RIAA: It’s illegal to transfer music from legally purchased CDs to your computer

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UPDATE: A correction has been posted. The Washington Post appears to have gotten the story wrong.

The RIAA has taken their campaign to a new level:

In an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

Sony BMG, the only major label yet to take steps to ditch DRM, seems to agree:

Sony BMG’s chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that “when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Copying a song you bought is “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy,’ ” she said.

In decades past, people had to re-purchase their music libraries on cassette and then on CD. It’s as if the record industry wants to pretend that people must re-purchase their music libraries again in a digital format for their computers when they already own it on the digital compact disc format. This also seems to suggest that the RIAA would consider it illegal to create backup copies of legally purchased digital audio files.

If these things aren’t considered fair use, then what is? The RIAA doesn’t have a very strong case.

Lawyers for consumers point to a series of court rulings over the last few decades that found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording.

Let’s hope that Canada doesn’t follow in the footsteps of the United States with new heavy-handed copyright measures which would allow for RIAA-style lawsuits at home.

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