are willing to buy their over priced "art" in the first place. You cannot use the courts to prevent the market from re-pricing your product as new technology makes your business model outdated.

How about this: let every music consumer boycott buying any content from any RIAA affiliated group for one year. A year without buying new music. Let it hit their pocket book and maybe they will quit whining and picking on people less able to defend themselves. I will not buy a single CD for 2008.

Sent by George from Oregon | 3:01 PM | 1-3-2008

The RIAA has not brought any cases of copying for personal use to court, because the precedent for such a case has not YET been developed in the courts. However, by inserting small phrases in cases today, the RIAA helps build up court interpretation in favor of allowing the RIAA to reserve even those rights later down the line. In scholarly literature, this is a case of a repeat player (the industry) having persistent advantage over one-shot players (individual consumers) in developing legal rulings in their own favor.

Encouraging people to call in and ask whether their copying activities are legal perpetuates the industry's ability to interpret the law in their favor. Many of these questions have not formally been decided by the courts, and there is no statute that specifies a detailed set of absolute rights.

Sent by Lara | 3:03 PM | 1-3-2008

Has your guest considered the impact of the un-affordability of $0.99 mp3's and the growing number of independent artists often streaming or giving away music- and often far more appealing music. Generally it is kids spending their parents money on downloads. I can't afford, nor do I want, the "big sellers". This seems to pose a greater threat to the music industries profit. While I appreciate the desire to earn a profit- greed appears to be the more obvious drive- few musicians ever are able to afford to only support themselves with their music trade.
Have they also considered that many people who might "copy" their friends music are not "lost customers" - they likely could not afford it in the first place.

Sent by hawk | 3:07 PM | 1-3-2008

the outrageous prices of music cds by the record industry has driven to this result. if cds were more affordable, people would be more inclined to purchase a new cd than obtaining a lower quality mp3 copy.

Sent by jose | 3:07 PM | 1-3-2008

The music industry is getting what it deserves. It is taking a huge hit because of this issue, but musicians are not. Independent record companies are popping up all over the place in response to this and thriving.

Many bands, like the folk-punk band Defiance, Ohio, put all their albums on their website for free. They make their rent by touring. Plan-it-x records claims that CD's make less than 2 bucks to make and they sell them for 3 dollars postage paid. Most bands make little money from CD's, while the record companies cash in.

Soon these major music companies will be as dead as the dinosaur. Everyone knows this but them. Of course they'll continue to grasp at what little credibility they have left.

Sent by kyle | 3:09 PM | 1-3-2008

The major labels suffer more from lack of viable artists that warrant our attention, rather then file sharing. All too often we hear the argument file sharing is destroying the recording industry. I've seen no definitive evidence to support this claim, only the mantra from the labels spouting it as fact. Meanwhile indie artists are thriving using the tools available for self promotion. The major labels put all of their eggs into one basket promoting over-hyped over exposed pop acts that cater to the large retail stores demand for high volume sales while selling out the small independent music stores who promote up and coming artists. Perhaps growing their base with many fresh artists, and regional promotion of those acts, would serve them better then suing the people they're trying to pedal their product to.

Sent by Jamie Davidson | 3:16 PM | 1-3-2008

I think nitpicking over these specific cases is beside the point. The real issue for most of us is that big media corporations have perverted the copyright laws. When copyright was originally established in the US it was intended to protect the creator of "intellectual property" for a reasonable, but limited, time to profit from his or her creative efforts. After a specified time the work became Public Domain. I think the framers of these laws recognized that no work is created in a vacuum and long-term benefit should be to society at large.

In my lifetime, the industry and organizations like the RIAA, with the help of their bought-and-paid-for legislators, have changed the copyright laws to protect corporate profit derived from copyrighted material FOR EVER. Recorded music that was public domain some years ago is now, mysteriously, under copyright even though the artist is long dead. Many current "owners" of copyrighted material had nothing to do with its creation, and may well have "legally" stolen it. How many classic Jazz musicians died without ever seeing a penny of royalties from their compositions and recordings that now are "owned" by some megacorp and still making money for them?

I'd like to see a more honest discussion of what copyright is and should be. I'd like to see the artists protected; the corporate shareholders can look after themselves.

Sent by Jim | 3:22 PM | 1-3-2008

The RIAA said that peer to peer file sharing is Illegal,when in fact you have sites like bt.etree that use bittorrent to spread concert recordings by bands that allow recording and trading like Dave Matthews and Phil Lesh.

Sent by Russ Cansler | 3:55 PM | 1-3-2008

Th RIAA person insisted that the key part of the lawyer's argument had to do with the music being in the "share" folder.

That is an incredibly stupid distinction. I am unfamiliar with Kazaa, and it may look only in that folder for shared music, but since any folder on a computer can be shared, focusing on that single directory (however likely that the music in it would be for sharing) is technologically absurd.

Since I assume the lawsuit would have gone forward even if the music had been stored in a directory call "things I like", the reporter's inference about the RIAA position would be even stronger.

I might also point out what seems to me to be a legitimate use for that particular directory: to make it easy to share music & other files on a home network. Or does the RIAA expect people to buy multiple copies of the same CD for each person in the home?

Lastly, as has been pointed out, what about used books & albums & CDs? I, like millions of others, often buy used books and CDs and almost as often sell them. I've never heard of a suit against used book stores. Does the RIAA consider used CD stores to be illegal? In both of these cases, I believe, no money flows from the stores to the writers/singers/producers.

If I have the right to sell my legally purchased CD, I certainly ought to have the right to copy it to my computer and store it anywhere I want.

Sent by LC | 4:26 PM | 1-3-2008

Listening to the on air conversation on this topic today, it was abundantly clear that no action has ever been taken against anyone copying music for personal use. The kid in AZ was being less than honest in his claim. That ought to calm some of the knee jerk hysteria. However, I understand the RIAA's hesitation in not wanting to clarify their ability to do so at some point because someone will surely find a way to twist this innocent use into something more questionable. For instance, once a disc is on a PC, it's ripe for PtoP, burning a quick copy for a friend or relative and so on. A very thin line. This sense of entitlement expressed by Gen X'ers and beyond to "free" music, film, software, games and anything else which can be replicated, is pretty self serving. Grow up folks and literally; pay the piper his/her due.

Sent by Mike Kimsey | 5:22 PM | 1-3-2008

Alex | 2:58 PM ET has it "mostly right":
The person buying a CD (or DVD, sheet music, MP3, ....etc) has the authorization to play, convert, or store it (whatever) FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY.
If you give, sell or trade that CD, you MUST send ALL copies (in all formats) with it. Don't keep the MP3 on your iPod, if you gave the "source" to your girlfriend.

The "lawyer letters" you mention are extortion! Hire an attorney and counter-sue (can we say "class-action").

And finally, yes, the copyright laws have been extended (several times) while the poor, ingnorant, consumer failed to vote for their own congressman. So, the media companies got copyright laws changed (with some exceptions) that NOW expire 50 years after the artist dies. That is why "Gone with the Wind" is STILL under copyright (70 some years after it was written).

BTW, I believe "Happy Birthday" is scheduled (under current law) go into Public Domain in 2035 (or so).

Reform the Copyright Laws! Or be quiet!

Sent by Harold | 5:28 PM | 1-3-2008

THE WASHINGTON POST STORY IS NONSENSE. This is not debatable.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK NPR.

like here for instance:

"The RIAA is not saying that the mere format copying of a CD to an mp3 file that resides only on one's hard drive and is never shared is infringement. This is a huge distinction and is surprising the Post didn't understand it. The brief also goes on to allege in great detail that the copies placed in the shared folder were actually disseminated from Howell's computer, thereby stating a traditional violation of the distribution right, even aside from the making available/deemed distribution theory."

http://williampatry.blogspot.com/2007/12/establishment-press-takes-riaa-on.html

Sent by Brian Pearl | 6:04 PM | 1-3-2008

I think that this was a great topic. This is a difficult issue to resolve especially with the current mindset regarding music; namely that it is to be freely distributed. On a less serious note, I think you missed a great opportunity when you played the song at the end of the piece. You should have played "Don't Download This Song" by Weird Al Yankovic. His song is a great tongue-in-cheek criticism of the whole situation.

Sent by Daniel Cammisa (like shirt in Spanish) | 8:14 PM | 1-3-2008

after all is said and done it's still a curious business that the RIAA doesn't own up to the inherent freedom to transfer the music one acquired legally from one format to another, provided ownership hasn't changed. Why isn't that position clarified?

Sent by tom sowa | 8:55 PM | 1-3-2008

I read to the Wash. Post article, listened to the NPR debate, read a similar WIRED article, and have been studying this topic since this past summer. I oppose the RIAA litigation tactics. On this issue, I come to the following conclusions.

1. The news article is a classic example of a quote taken out of context. A legal brief is meant to be persuasive - not fair, balanced, or otherwise. The brief classifies Howell's .mp3s as "undisputedly unauthorized" and deserves criticism as an overstatement; good editing might have removed the word "undisputed."

In the RIAA's opinion, the .mp3s are "unauthorized" because they are located in a KaZaA shared file folder - a disputed legal position supported by some case law, unsupported by other case law. The brief had been clearly advocating for the position that .mp3s in a shared file folder are "unauthorized" and that case law supports this. By misusing the word "undisputed" all I can see here is aggressive advocacy for a controversial position. I do not see a statement that suggests an intent at this time to establish a novel legal position as suggested by Mr. Fisher's article. Cary Sherman has rightly retracted the comments made by the Sony rep. during the Thomas trial. What effect this has on Thomas' case and award, I don't know.

2. In the NPR debate, Cary Sherman dodged the direct question of whether space-shifting personal use is fair use and whether fair use is a legal right. First, fair use IS ALWAYS examined on a case by case basis and so far, no case could reasonably be brought for an individual merely copying CD's onto their own hard drive and .mp3 player for personal use. Given the Sony case and the provisions of section 107, it's unlikely a case would be brought and even more unlikely it would be successful (in fact, the two go hand in hand.) However, in the late 90's Diamond Rio, maker of one of the first .mp3 players, was sued for facilitating this kind of "space-shifting" personal use. Diamond Rio won the case. Had they lost, we might well see cases against individuals who "space-shift" their personal content. The Diamond Rio case suggests that "space-shifting" for personal use is a RIGHT that limits Copyright. Since it is brought as an "affirmative defense" though, it's role can be confusing. So Cary Sherman was being evasive, to say the least, in not answering the question more directly.

3. Another caller asked about whether sharing with a few friends was illegal. Again, Cary Sherman did not answer directly. The reason is because there is reasonable support for the position that distributing to friends for non-commercial use is not in violation of the Copyright Act. What Cary Sherman did is frame his answer in the context of the RIAA's position, which is that the aggregate effect of friend-to-friend sharing could destroy their business (and therefore be "commercial") and at the same time, possibly be completely legal. Envision a Facebook App that let's you share music with only your actual friends, not millions of strangers...the possibly legality of such an application depends on how one reads the definition of publication in section 101 and a few other sections in the Copyright Act that use the word.

The biggest complaint I have is that much like political candidates on the ropes, the RIAA is going about their problem in a passive-aggressive manner, negatively attacking, rather than finding positive solutions to their problem, which as a Harvard Business School study shows, MAY NOT EVEN BE TRACEABLE TO ILLEGAL DOWNLOADING IN THE FIRST PLACE and just as likely comes from issues described in "The Long Tail," a book focusing on the changing economic society we live in...

4. musicunited.org is a perfect example of the RIAA agenda and its method of presenting its interpretation of the law as the law.

draeke @ draeke.com

Sent by draeke | 10:45 AM | 1-7-2008

I run a small independent record label. We release non-commercial forms of roots music by "real" artists who live hand to mouth. Likewise, running a label like this also means I live the same way. And I'm not complaining, I made the choice. And while I don't agree with the RIAA sueing people, music fans need to understand that buying music and supporting artists is important. It costs money to record and promote an artist properly. We take a great deal of time and pride in recording, mixing and packaging our releases. It was hard staying in business before peer to peer and prolific CD burning became the norm. Now five years later, despite having records that get covered on NPR and The New York Times, we're in real financial trouble as a new generation of kids feels entitled to free music. Our artists appreciate what we do. We benefit their careers, we don't rip them off. A distinction has to be made by music fans between corporations and the independent labels. Independent artists still need you to "buy" their music whether it be through legal downloads, CDs or vinyl. Stealing music is wrong, no matter how you try to justify it to yourselves. $9.99 for an album download is not a preposterous price. It's something you own for the rest of your life. Music has value. We can all talk ourselves in circles about how evil the RIAA is, but nobody would be in this situation if people didn't start justifying stealing music just because the technology makes it possible. Buy music by independent artists and labels. Believe me, we need your support.

Sent by Kevin | 12:13 PM | 1-7-2008

Some more tempests in teapots. This is about one thing and one thing alone--how much money can they make by ripping off the consumer. You buy the bloody thing in the first place for your own pleasure, then you want to carry it with you without the weight etc. and they tell you don't download it to your pod to listen to on the subway,bus, car etc. instead buy more copies for each use. Absurd! The guy who says boycott them for a year has a point. For the pennies we are talking about given the pay scale as compared with teachers, cops, regular Joes and Janes who do jobs that hold the world together-these pathetic excuses for human beings are pretty shabby protoplasm! Pay the artists, by pass the middle men.

Sent by Cassandra | 11:39 AM | 1-15-2008

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