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Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Old 10-29-09, 01:19 PM
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Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Here’s an interesting discussion on whether it is “right” to burn copies of CDs checked out from libraries. Personally, I believe that it is piracy but that there is virtually no chance of getting caught. Yes, based on Fair Use, you could rip the CD onto your computer but technically you are supposed to delete it when you return the CD to the library.

And if you haven't been to your library recently, take a look. My local library has literally thousands of CDs... and hundreds of DVDs.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/entert...,2130763.story

Burning CDs checked out from the library: ripping or ripping off?

When you burn CDs checked out from the library onto your computer, are you ripping -- or ripping off? Defenders call it fair use; others call it piracy

Mark Caro
October 28, 2009
The argument began innocently enough as we all sat around in a North Side beer garden.

Jim Garner -- a.k.a. James Finn Garner, author of the best-selling "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories" -- was relating his early teenage kid's resourcefulness in listening to Dad's record collection, finding similar-era CDs at the Chicago Public Library (Allman Brothers, Rolling Stones ...) and ripping songs onto the computer so they could be listened to on an iPod.

Pat Byrnes, Jim's and my mutual friend and a cartoonist for The New Yorker and other outlets, shot back that Garner was encouraging his kid to be a thief.

Garner took umbrage, arguing that checking out a CD from a library and enjoying it for personal use was not comparable to illegally downloading songs from the Internet and perhaps making them available for anyone else to grab. Byrnes maintained that copying songs from a library CD was no better than photocopying "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories."

Of course, photocopying an entire book is far more labor intensive and less satisfying than creating a near-perfect digital copy of a song. Then again, librarygoers have been known to photocopy cartoons such as Pat's to tack onto an office cubicle, a practice that may amount to unauthorized reproduction but causes little ethical hand-wringing.

"The public library buys things for people to use them," Garner told me. "Was it any worse when we were younger and you had to take the time to tape an album, which we all did? There's a difference between copying something for your own use versus copying it to send it out to everybody in the world with a computer."

"If we're taking their work for nothing, that's stealing," Byrnes countered. "Making a copy of a CD that you didn't buy is a violation of copyright law. Look it up. You're really doing nothing wrong except violating federal law and the moral rights of the people who produced that thing."

Garner emphasized that a library, unlike the Internet, is a legitimate source for music. "Since I make my living in the arts, (my child) can see right away that it isn't fair to just take it down from online," Garner said, noting that his kid buys music from iTunes and record stores.

"When you take it out of the library, you have not paid for the license to be considered the owner of that copy you have," Byrnes argued. "If you're building your iTunes library by taking CDs out of the library, then you are taking things that you didn't pay the license (fee) for."

Big surprise: The recording industry sides with Byrnes.

"There's no ambiguity about the law," Recording Industry Association of America spokesman Jonathan Lamy said. "If you are taking a CD out of the library that you are renting and you are making a copy of it that you own, that's illegal."

Angela Washelesky, a partner at Reed Smith who heads that law firm's trademark practice in its Chicago office, called ripping library CDs "total and complete copyright infringement. The fine for that kind of thing is $250,000 per copyrighted work. It is amazing to me that people do not know this."

Yet there are plenty of things that people do routinely that technically violate the law. Ever exceed the speed limit on Lake Shore Drive? Jaywalk? Photocopy a book chapter while researching a term paper? Washelesky said that last common library practice is illegal too, though the concept of "fair use" covers smaller-scale reproduction much in the way that you're allowed to quote some music lyrics but not reproduce an entire song.

Going after library CD rippers isn't high on the recording industry group's priority list because they are thought to represent a mere drop in the piracy bucket, and monitoring people's use of library material is close to impossible.

"We can't police how you're listening to it, whether you're listening to it on your computer or your CD players," said Ruth Lednicer, the Chicago Public Library's marketing and press director. "It's OK to listen to it on your computer, but it's not OK to copy it."

Still, the Harold Washington Library Center and other local libraries haven't posted signs reminding users that downloading is illegal because, as Lednicer said, "the assumption is if you're checking it out from the library, you understand that we're providing it for your personal use."

It's that definition of personal use that gets murky.

Roosevelt University performing arts students Kelli Koloszar, 22, and Jordan Ellis, 21, were browsing the CD stacks of cast recordings and musicals at the Harold Washington library last week, and both admitted to ripping songs they've needed to learn for classes or performances. Still, Koloszar acknowledged that she's not 100 percent comfortable with her actions. "If they got really strict on it, I probably wouldn't do it, but since there aren't strong repercussions, then I'll probably do it occasionally," she said.

Jessie Meehan, 24, checking out CDs there while on break from work at a Michigan Avenue art gallery, said she doesn't have a computer but has decided that ripping songs from library discs isn't stealing.

"As long as you're not reselling it, then I don't think so," she said. "I mean, you can listen to anything on YouTube."

One of the ironies here is that even as their sales plummet in the retail world, CDs are thriving in libraries, though no one can say whether the ease of ripping them is a factor. Lednicer said she thinks their overall popularity is up, an impression seconded by Jim Smith, a sales manager at Baker & Taylor, which supplies audio-visual materials to libraries.

Now that many public libraries offer online search functions, obtaining a desired CD is easier than ever: Just find out which branch has that copy of the latest Kings of Leon disc and have it transferred to your neighborhood location.

Another irony is that this ethical question might eventually be solved by the very force generally blamed for the proliferation of piracy: online technology. The Chicago library system already offers downloadable music and audio books with licenses that expire after three weeks, after which they can no longer be accessed. Smith envisions a future in which all such materials are transmitted electronically, thus putting controls on your average user.

Meanwhile, Jim and Pat continue to disagree.

"There's this smug sense of 'I'm not hurting anybody,' " Byrnes said. "Well, you are hurting somebody. You are hurting musicians in the group who are struggling to pay bills because no one's willing to pay the piper."

"I don't think it's stealing," Garner countered. "I think it's fair use. I don't know if there is a clear answer on it. It's a moral decision."

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Old 10-29-09, 01:24 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

I use the library often - I'm typically in there 3 times a week at least. I make good use of the online system to request books/movies/cds from area libraries, which are then delivered to my local lib. For the most part I get new releases usually within a week or so of street if I get my request in early enough.

The selection is great - Criterions, foreign, mainstream - and they're free.

And "yes", I copy movies and cds I get from the library.

Some of the CDs I get are strictly to see if I'll like it, based on reviews, etc. It's a way to experiment, musically. Typically I'll burn it and eventually listen to it later. In many cases I end up pitching a burned disc if the artist or release doesn't hook me. Which then makes me glad I didn't buy it.

Ditto for movies. Burn it now - watch it later. Not really all that different than - in theory - watching it immediately when I get home from the library. I usually don't hang on to burned titles for very long, and if it is something I particularly like I will eventually end up purchasing it.

And "yes", I still purchase Blu-Ray titles fairly regularly and most times "blind buy" (mostly via Amazon), as well as the occasional CD or song purchase (Amazon or iTunes).

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Old 10-29-09, 01:34 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

I don't think it's legal, or that it should be, but I'll own up and say that I've done it before.
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Old 10-29-09, 01:48 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

This

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Old 10-29-09, 01:50 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Every time I see a quote from the RIAA, it's always about how something is illegal. If the RIAA had their way, listening to music at all would be illegal.
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Old 10-29-09, 01:52 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Originally Posted by Suprmallet View Post
Every time I see a quote from the RIAA, it's always about how something is illegal. If the RIAA had their way, listening to music at all would be illegal.


If the RIAA had their way, we would all have some kind of biochip implanted that would automatically deduct money from our bank account anytime music entered our ear canal.
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Old 10-29-09, 02:09 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Originally Posted by cungar View Post
This

But CD's aren't video tapes or video discs.
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Old 10-29-09, 02:35 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Is it wrong? Yes. Have I done it? Yes. I justify any copying I've done from library check-outs by considering how quickly CD's become damaged or "lost" by other patrons. My library--supported by my tax money--has acquired a title for the members of my community to have access to, open-ended. When the titles disappear from shelves within a couple of months due to mistreatment or theft, then I, as a direct funder of that title have been cheated of my access to it in the future.
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Old 10-29-09, 03:07 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

I've ripped music from CDs from the library in the past, music that looks interesting or might buy in the future.
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Old 10-29-09, 03:25 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

I'm so tired of these discussions. Screw it all to hell. Its time whomever would throw a fit about these type of issues forget it and move on to something else.

IF the music industry were smart they would get off this issue and move on to something that will make a difference in their sales. Ripping cds you got at the library is so...nothing. They CAN NOT control it, shoot they cant even control people who are online. Stop trying to toss water out of the Titanic with a bucket. Get a new ship.
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Old 10-29-09, 03:34 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

This is one of those situations where you can shake the law book at people all you want, but it's impossible to enforce it on a mass scale.
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Old 10-29-09, 04:01 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

The recording companies and libraries must have known from the beginning that the vast majority of the people who'll borrow cds are going to rip them. It would be silly of them not to assume that. And I'm surprised the RIAA hasn't made this a bigger issue already. This is only going to get more widespread as more people find out that you can rent music for free.
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Old 10-29-09, 04:03 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Originally Posted by John Slider View Post
I don't think it's legal, or that it should be, but I'll own up and say that I've done it before.
Same here. I usually end up buying the CD, but not always. It did make it a lot easier to stomach buying the new Beatle's releases that most of my old ones were burned not bought.
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Old 10-29-09, 04:20 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Originally Posted by 12thmonkey View Post


If the RIAA had their way, we would all have some kind of biochip implanted that would automatically deduct money from our bank account anytime music entered our ear canal.
It's true. Even if the music were live. But to be fair, I'm guessing someone specifically asked the RIAA about this particular issue, which is in fact illegal. But their motto seems to be "As long as we get more than our fair share."
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Old 10-29-09, 06:54 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

If you started buying recorded music since the 60's you are not ripping them off. Since you have more than paid your share of money for triple dipping on the same music. Even paying for an album that sucked just of a band. An example: VAN HALEN UNCHANGE album, the last TEARS FOR FEARS cd.
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Old 10-30-09, 12:15 AM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Originally Posted by Mikael79 View Post
This is one of those situations where you can shake the law book at people all you want, but it's impossible to enforce it on a mass scale.
Oh, I steal law books from the library too.
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Old 10-30-09, 05:02 AM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

As a tax payer here in the beautiful, yet troubled State of Kaleefornia. I feel entitled to use the contents of the publicly funded library system as I see fit, as long as I return the material in the same condition as I checked it out. If I want to sit on the toilet reading a book that I check out so be it (I don't check out books btw). But, if I did, like with all my reading it would surly be done on the toilet.

I have 8 different library cards that cover cities stretching from my house to my work (roughly 40 miles).

This is my break down, I usually spend between $500-$1,000 on CD's a year, 95% of those CD's are used/promo/cut-outs purchased from the few remaining mom and pop record shops around L.A. (including the mother-ship,) Amoeba records. Ever since I started buying CD's (going way back to 1988) I've made it a point to try my best not to pay anything near retail for a CD. Unless it's an import.

This week, for the first time this year I purchased a new CD, U2's re-mastered Unforgettable Fire deluxe edition (way overpriced btw). I didn't want to wait for a used copy to hit the stores.

The remaining CD's (stuff I wouldn't normally purchase in the first place) I "check-out" from a library. Two of the libraries I frequent are insanely loaded with content. One thing is for sure, all of library's have some hip cats in charge of purchases.

The best/quickest resource I use to hunt down CD's in the library system, Worldcat.org try it, it's awesome.
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Old 10-30-09, 08:38 AM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

i've done it

10 years ago people had the discman things so you could listen to the CD within the 7 days. today everyone has an ipod and a lot of times i end up ripping it and not listening to the album for months. and since i listen mostly to Genius Playlists, i probably won't get to listening to every song for a year

other times i try to get music i lost. i used to have almost 300 CD's that i bought from the late 1980's to the early part of this decade. when i was in the army i used to take them to the field, saudi arabia, etc. a lot of them got scratched up and had to be thrown away. so a lot of times i'll grab a greatest hits album of stuff i used to have to replace what i lost.

Last edited by al_bundy; 10-30-09 at 08:43 AM.
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Old 10-30-09, 10:38 AM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Does it make a difference when you realize that many of the CDs in libraries are directly from the record companies?

Remember the price fixing lawsuit from 2001 or so, the settlement was that the record companies would donate something like $75 million worth of CDs to public libraries. That’s what kick started the CD collection at my local library – they received a couple thousand CDs at that time. They are still getting new releases though I don’t know if these are donations from the record companies, donations from people who really like the CD so they buy it, rip it for themselves, then donate it to the library for a tax write-off, or if the library is using a part of their budget for CDs.

And like I said in my original post, check out the DVD collection at your local library. Used DVDs don't have much value anymore so people are just donating their old DVDs to libraries, which is good of course.
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Old 10-30-09, 05:19 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Originally Posted by hal9000 View Post
This is my break down, I usually spend between $500-$1,000 on CD's a year, 95% of those CD's are used/promo/cut-outs purchased from the few remaining mom and pop record shops around L.A. (including the mother-ship,) Amoeba records.
That is about as legal as ripping cds that you check out of the library. But, as has been mentioned, virtually impossible to curtail.
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Old 10-31-09, 07:01 AM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Originally Posted by jjcool View Post
That is about as legal as ripping cds that you check out of the library. But, as has been mentioned, virtually impossible to curtail.
Yeah, but out here in L.A. cut-out/promos/remainders have been a part of the music economy forever. You could find these CD's all over town, not only in record shops but the various monthly conventions and record swaps.

Back in the late 80's and throughout the 90's at the monthly Orange County Record Swap meet there was a guy/dealer very well connected with all the major record distributors. He would get multiple dozens of any major new CD a week prior to street date, that had been drilled, cut or stamped promo he would sell for $7 each or less. When they held this swap you would have thought that this guy was selling meth, his booth was so crowded with people clamoring to get the newest releases. Needless to say, I spent a lot of cash buying stuff from this guy over the years.

I have never heard of any stories of the record industry cracking down on the promo/cut-out sales (it's almost a necessary evil). And as far as used CD's go, like any other product (the exception being food obviously) there will be a secondary used market.

I do believe that in our lifetime that major labels will stop manufacturing physical CD's entirely. The push towards downloadable content will be massive in the next ten years. Everything we see and listen to will be streamed into our living rooms. As we already know it has been going on for years, and it's only going to get worse.

I guess it's funny, I don't believe in bit torrents, yet I'll rip CD's from the library but only because I know for a fact (at least at my local library) that they purchase most of the 50+ new CD's a week that they get with public funds... i.e., from my tax dollars. God knows I pay more than my fair share, I might as well get something for it in return. Unlike half the population of the State of California, I don't rely on social welfare programs to survive. Sadly I pay into the system, yet I'll never see a dime in return.

So, I guess CD's from the library are my entitlement program. Whoosh!
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Old 10-31-09, 10:44 AM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Originally Posted by hal9000 View Post
I have never heard of any stories of the record industry cracking down on the promo/cut-out sales (it's almost a necessary evil).
They tried. Then about a year ago, the courts decided reselling promo copies is legal.
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Old 10-31-09, 05:39 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Originally Posted by GHackmann View Post
They tried. Then about a year ago, the courts decided reselling promo copies is legal.
Just my guess, but it is legal to sell them even if they are stamped "not for resale, property of record label" (or something similar).

What the can do, however, is to mark the CDs or CD cases and stop giving promo CDs to whoever ends up selling them.
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Old 10-31-09, 08:35 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

Originally Posted by SeekOnce View Post
The recording companies and libraries must have known from the beginning that the vast majority of the people who'll borrow cds are going to rip them. It would be silly of them not to assume that. And I'm surprised the RIAA hasn't made this a bigger issue already. This is only going to get more widespread as more people find out that you can rent music for free.
I think that depends on what you mean by "the beginning." When CDs were first introduced, the concept of ripping them and storing the music in a digital library was science fiction.
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Old 11-01-09, 09:28 PM
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Re: Ripping CDs checked out from a library - legal or not?

I have yet to use the library for either cd or dvd use, although I have donated discs to a couple of libraries.
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