More Insider Secrets
Can I join one of those CD rings?
Swapping music with your friends is nothing new, but the law is lagging behind when it comes to handing out the perfect digital mix. P2P networks aside, consider the CD ring: an arrangement where, each month, 1 of 12 friends makes a CD mix of favorite songs and distributes the CDs to the remaining 11. Most conservative copyright attorneys will discourage you and your ring of friends from making upward of 1,300 digital copies (12 months times 11 friends times 10 songs), even though it's not for a commercial use or financial gain. But there is little precedent on the issue, and creative lawyers justify trading multiple mixes, two ways:
- Audio CD-Rs: Make all the copies using Audio CD-Rs and standalone CD burners (see above). But the more you make, the more likely the recording industry is to come calling.
- Fair use: Certain limited uses of copyrighted music are considered fair use and, thus, legal. Commentary, parody, news reporting, education, and research are classic justifications for fair use. Occasionally, courts expand the spectrum of exceptions. Take the now famous Betamax case, where the Supreme Court ruled that time shifting--recording a show and watching it later--was considered a legitimate fair use. In that vein, ambitious attorneys argue that while copying a complete album may be illegal, a mix of songs is fair use because it doesn't displace the sale of an entire album. But with individual songs now available for sale on legitimate sites, that argument likely falls flat.
The ultimate question: How many copies are too many? A mix CD for your lover is generally acceptable, but if you get married and you give that mix to all of your guests as a wedding memento, you risk your happily-ever-after status.