Guide to Ripping & Encoding CD Audio

Copyright Laws

Fair Use

Copyright Laws: File Sharing in the Digital Age

Before we go any further, I should probably mention that the copyright laws which pertain to the ripping & encoding of legally-purchased CD audio music [for your own personal listening pleasure] vary from country to country.

Canada, for example, where my buddy Chris Myden lives, has some of the world's most liberal file-sharing laws.

Most countries have what are known as Fair Use laws, which allow you to make a back-up copy (in case your original gets scratched or damaged) and share your music with friends .. long as you don't profit from it.

Things become blurred when we try to apply Fair Use laws to digital media. Digital technology allows us to make *perfect* copies.

This was not possible prior to the advent of the digital age.

Before bits and bytes came along, copies of music recorded on audio cassettes [which uses an analog format, not digital], and movies recorded on VHS tapes [also an analog format], experienced what is known as generational loss.

In other words, the quality of the copy is inferior to that of the original. And the quality of each successive copy [generation] deteriorates further.

Digital copies experience no such generational loss. Rather, the quality of your digital copies are identical to that of the original. In other words, the millionth copy sounds just as sweet as the one you bought at the store. This is one of the things that concerns the Recording industry [and for good reason].

Combine this recent phenomenon with the rapid growth and widespread use of broadband technology, which allows an ever-increasing number of enthusiasts to transfer their encoded/compressed versions of digital media around the world in a matter of minutes. Has anyone not heard of file-sharing and the legal wrangling that surrounds it?

Here in the US, (where RIAA lobbyists influence law-makers) these laws are a jumbled mess of counter-intuitive confusion. No one seems to know for sure what the law does and doesn't allow. It often depends who you ask, and the answer keeps changing.

If you're interested, a good place to start understanding why US copyright laws are so confusing is Jessica Litman's book: Digital Copyright. (She's a Law professor at Wayne State in Michigan.)

If you are unsure of your country's stance regarding the legality of ripping & encoding legally-purchased CD audio music, [here's the disclaimer, folks] you should seek legal advice from a qualified professional before using this guide.

As you might imagine, I receive much mail on this topic, primarily from people with an axe to grind. In no way do I condone piracy. Even the most bandwidth-happy among us agree artists deserve to be paid.

We simply want the freedom to listen to our music (that we paid good money for) in whatever manner we choose, and we resent having to buy a whole CD for the sake of one good song.

Studies continue to show that most people don't care about copyright laws, they just don't want to get in trouble.

For more along these lines, here's a Google search pre-configured for the query: copyright "fair use" "file sharing" digital. With those unpleasantries out of the way, let's move on to the good stuff.

File Sharing

Digital Age