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Copying Music to CD: The Right, the Wrong, and the Law

THE RIAA VERSUS THE AHRA: A HOME-DUPING SPLIT DECISION

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade association whose member companies create, manufacture, and/or distribute approximately 90 percent of all legitimate sound recordings produced and sold in the United States. The association's 250 members include such familiar record companies as Warner Brothers Records, Columbia, Motown, RCA, Geffen, and Capitol, as well as many lesser-known record labels. The RIAA was founded in 1952 and among the items in its stated mission is the promotion of strong intellectual property protection and the prevention of music piracy.

According to Cary Sherman, the senior executive vice president and general counsel, the RIAA takes the position that any copying of music to CD that you perform on your computer is copyright infringement. Whether the source is digital or analog, whether the disc is a complete copy of a CD, tape, or LP that you own, or whether it is a compilation of songs from various sources that you own, the RIAA considers making such a copy to be a violation of the right of reproduction granted to copyright holders by the Copyright Act of 1976. They also recognize, however, that Section 1008 of the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) of 1992 gives those who perform such copying immunity from copyright infringement actions, provided that the copying is performed on a digital audio copying device as defined by the AHRA The RIAA's ultimate goal is to require CD-R and CD-RW hardware manufacturers to look at the copy-protection bit on an audio disc and refuse to copy if that bit is set to "on."



Unhappy with the amount of royalties that are returned to the music industry under the AHRA and the implications of more widely available audio CD recording, the RIAA has criticized Philips' plans to introduce a CD-Rewritable (CD-RW) home audio recorder. The new drive has been designed entirely in compliance with the AHRA, returning a royalty to music copyright holders on each recorder and disc sold and implementing the Serial Copy Management System (SCMS) on each disc recorded, which switches "on" a copy-protect bit on a burned CD copy that prevents users from copying that copy. Philips has in fact gone even farther than the AHRA requires and included a CD fingerprint system that identifies the particular machine on which each digital recording is made. Still, the RIAA has argued that home CD-RW drives raise fresh concerns not addressed in the AHRA. Home recorders like the forthcoming Philips model, the RIAA says, "will add a new dimension to and further aggravate the already very serious problem of CD piracy by facilitating a cottage industry."

The RIAA's response is as interesting for its timing as for its alarmist tone, since home recorders already exist and have for some time. The RIAA's concern more than anything else likely stems from Philips' announced pricing of $774, which means the company's drive will sell significantly cheaper than early home CD recorders which have cost users $1800 to $3000. Presumably, the RIAA is also feeling heat from the new Pioneer PDR04 home recorder, which has sold for street prices as low as $899.

The RIAA has also complained that today's situation differs from the circumstances that led to the AHRA because the home recorder manufacturers did not enter into discussions with the music industry about anti-piracy measures and standards for CD-RW as their counterparts did when digital audiotape (DAT) recorders debuted. It is difficult to see why any discussions would be necessary since the AHRA clearly covers CD-RW already. The RIAA's ultimate goal is to require CD-R and RW hardware and software manufacturers to look at the copy protection bit on an audio disc and refuse to copy it if that bit is set to on.
On the other side of the issue is the Home Recording Rights Coalition and all those who believe that Section 1008 of the AHRA gives them the right to make and play audio CDs, copied or compiled, from materials that they purchased. The HRRC is a coalition of consumers, consumer groups, trade associations, retailers, and consumer electronics manufacturers dedicated to preserving the consumer's rights to purchase and use home audio and video recording products for noncommercial purposes. The HRRC was founded in 1981, after a U.S. Court of Appeals had ruled that time-shift videotaping of television broadcasts--taping a show to watch it later--was copyright infringement. The United States Supreme Court later overruled that case, Sony Corporation v. Universal City Studios, commonly known as "the Betamax case," finding that time shifting was not copyright infringement. Clearly, however, when it comes to copying commercial audio recordings to CD, the jury is still out.


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Related Keywords:cd, lay, copying, RIAA, Robert Starrett

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