I decided to sell off my CD collection. I came to this decision becasue I don't listen to them all that much, and when I do I am usually at my computer where I have them ripped. So this brings up the legal and ethical question of whether or not it is okay to keep backups of CDs once you have sold them.

First, I'd like to deal with the ethical question. Is copying CDs stealing? Stealing is definately wrong, but copying a CD is different than stealing. First you are not taking anyone's property. You are creating a duplicate of it. Technology has really changed the way things work. It's like having a relicator from Star Trek, except this one only works with CDs, DVDs, and in a sense books. If anything, copying a CD is copyright infringement, and I don't think that it is clear cut whether copyright infringement is wrong in all cases.

As Christians, we are supposed to submit to our rulers, and I would say this means following the law. (check out 1 Pt 2.13-17) Now, I don't mean that we should follow unjust laws. You shouldn't follow a law if it causes you to sin, but we're not dealing with that here. If in fact, making backups of CDs is copyright infringement, then perhaps we might want to avoid it. But is it even copyright infringement?

I am certain that the RIAA would say is not legal to keep your backups. The RIAA does not want you making backups in the first place. In my opinion they are not part of the discussion. They cannot be reasoned with. The RIAA represent the labels' interests at best, and not the artists'. If you have some time, read Courtney Love's eye-opening letter.

Where does copyright come from? We don't hear about it much in history. I'm not a historian, but I don't remember the classic artists having to deal with it at all. In the U.S., copyright was created by Federal law, authorized by The Constitution:
The Congress shall have Power [. . .] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 8

Copyright was created to foster creativity and andvancements in the arts and science. That is important to keep in mind. I don't know that the current business climate of the music industry fosters creativity.

One thing that I found out with selling my CDs is that sharing music really builds interest in it. It wasn't until I started digging through my collection, and ripping everything that I started listening to it again. Lending CDs to friends get me excited about the bands. I just bought two new CDs in the course of listing mine.

Something has to change. Perhaps the music industry won't get as much money as it has in the past, and that might not be a bad thing. If the only people left creating music are those who really love doing it, there might be more great music out there. Good music does not have to come from the labels. In most cases it doesn't. It is just discovered by them. The Decemberists had several great albums out before they were, "discovered."

I don't know the answers to all these questions. What do you think about copying, sharing, and backing up? Tell me in the comments. I'd really like to know.

Oh, and if you want to see what CDs and books I have left, check out my Amazon shop.


josephs2877 said...

5 bucks for everything... :) I go by this rule, fair use. If its a CD that I bought and its like "man, this sucks" and I know I won't ever listen to it again. Feel free to get rid of it like an old couch in a garage sale. If its my favorite band then I guess I feel like a schmuck trying to make a few bucks off their hardened labor. I like your point about copying though because your not really "taking" anything. Same rules apply for software though or anything digital and that means as a software creator that I may be keenly interested in that resale or in people copying stuff.

I think the day is not far away that we have to accept a user-listen agreement when we buy a new cd. =)

Jen said...

I don't think folks that sing and create CD and the like have to copy right their stuff, they choose to do so. It is a way of doing business. You've spent those hundreds of thousands of dollars creating this amazing piece of music and now you need and want to recover your costs and to make a profit. If it was really just about making good music then you could go to your local hang out and just play.

So I think the real questions is how to balance the art of creation with the reality of the cost that it takes to make that creative piece for people to enjoy.

Now that the internet is so common place, no one needs to go to the big labels anymore, they can, with realtively little cost, cut their own and make it available online.

So the question becomes, why are you creating in the first place?

AllMyLoveGiftsandApparel said...

Okay, old post but i thought I would comment.

It seems a bit silly that in the event we buy a cd we cannot keep a back up copy. If we lose it, we are forced to buy another. Where the artist will receive a grand total of 55 cents per copy or something.

It someone purchases a website from a website design, isn't he allowed to keep a backup copy of it?

just some food for thought

lance said...


Thanks for stopping by. In the U.S., you actually are allowed to make a backup of a CD you own. It falls under under fair use.

However, with DVDs it could be a legal problem to make a backup. Since DVDs are encrypted, in order to back them up to your PC, you must break the encryption. Even though this is a trivial task with free tools on the Internet, this is against the law under the DMCA.

My question with CDs is whether or not it is legally and morally permissible to keep the backup and sell the CD. What do you think?