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Paul's Posts — 04 April 2012

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Beware the mattress police

Yesterday’s post Perfectly Legal had a few of you scratching your heads about being law breakers.  If you rip a CD and then sell it or give it away, technically you should delete the stored copy as you no longer own the rights to listen to the music you bought.

I still cringe every time I rip off a warning label on a new pillow or mattress that adamantly says not to do that under penalty of law  because I am technically breaking the law.  Logically the mattress police probably aren’t going to come after me nor are the copyright folks likely to audit my CD collection and compare it to what I have ripped – but in both cases they have the right to do it.

Society has an obligation to protect people’s rights but it also has a duty to make sure its legal system isn’t absurd.

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About Author

Paul McGowan is the CEO and co-founder of PS Audio Inc. a Boulder Colorado design and manufacturing company of high-end audio products and services. McGowan has been designing and building high-end products for nearly 40 years. Hobbies include skiing, music, hiking, artisan bread baking, kick boxing and cooking. He lives in Boulder Colorado with his wife Terri and his 4 sons.

(4) Readers Comments

  1. I’m not a lawyer, but…

    The mattress police don’t exist. The tag is pretty clearly labeled with a parenthetical that says, “except by end user” which, unless you’re a mattress wholesaler, would by you, Paul.

    As for the CDs, the litigators at the RIAA are just waiting for you to sell those CDs, buddy. I keep thousands in a trunk in my basement. Unshared. Dusty. At least they don’t smell.

    In the digital age, this concept isn’t silly. Imagine a business that buys one copy of 10,000 CDs, let’s you buy them all for, say, $500, then “rips” them onto your hard drive for you (which involves copying a hard drive, taking about 30 minutes) and then buys the pile back from you for, say, $480. And repeats this process until we all own every record ever recorded…

    Copyright law is absurd, it’s not working and the above scenario is happening anyway, just not as efficiently. Hey, even a headphone/download tax would be more fair, more efficient and make more money for the artists (as opposed to the labels).

  2. Yes, the concept of reasonable rights is very understandable and I support it.
    I am not convinced, however, that “amending” old laws is the way to approach the issue in 2012.[do we remember 1984?]

    Obviously the artistic producers have a huge lobby and the finances to support it.
    We however, as consumers, are the ones who fund the producers.
    We have to lobby too!

    There has to be discussions involving artists and consumers to come to a consensus.

    When I discussed this issue with my 14 year old nephew who shares the odd downloads with his school friends, he laughed at me.
    To someone growing up in his world, sharing a file for a new artist that he discovered, from another friend, is very logical.
    We want to promote Hi-End Audio and that starts with music listening and then “better sound”.

    Telling these kids that “sharing” is WRONG, is indeed a bad influence on their general outlook on life.
    Certainly not a message that we want to teach them.

    The mass broadcasting of copyrighted material is WRONG and they can understand that concept and in large will accept it.

    Telling a 14 year old that he is a criminal for sharing music with his close friends when we at the same time, want to encourage a social culture around music, makes no sense to me.
    If we push these kids underground we may well be sorry later.

  3. “Logically the mattress police probably aren’t going to come after me”

    Don’t be so sure;

    http://articles.cnn.com/2009-06-18/justice/minnesota.music.download.fine_1_jury-instructions-fined-sheryl-crow?_s=PM:CRIME

    I don’t see that YouTube is any different than Napster originally was especially since you can now get free download software to copy YouTube files to your hard drive. Recently unauthorized copyrighted material has been disappearing from YouTube but before that anything anyone wanted was there for the taking.

    I thought this debate began with the introduction of consumer tape recorders in the 1950s especially in regard to taping broadcasts off the air but I understand that it actually began with the broadcast of recordings back in the early days of radio. The new wrinkle in the problem today is not only the ease of file sharing but that first generation quality copies can be made on a mass scale cheaply and quickly. Just as bad, thousandth generation digital copies can be of the same quality as first generation recordings, not just of music but of movies, computer software, photographs, and books. Since copyrighting gives the creator of original work the right to exclusive profits from it for a limited period of time before it is in the public domain as an incentive to promote new ideas it isn’t clear what impact piracy on a large scale will have as a disincentive to creativity. Meanwhile a electronic warfare wages between copy protection software embedded in product and ways to defeat it. It usually doesn’t take pirates long to figure out workarounds to any new protection scheme. It could spell the end of any commercial value for new recordings. Personally I was happy to pay one or two dollars for used CDs (unlike vinyl phonograph records every bit as good as new) but now that I’ve amassed more than I am likely to ever listen to, even that hardly matters.

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