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Sound Ethics: What To Do With Music CDs After Ripping Them?

At a gathering of friends Saturday night, the host made an unusual request: If anybody wants to expand their music collection, take a look at the CDs here -- I've copied them all to my computer, and whatever you don't take is going to Goodwill on Monday.

Something like 200 discs were piled up in corners of the host's den, and one or two of the guests started inspecting those stacks to see if they could unearth any keepers.


I held back, mainly because with more than enough CDs at home already I didn't feel like spending half an hour pawing through somebody else's collection when I could catch up with friends instead. But there was also this: Since my friend hadn't mentioned anything about deleting his digital copies of any albums I might walk off with, I'd be taking a non-trivial amount of music without paying for it.

(Note: I'm going to leave his name out of this. But he does write a blog of his own, so I will understand if he argues his case there.)

As I was mulling over that thought, one of the other guests chimed in, saying he'd done almost the same thing -- except instead of donating his CDs to charity, he'd sold most of them on eBay.

In case you're not familiar with my views on this subject: I am not a copyright absolutist. I don't think making a mix tape for a friend is any sort of crime. When one of my favorite CDs vanished with my car stereo nine years ago, I didn't feel any guilt when I borrowed a friend's copy to rip to my computer and then burn on a recordable disc.

And I realize that it can seem pointless to keep a large collection of CDs around when you never listen to them and could free up the space they occupy for other uses. Why not try to find a good home for your unwanted possessions?

But although I ripped my CDs to my computer years ago, they haven't budged from their spot in the living room. Apathy helps explain that -- doing something else with them would require rearranging a few hundred CDs, and it's far easier to leave them in their shelves (which I think look reasonably handsome in their own right). But I also listen to the CDs themselves on occasion. And I can't rule out someday re-ripping them at a higher quality setting or in some other format. I like the security of having this extra backup of my music.

I'd like to know what you think about my friend's scenario. What would you do -- or what have you already done -- in that situation? Take the poll, the explain your answer (or critique other people's votes) in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 30, 2009; 11:23 AM ET
Categories:  Music , The business we have chosen  
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I prefer to purchase actual CDs and rip them than to purchase downloads. But it seems a bit dishonest to rip a disc and then sell (or even give) it away so that someone else could potentially do the same. Plus, I consider the physical media to be my ultimate backup in case of hard drive failure...

Posted by: rodaniel | March 30, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

It's rare for me to rip an entire CD, just tracks from it. So I rip the tracks I want, put it in a box, and store it somewhere.

Come to think of it, I haven't bought a physical CD in years. Not since I got an iPod.

Posted by: wiredog | March 30, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

After ripping our collection, we boxed up our CDs and put them under our stairs in the basement. We also backed up all of the mp3 files on DVDs, so I'm not really sure why we have the physical CDs anymore. I'm sure my husband has some reason.

We haven't purchased a physical CD in forever. We always download music (itunes or amazon) and back it up on DVD.

Posted by: odenton | March 30, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I think it is immoral to rip the CDs then sell them. If it isn't worth keeping a physical copy, it isn't worth keeping the MP3s around. I suppose I don't have a problem with donating in principle, but if he is going to take a tax deduction, that really isn't much different than selling. I've donated a bunch of CDs to the library, but only ones that I can't sell for more than $4.

The one sticky point I've gotten into is the following:
* buy an album through
* album is later pulled from the site (this happens periodically as labels change their mind)
* hard drive crashes
At that point, I have rights to the digital copy of the CD, but no way to recover it unless I can find someone with the CD itself.

Posted by: slar | March 30, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I have something like 600 cds (ok, I'm ancient in 'net-years). I've ripped... mmm... half? Maybe a bit more. I've also purchased.. a lot? .. of mp3s, mostly via iTunes.

I've sold and given away a fair number of CDs over the years, esp once ripped.

I consider this FAIR USE for two reasons: I bought 'em, I can do as I wish with 'em (the concept that I merely licensed the product is noxious to me) and if my phyiscal media fails, I'll be forced to repurchase those items should I desire to hear them again. Or wish to hear them in better sound quality than 160-192 (usual range of ripped mp3s).

Same risk I run when purchasing software online if I don't pay the outrageous $10 "redownload fee."

I think what your friend did was fine.

Posted by: Bush--notrelated | March 30, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

If I like a CD, I'm not going to get rid of it. The CD will sound better on my home stereo than any MP3 file, and as others have mentioned, it's the ultimate physical backup. Plus, many of my favorite CDs have excellent photos and liner notes (especially the reissues).

If I don't like a CD, I may give it as a gift to a friend, but I'm more likely to sell it at a used CD store. Gives someone else the chance to buy it if they wish. Unfortunately, most of the good music stores in D.C. are out of business (or hard to reach without a car). Music stores won't pay much for most CDs, but I'm not a profit-seeker by nature, so I'd rather get one dollar for a CD than throw it away.

Posted by: SSMD1 | March 30, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Although album notes have deteriorated over the years from the sometimes very useful commentary found on vinyl stuff, there is usually at least SOME useful material on the paper insert of the original. My vote for keeping the CD is based on (maybe) five years from now, needing to refer to that paper for recording dates, etc.

Posted by: Geezer4 | March 30, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I have ripped all of my 200-ish CDs to mp3. I have moved the CDs from where they used to be - on the open shelf to some storage boxes, though. I would never 'get rid' of a physical CD unless I also deleted the mp3. I do feel that it is wrong to keep possession of the mp3 without having the CD you bought as well. I also have never and don't plan to buy any non-physical media... it just doesn't feel right to me - I also probably won't buy a kindle, etc, so I have tons of books.

Posted by: aaronw1 | March 30, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I usually buy the CD & rip whatever I want to put on the ZEN. CD's sound better on the home array of speakers, than mp3's. And it's nice having a commercial quality copy of the LinerNotes with lyrics & bandmember notes.

Posted by: Max231 | March 30, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

I've never bought a note of music from itunes or Amazon or any other online source, and don't plan to start doing so.

I have ripped music from dozens of my own CDs, many of them purchased new and some purchased at a used book store - especially "oldies" stuff that can't be found elsewhere now.

I consider all of these CDs to be my property, not leased or rented from the record label or RIAA or anyone else. Therefore, as my property, the CDs can have music ripped from them (which I've done 2-3 times now for many of them what with hard drive crashes and new equipment), they can be played on our CD player + stereo (which has happened countless times, for a number of them), or I can listen to them on a laptop or PC. I could also destroy all of them, if I felt like doing so. I suppose I could (re)sell them secondhand but that's too much humbug and work, so some or many or all may eventually be donated to a thrift store or something.

Where is the moral problem in my deciding how to dispose of my property? Does this question arise for all of the vinyl record albums I see on sale at thrift or used book stores? How about used DVDs, for which there's a brisk market also?

I'd be interested in hearing what the moral issues are here because I'm obviously not getting it.

Posted by: SC54HI | March 30, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm not opposed to creating an occasional mix CD, but selling or giving away your CD collection after ripping it is stupid and short-sighted...and it also amounts to theft. My entire CD collection lives in iTunes on my Mac (and in the corresponding Time Machine backup). But I trust physical CDs far more than I trust any disk-based digital copy. The original CDs are in a case in my basement, where they use up very little space (3' wide, 4' high, 7" deep) on an otherwise unused wall. They're not in anyone's way, and they're available as backup copies if I ever need them.

Posted by: jimdouglas | March 30, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I don't see a problem with giving them away, selling is more of a gray area. I've been letting people take whatever CD's they want from my collection because they're just taking up a bunch of space and they're a pain when it comes time to move. Back in the day people would make cassette tapes recorded from records and give them to friends, so how is this any different?

I've contemplated taking the whole lot to a used CD store mainly just to get rid of them, but it posed too much of an ethical dilemma for me and I never went through with it.

Besides, you don't need the physical media as a backup for most stuff. If you lose the digital copy, just download a replacement off BitTorrent. It's fair use since you already paid for it, right? I've also found some of my CD's are deteriorating over time and if anything the digital copy is the backup of the physical disc.

Posted by: divestoclimb | March 30, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

My ripped CDs have been sitting in spindles in the closet for at least 5 years. And newer digital purchases are just backed up to drive.

Posted by: davezatz | March 30, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

I have all my CD's ripped to FLAC files using autoflac.

Having the actual CD's is not the ultimate backup, as you can lose them in a fire or break-in, so I have them ripped to three hard drives, one not in my house.

I've sold around 70 CD's on Amazon marketplace, getting $30-$40 for rare out of print ones, and far less for the common ones (and some you just can't sell).

I keep all the digi-pak CD's, and others that I really like or really like the album cover/notes/etc.

I have bought far more CD's in the past 5 years than I did in the previous 15. I doubt I would do so if I had that huge pile of CD's with lousy packaging lying around.

Posted by: buckdharma | March 31, 2009 2:43 AM | Report abuse

Also, if you rip to lossy MP3's or lossless FLAC, you can use mp3tag to embed the artist name, album name, year, album cover, and other pictures/info into the audio files themselves and it will all show up in winamp.

Posted by: buckdharma | March 31, 2009 2:51 AM | Report abuse

I started buying CDs in 1984 and have accumulated 3000+ of them over the years. I started ripping them losslessly in the late 90s so that I finally got fully caught up, and have multiple backups of the collection.

For a while I had bookshelves holding them, but this took up so much wall space (especially wall space my book collection needed) so I moved them all into large cases that sit in a closet. There's still a few hundred that are in special cases on a bookshelf, and that's starting to look completely disorganised.

I am trying to migrate to a download-only solution but that's hampered by poor access to favoured genres (classical, ECM series) or loss of material like performance DVDs that are added extras to the physical CDs. Being in Australia now means I have no access to a number of download options like Amazon, and even the iTunes store here is poorly populated compared to overseas.

Recently I've actually been thinking of selling off a lot of the physical collection to recover that closet space...

Posted by: memew | March 31, 2009 4:29 AM | Report abuse

Doctrine of first sale people. Legally, you have every right to sell what you own through lawful purchase. If you buy a CD you have the right to sell the CD. Just like if you buy a movie on DVD, you have the right to sell the DVD.

This is why the selling of used CD's on Amazon Marketplace and Ebay is allowed even by the legal department of these sites. It's totally legal (yes, there are very specific exemptions/gray areas, but generally this practice is legal).

Posted by: reese777 | March 31, 2009 7:05 AM | Report abuse

I took home Xerox boxes from work and tossed my CDs in them by genre in the basement. Every so ofter I get tired of what's in my iPod and rifle through them.

The harder part is buying new CDs. As an aging boomer my music tastes have fossilized (along with my friends). I try to stimulate the economy by buying a couple of new ones every month.

Posted by: jimward21 | March 31, 2009 7:17 AM | Report abuse

I don't see the big deal. Sooner or later, the original CD is going to become unplayable anyway.

Posted by: solsticebelle | March 31, 2009 7:23 AM | Report abuse

I keep the original CDs, and still have over three hundred vinyl albums. I have backed up everything to the computer years ago. My wife will not let go of the albums. As far as backups I have two media drives in my server, one an exact copy of the other. I also burn it all to DVDs once a month and keep them in my car in case of fire or some other home emergency.I think once you buy something it is your property.

Posted by: gordz01 | March 31, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Well those who say to sell the CDs are bankrupt morally. I also question the author's character. Making a mix tape for friends should be, and is, illegal. Many of my friends are artists and I'd never consider copying their music to give away, especially not when they have hungry mouths to feed at home. Of course I'm sure those that engage in digital pirating assume that the superstars in this world already have enough money but who are you to decide who gets cheated and who doesn't?

Posted by: SJSVOB | March 31, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Well, I'm not sure what to think. I bought the CD. I think I can do what I want with it. No one ever talked about this before it was so easy to make copies. The companies that made this technology possible might well own the record company, they might manufacture the blank media, the players for that media, and kept prices for retail CDs high when the manufacturing price and cost of material dropped to pennies. So who are the theives?

Shouldn't the copyright holders question how it is possible to sell blank media, thus enabling the so called theft. What would a CD burner be used for other than to record music? We don't talk about not being able to Xerox a book and sell it do we? Let's talk out of one side of our mouth or the other, not both.

Posted by: tojo45 | March 31, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

And one more thing. There are used book sales all of the time, often ran by charities or libraries, and often include thousands and thousands of titles. If this is all about fairness, shouldn't the authors get a cut? I think most people would say no. But what's the difference?

Posted by: tojo45 | March 31, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't have an iPod or any other portable music device. These devices are convenient but do not reproduce the depth of sound and fidelity of the original CD. So it's a bit cumbersome to store 8 6-pack CD cartridges for my car in the trunk but worth it for the sound quality. Ditto for my home CD changer.

BTW, I still have (and use!) my record collection (33-1/2 albums & 45 rpm singles) and a quality turntable. It was only about a year ago I finally sold my 78 rpm hand crank Victrola.

Posted by: Rich393 | March 31, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Rather than try to bend ones mind around what is legal, how about what is ethical? If you give away or sell a CD, you should destroy any copies you have.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | March 31, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

tojo45, in fact it is illegal to xerox a book and then sell it. Ask any librarian. The word (and legal term) "copyright" means exactly that, for books, music, and movies: you don't have the "right" to "copy". Exemptions for *personal backup only* are another matter.

Also, people should be mindful that CD's don't last "forever". Optical media (CDs/DVDs) last about 30 years, from what I've heard. So if you haven't already, back them up (lossless format to preserve quality), but for moral/legal reasons please don't sell the physical media after copying.

Posted by: danroth777 | March 31, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

If I had ripped my CDs in a format that was NOT lossless, I would definitely keep my actual CD's. If they were ripped in a lossless format. then I would sell them. They are MY PROPERTY once I buy them whether I want to set them on fire, sell them, or draw on them with crayons.

The more the RIAA cracks down, the sillier they look and the faster they will DIE. After their fall, music will still be alive and well.

Posted by: lt1z28 | March 31, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Does it matter whether I bought the CD used in the first place? When I buy a used CD, the artist gets nothing anyway, so what does it matter whether I "re-cycle" it by ripping it to my hard drive and re-selling the physical CD? In my moral/ethical calculation, such recycling actually helps keep local independent used CD stores healthy--I buy CDs from them, then sell the same CDs back at a lower price, which they can sell to someone else. The stores get revenue and inventory, the artists get free advertising (i.e. their CDs stay on the shelves), and I get to try new bands with no risk. When I find a band I like, I support them by buying their new releases as they come out, or buying tickets to their live shows.

Posted by: athena2 | March 31, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I love this argument. Here's my personal choice:

1) I sold all my old VHS tapes and DVD's, and while I could have, I never ripped them. I did replace a few with some Blue Rays, but I have decided Netflix and Redbox have made owning DVD's somehow silly.

2) After ripping all my CD's I GAVE them away to friends - the men and women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. Selling them seemed unseemly, and while Goodwill is a great organization, they would be reselling these to others. The USO gives the CD's to serviceman. This may be a small distinction, but it seems big to me. I know The Charlie Daniels Band wouldn't care if I did this, not sure how well it would go over with Rage Against the Machine band members.

Posted by: GolfCarter | March 31, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I feel that - morally, at least - that this comes under the concept of Fair Use. If a CD that I purchased were to become damaged or defective, the author/music label would NOT provide me with another copy of my licensed product. I would be required to go buy another CD. By this policy, they are telling me that what I have purchased is really a physical object, and not the data stored on that object.

Seems logial that I have the right to do whatever I want with that hunk of plastic.

If the labels want to protect their DATA, they should sell the DATA, which would logically include replacement for a nominal fee if the medium upon which that data was stored were to fail for some reason.

This is all about profit for the musical artist and their labels. Okay. If the labels want to sell more CDs, they should reduce the price to something reasonable. I think it is outrageous that a music CD produced in a studio by a handful of people can cost as much as a Hollywood Blockbuster film involving thousands of people filming on locations all around the world.

Posted by: pdqlmnop | March 31, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Wow, some of you have taken rationalizing your stealing to new heights. You should congratulate yourselves, you cheap @ss bast@rds.

Posted by: wangbang747 | March 31, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I haven't gotten to the CDs yet. I'm still digitizing hundreds of my husband's cassettes.

Posted by: mediajunky | March 31, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

We have this very problem right now...hundreds of CDs and we'd like to donate them, but are concerned about the copyright ramifications of not having the physical CD. We don't even have a CD player anymore, yet the CDs remain.

Posted by: NicH1 | March 31, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

CDs are worthless and lack decent sound quality. As others state, most people just rip the songs they want and either toss them out in the trash or allow them to continue collecting dust.

I use high-bit MP3 or vinyl with a good tube amplifier now... Its amazing the modern stuff you can still get on vinyl... And it sounds 10x better than anything you will ever hear on a digital setup...

Posted by: indep2 | March 31, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone care if I sell my 8 track tapes after I have ripped them? How about Sonny Rollins on my old TEAC?

Posted by: Geezer4 | March 31, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm keeping all my CDs for the time being, but if I go 100% digital, I'll be donating them to my local independent radio station where, hopefully, they will play the music.

Posted by: tonybreed | March 31, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

"Where is the moral problem in my deciding how to dispose of my property? Does this question arise for all of the vinyl record albums I see on sale at thrift or used book stores? How about used DVDs, for which there's a brisk market also?"

The first sale doctrine protects people who want to sell their used books, CDs, DVDs, etc. The problem arises when you keep a copy and sell the original, or keep the original and sell the copy. You probably won't get into any trouble for doing this occasionally, but don't bother trying to start a business this way; it's not legit. I think the problem people are having here is moral, not legal. Because, really, someone is getting something for nothing.

"Back in the day people would make cassette tapes recorded from records and give them to friends, so how is this any different?"

VCRs were almost forbidden from the market for this reason. See: Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. A 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court kept them on the market, and that was only after one justice changed his mind. The main reason for Sony's win was "substantial non-infringing use." Again, this is probably a moral, rhetorical question rather than a legal one.

Where do I stand? I'm not sure. I've spent plenty of time studying copyright law and am writing a ridiculously heinous paper on criminal copyright law. The more I read, the more paranoid I get about giving away or getting music for free, even though I should really have the opposite reaction, because the more I read, the more I find that my occasional infringement will not be pursued by anyone. To be on the safe side, I've refrained from ripping any music at all. If it's worth it, I'd pay for it anyway, and the only music I've ever ripped has been stuff I never would have paid for. I don't like Beyonce, but she'll be in a party mix I make because the guests like her. If it weren't for that illicit copy, she'd never be heard in my house. Same for many other artists. If I like you, I'll pay for you. If not, you won't get any money from me whether I actually hear your music or not.

It's not really a moral struggle for me, but rather a legal one. I personally haven't bought a physical CD in years, since I got the iPod. I have copies of CDs I don't listen to and haven't bothered ripping, but they're all pretty horrible and I haven't tried to sell them. They're somewhere under my bed collecting dust.

My concern is this: my hard drive was reformatted last year, and I lost a huge amount of my favorite songs. The songs are still on my iPod, and I can't get them onto my computer. Ironically, the crap music I downloaded as an experiment is still there. Any ideas?

Posted by: Monagatuna | March 31, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

One question is whether we are buying the object or the rights. If it's the rights, I agree with the commenter who said lost/damaged CDs should be replaced (at the cost new media, I'd add). Anyone heard of that happening? As to ethics, if I give away a CD does it deprive the artist of a retail sale? Depends on how I donate it. If I donate it in a way that does not compete with stores, surely that's okay. Or do performers expect a cut of resales just as painters do -- oh, wait....

Posted by: 5232news | March 31, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

" I think the problem people are having here is moral, not legal. Because, really, someone is getting something for nothing."

But if I sell a used CD after ripping a digital copy, I'm not going to get anything close to retail price. I will have paid some amount of money to hold the CD for some amount of time, and then received less money back for it, so I have effectively paid a net price for a digital copy (which is worth less than the physical CD itself). Whoever buys it from me will also have paid a price, and so on. Unless I give the CD away, or make copies available for free (which I don't), who's getting something for nothing?

Posted by: athena2 | March 31, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

@WSC54HI--no one's questioning the right to sell your used CDs . The question is whether if you do so you have the right to retain digital (or other) copies of the songs on them. The two go together legally--your right to have the songs is bundled together with your rights in the CD. You can't sell the physical CD to someone (who then has the songs) while retaining your own copy. Or so the logic goes . . .

Posted by: ah___ | March 31, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

athena2, in your hypothetical scenario, you're selling the used CD for less than you paid for it, which is probably fair market value and perfectly legit. However, if you keep the music AND sell the CD, you're making a profit by simply ripping the music onto your computer. By buying only one copy, you are entitled to only one copy, not one to keep and one to sell. There are ways to get around this, sure, and no one is going to come banging on your door for selling one used copy and keeping the music, but you're still not entitled to sell more than what you've bought. You don't get to charge the music industry for what you "paid" to keep the disc in your possession for X years. This is a bright-line take of the law, but enforcement is weak. This is why I say it's a moral and not legal issue. Clearly, it is infringement, and clearly, you're not going to be sued for such a small amount of infringement.

Whether or not you "should" be able to do this is a policy argument I'm not prepared to get into. I've attempted to do so and have been verbally smacked down by my law school's copyright genius. You are of course welcome to, though.

Posted by: Monagatuna | March 31, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I rip to FLAC for backup & keep the CDs. I use a cheap online backup service to backup my FLACs, since I don't want to re-rip everything if something happens to my computer. I usually re-buy CDs if I lose/break them, even if I have a digital copy. I'm really not comfortable with doing anything illegal. Plus I like all my CDs that much. But if I lose a CD that's out of print I might not feel that guilty about keeping the digital copy. I have met artists who want people to disseminate their stuff in mix cds (and others who feel the opposite), but I don't know enough about the legalities to know if that makes any difference.

Posted by: dasha235 | March 31, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

We ripped our entire collection a long time ago. I prefer to buy CD's and then rip them out to my computer when I make additions to the collection.
This way I can make cd's for the car (I don't like to take originals "on the road") or add to my mp3 players easily. We keep the original CD's for backup purposes.

Posted by: treadlefish | March 31, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

The record companies have been ripping off consumers and artists for years. They deserve to go down in flames.

If the CD is one from a smaller or independent artist, worry about the ethics. Otherwise, rip to your hearts content and feel not a twinge to you conscience.

Posted by: tgoglia | March 31, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Just wanted to say that this has been a great comment thread--I've enjoyed reading all of your input. Please keep it going!

Also: See this Help File item for links to programs you can use to copy your music (make that, legally acquired music) from an iPod back to a computer.

- RP

Posted by: robpegoraro | March 31, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

"By buying only one copy, you are entitled to only one copy, not one to keep and one to sell."

I'm not sure this is true. I'm being hypothetical here, but consider: under "first sale" doctrine, if I buy a CD new from Amazon, I am entitled to sell *that CD* (but not a copy thereof) to a used CD store without violating copyright. Under fair use, I am allowed to make a copy of the CD for personal use on my iPod, though I cannot sell or distribute *that copy*.

It's clear from what I've read on first sale doctrine, including its codification at 17 U.S.C. 109, that I can't rip a copy of a CD, sell the physical CD, and then sell (or give away) my ripped copies. But it's not at all clear that I can't keep my ripped copy for my own personal use, because I'm not distributing it or using it for commercial purposes.

Is there a statute or case that says otherwise? I'm genuinely curious about this.

Posted by: athena2 | March 31, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

athena2, you've interpreted that statute completely right. You can keep a copy for your personal use, and it's perfectly legal. You just can't attempt to make money off it by selling a copy (giving a copy away is a grey area, but it would probably constitute infringement).

Posted by: Monagatuna | March 31, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

There is no moral ambiguity at all here. When someone buys a CD, they own it and can do anything they want with it (except distribute *copies* to other people). It is legal to rip the CD to make your own copy. It is legal to sell a used CD. Just like selling a book to a used book store (or donating it) after you read a book that you buy.

It is interesting how the music cartels have managed to sneak the concept that somehow the objects you buy (like CDs) do not really belong to you! If we as a society allow them to get away with making this concept into law then our society will lose yet another freedom.

Posted by: boboran | March 31, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Not sure the analogy with reselling/dontaing books applies in this scenario. Usually when selling/donating book people don't make a copy of it to keep for themselves. The moral issue some are having is can I keep a copy of, if I sell or give away the original. As for legality of this issue not sure of "first-sale" or "fair use" addresses this question or not.

Posted by: crazer | March 31, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Are you kidding? Rip my CDs to my computer? I bought them to appreciate the music and that is best done listening to them in their ultimate glory - from the CD and on the home stereo!

I can understand ripping music for the portability issue but I've yet to do that. I use a portable CD player and have little interest in listening to MP3 recordings unless it's not available on a CD. After all, it's about quality, not quantity.

Posted by: jborst | March 31, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

After all, it's about quality, not quantity.
Not when your traveling. In a little hand held device I can carry a significant portion of my music collection with me when I travel.

While CDs will sound better than MP3s on a good home stereo, this is not really the case with portable MP3 players.

And if you're really that concerned with sound quality, you should be listening to LPs at home instead.

Posted by: tgoglia | March 31, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

I could care less about the morality. Record companies have been ripping off musicians and listeners since the industry was created. Best advice: give the dough directly to the musician or go see them play a gig.
The more disturbing part of the article is the ripping business. Unless you people are ripping CDs into WAV or a comparable format, you're losing so much clarity and texture in the music it makes me wonder if you're music fans at all. The average 128 kb/s mp3 is so degraded-- hell, even 144 or 192 kb/s--that most people who love music can't bare to listen to them. That’s why you need CDs, or an ungodly amount of hard drive space to rip them properly.

Posted by: thadude33 | March 31, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

I hate Digital Rights Management (DRM) software. If I was in Congress, I'd be pushing to end DRM, since once I buy the license, I should be able to do with the media whatever i want to, so long as I do not profit from it or be a causation to infronging on the copyright holder's profit.

I believe in "Fair Use," but with DRM, it often precludes the use of utilizing certain sections for presentation purposes, whether it is Macroware related or soft/firm-ware related.

I just wish that the producers of the media would understand that work-arounds will always be available, so why make it difficult for people who have paid for the product?

It's just plain stupid. Besides, you can only sell so many copies of the Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Foreigner, J. Geils band, Survivor, oldies, but goodies, etc.

RIAA and MPAA, time to give it up and do what major nations in Europe have done- Buy the media and let the user do with it what they want.

Posted by: Computer_Forensics_Expert_Computer_Expert_Witness | March 31, 2009 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Call me dolt, but I can't figure out how to make my Pseudo-Pod work from my car-no tape player, no RCA jack. I rip all my CDs to my computer and Pseudo-Pod to listen to at home or the gym, but all my CDs live in my car so I can listen to them there-it's quite a mess in there-I don't even have room for a passenger.

Posted by: Nanookofthenorth | March 31, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Nanookofthenorth - it's called a mp3 player to car radio wireless fm transmitter. They are cheap and found many places.

Posted by: jborst | March 31, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I also rip all of my CD's and my vinyl to computer. But I keep all of the original CDs and CDs made from the vinyl as back-up copies. After all, I don't expect my HD to last forever.

I do copy my favorite tracks to my IPod so I can listen to music while I mow the lawn or do the laundry. I found a nifty fake tape cassette at RadioShack that lets me hook my IPod to my old car radio's built in tape deck. Great for long trips when the radio stations fade in and out.

Posted by: JohnS8 | March 31, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

@Monagatuna and ah___ :

Thank you for your thoughtful answers & thanks to all others who've opined.

I have not yet and don't plan to sell or dispose of my CDs. We listen to CDs on the stereo at home and I expect that I'll need to rip new copies of favorite music from time to time for various reasons.

That said, I understand now the issue over giving away the CD while retaining a copy of the music. Since I don't distribute my ripped music to others, free or for money, I don't see myself as violating the law as described here, but it still isn't very clear.

Posted by: SC54HI | March 31, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

CD's are not dead for me. I have 4,000 of them. I rip them to my computer at 320 kps, then they either go into my stacks or they end up in my 400 disk CD player. I find browsing my collection fun and informative. I sometimes forget what I have, and sometimes I have not ripped it to my computer for more current listening. I am always discovering new things in my own collection, and am always actively buying new things to add. I love my music, and keep it in many forms.

Posted by: dleithaus | March 31, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

The way I see it, the CDs are my property and I can do what I want with them. However, I only own one copy of each song and if I'm going to keep it in any format, I can't give away a second copy - that's theft. If I give a CD away, I delete the files. I do keep multiple copies (laptop and Nano) for convenience, but I'm only using one of those at a time. My gray area is the external drive that I use to backup my entire computer. If my hard drive crashes, I'll reinstall those files instead of buying new CDs. I'm not sure if that's unethical, or not. Before digital files, if I scratched a CD or LP I needed to buy it again or lose that music. Usually, I was sick of the album by then and wouldn't get another anyway.

Posted by: amhmd | March 31, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that allowing any additional copies of a CD into general circulation constitutes theft. The questions are:
1. What is "general circulation"?
2. Is theft ever justified?
Now I tend to listen to music that is not massively popular - classical and jazz mostly. I don't think that it is in my interest as a listener - or that it is simply right, for that matter - to make it any harder than it already is for those artists to make a living, so I won't resell or give away any of the music they make in whatever form. But perhaps there is a different ethical calculus for the (arguably overpriced) CDs made by artists who are already rolling in money.

Posted by: jgbay | March 31, 2009 11:45 PM | Report abuse

For a long time I was involved in Nonesuch, so I can speak from the inside of this debate. I have no problem with owners of CDs disposing of them as they wish, BUT part of this disposal is removing any copies of this music from their computers and burned CDs. As I understand "fair use" it means only that an owner of an album may make a copy for his/her use, it doesn't mean that copies can be retained after the owner has disposed of the album. To those who rant about the "evil record industry" I'd point out that if you retain the music while selling or donating the physical album, what you're doing is ripping off not just "record industry" but also those of us who provide the music and try to survive on royalties and/or copyright payments. Since the '90s, my income from these sources has shrunk to a tenth of what it once was, and life has become difficult. What is rarely mentioned in the "evil record company" rants is any recognition of the fact that the record store gets half the selling price of an album. With so many record stores going out of business, they clearly haven't found this 50% to be lavish recompense for their efforts. Do the arithmetic: An album
sold (let's say) for $16 yields (roughly) $8 to the vendor. Out of the remaining $8, between $1 and $3 go to the performers and the creators of the music. CD manufacture costs roughly 75 cents. So perhaps $4 remains to run the business, providing all of the skills necessary to select a programme and get the album born, AND recompense those who provide the financial investment. Do you know of a businessman who'll provide finances for less than a 10% return? I don't. When album retail prices are much lower (I've seen them in Borders recently at around $6, it makes it that much harder for the "evil record company" to cover its costs -- and the stores aren't exactly happy about getting such a miserable amount in exchange for all their hard work creating an ambience where shopping is enjoyable, and the staff, knowledgeable.

Bottom line: If you bought an album, Yes, you own it. But if you dispose of the album, you have no right to keep the music.

Posted by: davidlewiston | April 1, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

To davidlewiston: Thanks for your informed post. I've been wondering lately how much the artists make on the different distribution channels for their recorded music. That is, if my primary concern were making sure that the artists got maximum dollar from my purchase of their music, where should I buy it? Itunes? Amazon (if there, then digital or hard copy?) Best Buy? The artist's Musictoday web site?

Posted by: athena2 | April 1, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

It seems that some commenters are under the impression that ripped files always have bad sound quality & portable players can only play bad MP3s. This may have been true at some point, but lossy formats have gone a long way. Many people can't hear the difference between CD quality & a high bitrate mp3/ogg/etc. except with classical/jazz/other multi-layered music. If you rip to lossless (I rip to FLAC) you can duplicate the CD exactly. The iPod can play Apple Lossless (or WAV, though the file size would be huge). Many of the other brands can play FLAC out of the box, like Cowon's products. Sometimes you just need to replace the cheap earphones that are bundled with these gadgets. There are also external hard drives that are not much bigger than an iPhone with hundreds of GB of space - perfect for plugging into a laptop when travelling. A few sites like HDtracks & Gimell (classical music label) offer higher than CD quality downloads including artwork & liner notes. I'm not saying that these are all great for everyone, just that some commenters seem to be limiting their options based on outdated/incorrect info.

Posted by: dasha235 | April 1, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I keep them because at 47 I feel the need to be able to "touch" the music I like. Same reason I have plenty of books instead of downloaded files. But with both music and movies I got a problem. There was a time when I would buy a long-play and every song in it was great. Now I buy a CD and 13 out of 15 tracks are worthless landfill. I buy the CDs anyway, but I feel cheated. It's worse with movies. The US are my preferred movie factory. But when I try to buy a DVD I have to pay up to 50% the price in the US for an imported DVD or buy the copies edited in my country without English subtitles, or extras, or with crappy packaging. The distributors outside the US get exclusive contracts, so there is no way for the consumer to get a better deal. And I feel the guilty party here are the American companies. If Starbucks and McDonald's are able to enforce the same quality abroad than they have in the US, why can't MGM, WB and all the others do the same? This way it's easy to feel excused of morality constraints...

Posted by: jorge_mt | April 1, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

I need my CDs because they contain valuable information in the form of liner notes, and photos which you cannot find online. As a jazz music fan, the liner notes of Blue Note and Impulse releases are as important as the music themselves. Especially Blue Note covers....Andy Warhol prints, all kinds of great stuff. I have CDs with 15 pages of information in them. You lose that when you just get a burn of something.

Posted by: keithrjackson | April 1, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse


You ask "How much do Artists get for downloads?"

If the download is through a record company, they probably get whatever royalty rate is specified in their contract. In other words, for a ninety-nine-cent download I think (but I'm not sure) that the artist would get between eight and fifteen cents.

However their are many services providing downloads, of which Apple is only one, and I think (but again I'm not sure because I've avoided getting involved in digital downloads) that most Download Services keep 50% of the income. Does the remaining 50% go to the artist? If the artist has entered directly into a contract with the
Download Service, most probably Yes. But there are so many Download Services that a new class of middlemen has sprung up, called Aggregators. They act as go-betweens, handling all dealings with the Artists, and getting the downloadable material to the Download Services. For doing this, they (typically) charge the artist one-third of the cash generated. So Artists dealing with Aggregators typically get only one-third of the funds generated. For a ninety-nine cent download, typically one-half, forty-nine-and-a-half cents, is kept by the Download Service, and one third of the remainder, sixteen-and-a-half cents, goes to the Aggregator, leaving the Artist with thirty-three cents.

This is just the royalty breakdown. I'm not sure how copyright payments work.

Posted by: davidlewiston | April 1, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

jorge_mt: Starbucks doesn't enforce a quality bar anywhere as far as I can tell.

keithrjackson: some labels provide detailed PDFs with their album downloads and there's no reason why they all can't do so. Frankly I would rather do without the vanity photo-shoots that pass for album booklets on many CDs now.

Posted by: memew | April 1, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Our government approves and provides services to allow us to read books without having to buy them, they are called Libraries. I can borrow records and now CD's, and some DVD's from the Library.

Then the government tells me if I do the same it is illegal? I only copy CD's to use away from home, and do not make copies for others or make a copy and sell the original, BUT I object when the recording industry makes $1 profit and the performers make 10 cents on each recording sold regardless of the format used.

I have 3 400 CD players stacked, to minimize handling, and have at least 7000 LP's that I still listen to. I have some 78's from the 1920's that still play, I'll bet any amount of money that 99% of the CD's won't be playable 70 years from now, or anything to play them on, as the recording industry will start burning recordings to Memory cards, where there will be no mechanical wear ever. With USB Memory sticks this is already possible. How reliable for long time storage of this Silicon media is still a question. Many early CD's I've bought are still 100% usable, no defects yet. I still have many 45's/LP's from the 1949 era, and they still play with simple players, I wouldn't bet on CD players still being around and working 50 years from now.

Tape deteriorates, and almost any other format will probably fail or be unavailable even 20 years from now. Then what?

Posted by: PresidentDon | April 2, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

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