Ripping CDs to computer is illegal. RIAA files Federal Suit.

Washington (DC) – The Recording Industry Association of America has filed a landmark federal lawsuit in Arizona, claiming that it is against its guidelines for users to make copies of CD tracks to their computer for personal use.

The RIAA is going after Jeffrey Howell of Scottsdale, AZ.  The group alleges that Howell shared 54 music files over the peer-to-peer network Kazaa.  This kind of complaint has become commonplace for the RIAA, but they added something different to this lawsuit.

Ira Schwartz, an Arizona-based lawyer for the trade group, says Howell is also guilty of making “unauthorized copies” of CD tracks by ripping them to his computer, even though he may never have shared them with anyone else.

“It is undisputed that Defendant possessed unauthorized copies of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted sound recordings on his computer,” said Schwartz in a legal brief.  “Once Defendant converted Plaintiffs’ recording into the compressed .mp3 format and they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies distributed by Plaintiffs.”

This means that the RIAA is saying it could actually come after anyone who has ever used a CD ripping program to transfer tracks from a disc to a computer, regardless of whether or not file sharing was involved.  The organization’s website makes this clearer by noting, “If you make unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings … you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages.”

The case against Howell is believed to be the first to take this stance this far into the legal process.

read more | digg story

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