Because we’re all crooks according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), our music overlords. In a brief dated 7 December 2007, a lawyer for the RIAA argues that copying music from a legally purchased CD to the purchaser’s personal computer amounts to a “unauthorized copy.”

Back in 2004, recording labels started placing the new FBI Anti-piracy warning on CDs:

The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Interesting, though, that no one bothers to explicitly define what an “unauthorized reproduction” is. The RIAA website, the brief above, and one other specific site the RIAA FAQ section links to simply mentions “unauthorized” copying, but conveniently neglects to define it. RIAA Faq section:

11. How is downloading music different from copying a personal CD?Record companies have never objected to someone making a copy of a CD for their own personal use. We want fans to enjoy the music they bought legally. But both copying CDs to give to friends and downloading music illegally rob the people who created that music of compensation for their work. […]

For more on what the law says about copying CDs, click HERE

Clicking on “HERE” leads you to this site. From MusicUnited:

It’s okay to copy music onto an analog cassette, but not for commercial purposes. It’s also okay to copy music onto special Audio CD-R’s, mini-discs, and digital tapes (because royalties have been paid on them) but, again, not for commercial purposes.Beyond that, 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 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 covering-their-asses obfuscation: “won’t usually raise concerns.” But this statement from MusicUnited directly contradicts the December RIAA brief. Our copying-to-our-computer-for-personal-usage (like uploading music on an iPod) nonetheless amounts to “unauthorized” copying, thus apparently USUALLY raising a concern.

It seems to me that the RIAA’s crusade against personal usage amounts to ice sculpting with your fingernails. Illegal downloading is going to continue, but the RIAA should pursue legal action against the companies and websites that facilitate this and the heavy downloaders who engage in this (not those who shared 24 songs). To pretend that legal copying for personal use is “concerning” is just as dangerous as it is ridiculous.