Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sony BMG chief: ripping your own CDs is stealing

In his testimony ot the court hearing Capitol Records, et al v. Jammie Thomas, Jennifer Pariser of Sony BMG's head of litigation, announced that she believed choosing to transfer music files to your own PC was breaking the law:

When questioned by Richard Gabriel, lead counsel for the record labels, Pariser suggested that what millions of music fans do is actually theft. The dirty deed? Ripping your own CDs or downloading songs you already own.

Gabriel asked if it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music which they have purchased, even just one copy. Pariser replied, "When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Making "a copy" of a purchased song is just "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy'," she said.

Remember, of course, Parsier represents a label which was found guilty of rigging prices in the US, and which installed rootkits on its customers PCs - you might think she'd be better off looking to that sort of thing in her own company before attempting to tell a court - under oath - that she believed choosing to do what you wish with music tracks you've paid for is criminal behaviour. If she really believes that you aren't legally entitled - never mind morally entitled - to store your own CDs on your own PC, it's questionable if she's in the right job.

Meanwhile, Pariser also revealed how the record labels are pissing away huge sums suing their own customers:
The next line of questioning was how many suits the RIAA has filed so far. Pariser estimated the number at a "few thousand." "More like 20,000," suggested Toder. "That's probably an overstatement," Pariser replied. She then made perhaps the most startling comment of the day. Saying that the record labels have spent "millions" on the lawsuits, she then said that "we've lost money on this program."

The RIAA's settlement amounts are typically in the neighborhood of $3,000-$4,000 for those who settle once they receive a letter from the music industry. On the other side of the balance sheet is the amount of money paid to SafeNet (formerly MediaSentry) to conduct its investigations, and the cash spent on the RIAA's legal team and on local counsel to help with the various cases. As Pariser admitted under oath today, the entire campaign is a money pit.

Still, at least it's stopped illegal downloading in its tracks.

Oh, hang on a moment, it hasn't, has it?


9 comments:

Ron said...

I was always under the impression that root kits and price fixing were illegal, but that copying my own CD was legal. I mean, I thought the taxes on writable media covered the necessary fees. Guess I had it backwards.

Anonymous said...

> choosing to do what you wish with music tracks you've paid for is criminal behaviour

I'm sure you're well aware that when you buy a cd you don't own the tracks themselves but that piece of plastic with a license for private use of that copy. That's nothing new - it's just how copyright works. There are plenty of things to get outraged about with Sony but in that instance legally the guy is quite correct. If you don't like that you can't legally rip to different formats, then propose an alternative copyright framework and get it accepted.

Syd said...

It is definitely illegal in the UK to rip your own CDs to an iPod, but probably not in the US, due to a legal right to "fair use". However, the really interesting question is whether (if the labels believe it *is* illegal) someone is going to sue Apple. After all, Kazaa were sued on the primary grounds that the principle purpose of their product was illegal copying. And since Apple admit that only a fraction of the music held on iPods comes from their iTunes store, then the rest of it must either come from the internet (like Kazaa) or from CDs. So, if the ripped CDs *are* illegal, then Apple could be sued on the same grounds as Kazaa. What I would like (never gonna happen, I know) is for someone like the EFF to play devil's advocate and help a small record label to use Apple, which would bring the whole house of cards crashing down - the courts would either have to find against Apple, or effectively decriminalise file-sharing.

simon h b said...

Anonymous (or 'record company employee', as I like to think of you)

It's not illegal to copy a CD you own to a computer to playback. There is something on the statute book which would appear to suggest that it is forbidden by law but - as "I'm sure you're well aware" - there has never been any case brought where someone has been prosecuted for doing this, and so there is no case law which supports your interpretation of what that statute means.

You are offering an interpretation of the law, not detailing its actual wording of the statue, and even the BPI have admitted that they'd not bother to prosecute a person for storing his tracks in iTunes rather than playing the CD through iTunes.

Because to do so would be pointless. Providing I keep the CD in my possession, what difference does it make to anyone if I choose to keep the tracks on my hard drive or not - again, providing only I use my computer?

There's been no case law to support your interpretation, and there's been no case law because who would be the victim here? And if there's no victim, where is the crime? And if there's no crime, where is the criminal behaviour?

Syd, on the other hand, you make good points - as you say, any attempt to try and push anonymous' interpretation of the law would render much of the current copyright structure unworkable.

Anonymous said...

Simon, very interesting reply and much more analytical than the original post imo. I think we may currently work for the same employer actually (publishing) though that's neither here nor there.

I think it's pretty self-evident that copyright requires a license for copying. But isn't there a legal precedent for a personal use exemption? I think we paid a levy on blank cassettes and now cd's to cover that. How about ipods?

> Providing I keep the CD in my possession, what difference does it make to anyone if I choose to keep the tracks on my hard drive or not - again, providing only I use my computer?

This is the thing. The label/publisher owns the track not you and they do have the right to charge separately for different formats - CD, vinyl, cassette, download, ringtone, public performance, guitar tabs etc.

ian said...

So am I allowed to copy tracks from my CDs on to my Sony Minidisc and NetMD players or my Sony MP3 player? Also, if have a Sony car stereo that plays MP3 CDs, like this one, where would I buy said MP3 CD.

Yours confusedly.

Anonymous said...

From iTunes:

"Many of the songs you purchase from the iTunes Store are protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM). These protected purchases can be:

~Played on up to five computers
~Synced with your iPod
~Synced with or streamed to your Apple TV
~Burned to audio CDs or DVDs (you can burn a song an unlimited number of times, and as part of a playlist up to seven times)

The iTunes Store also offers songs without DRM protection, from participating record labels. These DRM-free songs, called "iTunes Plus," have no usage restrictions and feature higher-quality encoding."

And: "You can import songs from your CDs into your iTunes library. Imported songs are stored on your hard disk so that you can listen to them without having the original CD in the disc drive."

Does anyone really think that Apple would have the above instructions/information if it were illegal?
The record companies and Apple cut a deal here, and Ms. Pariser was out of the room.

Anonymous said...

Sony-BMG can spout-off all they want about the legal status of copying one's own music CD to MP3 files - fact is - if BMG wants to claim that we own the plastic CD but are only licensed to 'use' the music on it, then the music industry has not successfully mainstreamed the CD business. BMG has not sufficiently maintained, marketed and defended its copyrights in the marketplace to reach a general understanding of such, and even if they did, enforceability is proving impossible. In other words, it is a major stretch to say we do not own our music on our own CD’s.

This archaic argument, coupled with an unwillingness to embrace digital technology are the primary reasons BMG is part of a shrinking business, (not to be confused with a shrinking industry) - all of these court action (including the recent BMG victory in the Duluth, MN case) is simply theatric. Let the BMG legal team continue in its futile efforts, waste its time and deplete is finances to hold onto something of decreasing value - see if we care - BMG needs to get its head out of the sand quickly before too much more is wasted. Sounds like a company in need of new leadership.

Rob in South Carolina

Tatiana Covington said...

Pariser needs to be told to go fuck herself. The same for all those RIAA idiots. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, etc., didn't need copyright. Look what they did. Jerks like Beyonce and Jackson do. Tells you they're not fit to survive in Darwinist competition!

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