Is it OK to rip a CD, then sell it?

I’ve been mulling over this comment on the Music Magpie web site:

We originally launched musicmagpie as an easy way for everyone to turn their old CDs into cash so that they did not have to be thrown away if they had decided to go digital.

Music Magpie is a second-hand CD retailer which cleverly portrays itself as green by pointing out that it is better for the environment to sell your CDs than to chuck them away. Incidentally, I chuck away hundreds of CDs every year, but they are promotional data CDs from computer magazines, conferences and the like; I doubt Music Magpie would thank me for them.

So imagine that I’ve got a lot of CDs but have now “gone digital”. I suppose if I am not tech-savvy enough to know that CDs are also digital, I might re-buy the ones I still liked on iTunes. It is more likely though that I would rip my CDs to computer before doing anything else, or “import from CD” as Apple describes it. So is my next step to flog the redundant plastic to Music Magpie, or on Amazon or eBay if I want a better price?

Ethically, I’m pretty sure the answer is no. Legally, I’m not even sure it is OK to rip them in the first place. In practice, I’m aware that lots of people do this, and I imagine that it forms a significant part of the market for Music Magpie and other second-hand dealers. Pragmatically, collectors aside, a CD is pretty much useless once you have a lossless copy and a backup, so you can understand why people sell them.

It makes me wonder why there is so little guidance on the subject, for example on CDs themselves. If I pick up a CD, I read “Unauthorized copying, public performance, broadcasting, hiring or rental of this recording prohibited.” A reasonable person would presume that it is OK to sell the CD as a second-hand item. A reasonable person, noting the existence of prominent ripping features in software from the most reputable software companies (Apple, Microsoft, etc) would presume that it is OK to rip the CD. So why not both?

I’m guessing that the reason for the silence is that industry lawyers are reluctant to broach the subject, for fear of giving away too much. For example, if there were guidance that said, “it is OK to rip”, that would concede a point they may be unwilling to concede.

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2 thoughts on “Is it OK to rip a CD, then sell it?”

  1. I think the industry aren’t quiet. There are moves afoot to legalise ripping, but also make sure that the right people are compensated:
    “The BPI, which polices copyright theft on behalf of record labels, has already announced that it will not prosecute people for copying music to MP3 players. ”

  2. Thanks for the links. This is from the first, dated 2006:

    that one of the solutions the BPI would back is the direct authorisation of consumers to carry out the activity, with authorisation likely to be put directly on to CD packaging.

    it’s interesting that this still has not happened.


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