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The RIAA’s Ridiculous Reasoning On Rips

I, for one, don’t want to cheer when I read that the music industry continues to founder. Really, I’m not that vindictive. Then I read that the RIAA is arguing that it is illegal to make copies of legally purchased music on your computer, and my goodwill starts to ebb.

According to the Washington Post (hat tip: Washington Monthly):

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

The Post continues:

The Howell case was not the first time the industry has argued that making a personal copy from a legally purchased CD is illegal. At the Thomas trial in Minnesota, Sony BMG’s chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that “when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Copying a song you bought is “a nice way of saying ’steals just one copy,’ ” she said.

So this is nothing new, but it’s still amazing to see how absurd the RIAA’s position is. How absurd? Here’s Radley Balko:

Back in 2006, entertainment industry darling Hillary Clinton told the press she had the Beatles on her iPod. Since the Beatles had not yet licensed their music to iTunes or any other MP3 site, the only way she could have gotten them onto her iPod would have been by ripping a CD. I wonder, does RIAA have the stones to take Hillary to court? And if not, why not?

Hmm. Tough one. Let me take a crack at it: because the RIAA isn’t interested in alienating powerful political constituencies, just their customers.