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Wednesday, March 21, 2007


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I had to sit back and think a lot about this one, and there is a large gap between how I would like copyright to work and the way it technically, legally does work at the moment. Ranting up a storm about the illogic of current copyright laws is one things, but insisting they say what we want them to say when they don't is in no way constructive.

I occasionally buy music at iTunes, and that encoding crap drives me up the wall. It makes no sense to me why I shouldn't be able to play music that I have legally purchased on whatever player I choose. I own an MP3 player, but it's not an iPod.

As far as I can figure, this guy has the law wrong. If you purchase a CD in the store, ripping it is perfectly legal, so long as it is for personal use. The moment you give a copy to your friend, much less sell it, then it suddenly starts being not legal, but the act of ripping is legal, and there's many legitimate uses for ripped music. (Playing it on MP3 players, creating mixes, etc.)

It is also perfectly legal to burn CDs from iTunes-purchased music. In fact, you can burn them several times (I think they actually state seven). Which means, I would think, that you can legally rip your legally burned CDs of iTunes music. SoundTaxi, by your explanation, sounds like it simply cuts out the CD middleman.


"We're right. But they're funded." Geez, what a great line. I'm sticking this on the door to the lab!


Part of the exchange (which I didn't post here, but is available on the Friday 5 link) was me pointing out that what this guy thinks is a copyright violation really isn't unless Apple choses to challenge the legality of SoundTaxi in court. Which, so far as I know, hasn't happened.

Which raises the question: Why not? My theory is that Apple doesn't want to file a claim because suddenly all sorts of Apple company information might be gettable in discovery. And I suspect that Apple and the record labels were in collusion to freeze out other digital music player manufacturers while giving the record labels terms that seemed favorable to their interests.

MP3 has no DRM code, so once I've got music in that format I can do all sorts of things with it, including Napster-style piracy. But the act of converting it isn't the same thing as stealing it -- in my case, I'm just taking music that I bought and converting it for use on the digital player of my choosing. That intent should be just as legal as making a mix CD out of it, a use that Apple allows.

Which is why, ultimately, that we need to rock the boat on copyright law. It's not just that it's full of contradictions, it's that those contradictions are anti-competitive and prop-up outdated media models that don't serve the interests of creators or consumers.

The alternative, of course, is that the big companies win this fight, and we go out and build a digital subculture with our own commerce and royalty rules. I can easily see myself dropping out of the media-monopoly realm and going almost exclusively open-source, pod-safe, share-alike.


Copyright law may indeed be a mess, but my major problem with the RIAA and other ilk is that they're trying to *extend* copyright law by intimidation and intentional mis-statement.

IANAL but IIRC there *is* court precedent that format conversion for personal use is *perfectly* legal. (The big money of the time didn't want it to be but the courts held that it was.) In fact, *cracking* the copy-protection on AAC files isn't against copyright law -- it's against the DMCA statute (care to guess who sponsored it?)

(If anyone is interested in the precedent I'll dig it up -- it was during the cassette tape era.)

Also, there is the established doctrine of "fair use" which they're trying to trample at every opportunity. They've demonstrated repeatedly that they're not particularly interested in obeying the law themselves.

Incidentally, before the RIAA started buying congress-critters, copyright was also a *civil* matter, not a criminal one.

So, this isn't about right vs. wrong or even about what the law is -- this is about short-sighted money-grubbing. (I call it short sighted because I don't think they're actually engaging in behavior that would yield the *most* money.)

My beef with the RIAA is they're trying muscle when they know they don't have law or precedent on their side.

(Note: I'm not talking about "illegal file sharing" -- that is clearly a violation of copy right though it's not at all clear it actually *harms* them, which was one of the precedents for a copyright judgment, again IIRC).

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