RIAA Not Going After Ripped CDs

Techdirt offers this clarification regarding the whole "RIAA against personally ripped CDs" story that's been going around. The nut: The case in question is about a guy putting his ripped MP3s in his shared Kazaa folder.

The filing points out that when Howell ripped his CDs and put them into a shared folder, those files were no longer "authorized." It's important to note that there's a difference between unauthorized and illegal. Beckerman seems to be saying that by saying "unauthorized" the RIAA means illegal -- but that need not be the case. It's perfectly legal to rip your CDs, even if it's not authorized. It's well established that ripping a CD for personal backup purposes is perfectly legal, even if it's not authorized. What the RIAA appears to be saying is that by putting those backup files into a shared folder, the rips no longer were made for personal use, thus pushing them over the line to illegal.

That it seems possible that the RIAA would go after people for ripped CDs says a lot about the way most people—including the Washington Post, apparently—view the organization, but we aren't doing anyone any favors by misunderstanding the story.

Washington Post Flubs Story On RIAA -- RIAA Still Not Going After Personal Copies (Yet) [Techdirt]

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7 Responses to RIAA Not Going After Ripped CDs

  1. Beschizza says:

    The Post story is horrible mangled, yes, but TechDirt is wrong. The brief submitted by the RIAA lawyer is explicit: the “unauthorized copy” is made at the point of *rip*, a discrete crime from the copies made available at the point of share.

  2. brianary says:

    How do you square this with the Boing Boing post?

  3. Joel Johnson says:

    Frankly, Brianary, I’m not sure I can. There seems to be a lot of confusion around the subject at the moment. I’m still trying to figure it all out myself.

  4. mmasnick says:

    Beschizza writes: “The brief submitted by the RIAA lawyer is explicit: the “unauthorized copy” is made at the point of *rip*, a discrete crime from the copies made available at the point of share.”

    The problem is that it’s not at all explicit. Go read the whole filing and point out to me where it says what you (and Beckerman) claim. It doesn’t appear to say that at all. At least not where I can find it.

    It does say that the copies were *unauthorized*. That’s true. They WERE unauthorized. That doesn’t mean they’re illegal. What it then says, is that the crime was taking those unauthorized mp3s and putting them in a shared Kazaa folder.

    If you think otherwise, please point out the language in the actual filing where they say that ripping your personal CDs are illegal. The only time it says that is IN CONJUNCTION with putting them in a shared folder.

    You can read the whole filing here:


    And then feel free to explain where it’s “explicit.”

  5. chris says:

    Actually, I read the RIAA’s website on the piracy issue and found the following page:


    It appears that they’ve backtracked considerably from their original assertion that you can rip tracks from your own CDs and put them on MP3 players. See the last section “Copying CDs” – particularly point 3. The “won’t generally raise concern” is of particular interest.

    It seems that it’s getting harder and harder to know what you can do with content purchased from RIAA members other than sit there and stare at the packaging.

  6. brianary says:

    Actually, staring at the packaging creates two unauthorized copies. One on your retina, visible by looking at a white wall after staring at the packaging. The other, more persistently, in your memory, which means the packaging artist is cheated out of royalties each time you remember it.
    When today’s college kids grow up, remembering things for free, eventually there won’t be any packaging art, since art can’t exist without profit.

  7. Skep says:


    Actually, not so much. The RIAA’s real position on device shifting (ripping) and personal backup copies can be found in their official submission to the US copyright office stating that such copies are not fair use.

    See Wired Blog Threat Level for more info:


    The RIAA knows that the public will turn on it if it admits the fact it considers all copies to be illegal so it spreads the FUD, and BBG has fallen for it to a degree.

    The RIAA still considers CD rips to be illegal.

    Please don’t help the RIAA obfuscate that fact by buying into their tap dancing distractions from that very clear reality.

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