I was wondering when this bit of revisionism would take hold. I do not have a side in this battle (or a stake in it, when is my phone going to ring?), and for me it is purely an academic issue which should be framed thusly: “Whether format-shifting music (such as ripping a CD to your iPod) by a consumer for personal use or as a backup is a fair use under the Copyright Act.” For years the RIAA said yes, it was. For instance, during oral arguments in Grokster, the RIAA’s attorney stated to the U.S. Supreme Court:
The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it’s been on their website for some time now, that it’s perfectly lawful to take a CD that you’ve purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod.
Apparently, however, this was not a use that would fall under any fair use analysis, according to the RIAA, et al, but simply a license they were granting to do so. At least that is how it looked after the music industry filed a joint reply with the government as part of the triennial of the effectiveness of the DMCA. In the reply (pdf), the companies said in one footnote:
Nor does the fact that permission to make a copy in particular circumstances is often or even “routinely” granted, see C6 at 8, necessarily establish that the copying is a fair use when the copyright owner withholds that authorization. In this regard, the statement attributed to counsel for copyright holders in the Grokster case, is simply a statement about authorization, not about fair use.
Now, in this case which should be a fairly routine one, the subject of fair use arose and here is what Sony BMG’s counsel had to say:
[Judge] Gabriel asked if it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music which they have purchased, even just one copy. [Sony BMG 's attorney] 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.
For more on today’s arguments, see Sony BMG’s chief anti-piracy lawyer: “Copying” music you own is “stealing”
The content industry, however, should pick its battles better. There is a good case to be made that, under current fair use analysis, content-shifting is not a fair use, and this is a case that they should easily win. Any of the software manufacturers making CD ripping software would fail both the tests of Sony and Grokster. And why did no one sue Apple for the “Rip. Mix. Burn.” ads?
(note: I do seem to remember that both Roxio www.roxio.com and Apple www.apple.com, which make a majority of the CD ripping/burning software had a deal with EMI to create “secure CDs,” but I am sure that deal died a horrible corporate slow death.)
Filed under: 2007 Copyright Cases, Copyright, DMCA, Fair Use, RIAA | 3 Comments »