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TheAllotrope
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I was skimming through some posts about (potentially) stolen video and audio, and a few things occurred to me:

When you borrow a CD from a friend, you are authorized to listen to the music under "Fair Use", but you do not own the material itself, so you cannot rip it. But when you own a CD, you may of course rip it so you can have it available on a computer, mp3 player, etc.

What about second-hand CDs? For example, someone buys a CD, then rips the music, then eBays it. The buyer is only buying a CD, and has no way of knowing whether the other party has copied it.

1) Is it unethical to keep the music after selling the CD? I would tend to think it would be, for the simple reason that you were only licensing the music, not buying it - you don't have the right to the music itself, just the right to play it. When you sell the CD, you transfer your rights to listen to the music. But politically, how is this enforceable? And if nothing else, erasing a hard drive like this is simply destroying a value - it detracts from the quality of life of the individual erasing it, without any benefit to anyone else. I suppose it technically isn't his by right anymore, but I cannot see how the artist or original user would be helped by destroying the copies, nor can I see how any government - whose job it is to protect rights - could enforce such rules.

2) Is it unethical to purchase such a CD, on the grounds that it probably was abused in the above manner? I would tend not to think so, since one person's moral stature doesn't depend on another's. But at the same time, isn't it an evasion to not consider who the seller is?

3) If it is acceptable to keep the music, couldn't one simply buy a CD, rip the music, sell it to another person, who rips it, and so on? Assuming a long time scale and no transportation or information costs, everyone could conceivably access the data on one CD. How is that different in principle from something like ThePirateBay?

Some discussion to capture the essence of the issue would be appreciated.

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1) No it makes perfect sense to try to require that the seller destroy any copies he has made (most especially any "hard" copies burned onto another CD as a backup). If not, I can legitimately buy 10000 different CDs, rip them and sell them as almost mint, and effectively get the music for almost free.

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But when you own a CD, you may of course rip it so you can have it available on a computer, mp3 player, etc.
This is not in the realm of "of course". It certainly doesn't follow from any clear-cut law; it reduces, at best, to the fact that RIAA has vaguely suggested that you have permission to copy music for your own use (shifting to MP3, etc). RIAA doesn't actually have the legal authority to give such permission, so you can at best assume that if the CD was produced in the US and the manufacturer is a member of RIAA that they approve of that use.
Is it unethical to keep the music after selling the CD?

...

But politically, how is this enforceable?

Yes, it is, and how indeed. Software comes with explicit language requiring you to erase copies, when you sell the copy of the software. Music doesn't come with any explicit language, which contributes to the problem. You don't need to destroy the hard drive, you need to delete the copied content.
but I cannot see how the artist or original user would be helped by destroying the copies, nor can I see how any government - whose job it is to protect rights - could enforce such rules.
The first question is easy: if the original user no longer values the music, to the point that they are willing to keep it, then erasing the copy will help them to non-contradictorily grasp the nature of "value". If the person does want to keep the music, they should not attempt to keep their cake and sell it, too. Buy another copy (the copyright owner then benefits via royalties).

Enforcement... well, I think the solution has to be technical. It has to be impossible to sell the original without deleting the copies.

2) Is it unethical to purchase such a CD, on the grounds that it probably was abused in the above manner?
No, because I don't see the evidence for the conclusion "probably". I have some crappy CDs that I'd sell, to recoup my losses. I know it's possible, I just don't see the evidence that it's probable. However, if you actually knew that you were buying from a music pirate, then such a purchase would be unethical. You would be evading your knowledge, which is the fundamental vice.
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The "of course" was in reference to fair use practices, which are standard as far as I know.

The fact that music isn't sold with a license agreement was part of what I was thinking of...there's nothing that legally prohibits people from doing copying music then selling it. Do I have it right that there would need to be some kind of DRM package applied to the music?

Wouldn't that significantly decrease the value of the music? I know people who go out of their way to get pirated music instead of legitimate versions simply because wading through the hassle of DRM isn't worth it. My brother (not a music pirate) had a sizeable iTunes collection lost due to the DRM controls when his computer crashed because iTunes could not verify that his computer was the legitimate owner. Also, how would you allow for things like backups or transfers to new computers, without creating a system that enables piracy?

Finally, would this mean government ought to promote DRM, or merely enforce it when a business adopts it? My thought is the latter.

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The "of course" was in reference to fair use practices, which are standard as far as I know.
No, they are not. That's the point.
The fact that music isn't sold with a license agreement was part of what I was thinking of...there's nothing that legally prohibits people from doing copying music then selling it.
The legal prohibition comes from copyright law. You are only permitted to copy with permission, which comes with whatever strings the rights-holder adds. The problem is it's all done with a wink and a nudge, so in practical terms there is no known prohibition.
Do I have it right that there would need to be some kind of DRM package applied to the music?
Legally or technologically? Legally no, but automatic enforcement would require something like DRM.
Wouldn't that significantly decrease the value of the music?
I don't know, but it could make acquiring downloaded music more of a hassle, until they sort out the technology.
My thought is the latter.
Yes, law enforcement is the government's only proper function. The problem is that the government has approached the problem via fiat and statute rather than contract, though not unreasonably so. Imposing a restriction on people's rights to their own property is not the right approach.
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However, if you actually knew that you were buying from a music pirate, then such a purchase would be unethical. You would be evading your knowledge, which is the fundamental vice.

What if you choose not to investigate it or ask questions, for whatever reason? What if the reason is that you fear you'll find out the person pirated it, and that it was therefore unethical? It seems like the only ethical thing to do is reasonably investigate your purchases.

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What if you choose not to investigate it or ask questions, for whatever reason? What if the reason is that you fear you'll find out the person pirated it, and that it was therefore unethical? It seems like the only ethical thing to do is reasonably investigate your purchases.
That pretty much sums up why evasion happens -- people must suppress knowledge, because they emotionally dislike the consequences of the fact. And that's why evasion is the fundamental vice.
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  • 4 weeks later...
Yesterday, I was thinking about this too.

I bought a Tchaikovsky and Chopin CD and I extracted the music for my iPod. Later that night, I sold the CDs to my dad.

I was thinking since the CDs remain the property of my family, it wasn't unethical of me if I kept the music in my iPod.

I know some software companies, like microsoft, typically allow for installation on up to 3 computers in the same household. I think this is reasonable with music as well, given no such specific instruction by those companies.

I share all my CD's with my son, and my software. If in doubt, I call the software company in question and ask them their policy.

If buying on Ebay I ask if it is opened and, if so, is it still installed on a computer. Sometimes I don't believe the obvious answer and go elsewhere. Sometimes I do, and I go for it. Just a judgement call at that point, with obviously limited evidence...

That being said, I believe if you buy something...then sell it...but still own it...

Could you buy a car, sell it, keep the spare key and use it when you like? Perhaps your Dad might not mind as much as someone else, but you get the idea...

Intellectual property is easy to drive around in even after you sell it, but you are gaining a value you have not earned. That is always wrong.

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When you go into a store and purchase a physical CD, exactly what agreement are you entering into? (And I mean 'exactly' as defined.)

I just checked a bunch of my CDs and on the outside there is usually almost unreadable print and copyright information and the most specific thing you can usually find is "FBI ANTI-PIRACY WARNING: Unauthorized copying is prohibited by federal law". And this isn't found on every one. (I won't go searching inside the disk since I have no way of agreeing to this usage prior to exchanging my money. Nor will I purposefully evade information that would provide me clarity. So yes, if a big red card fell out when I opened the cd that said "do not put on your iPod" I'd return the cd and get my money back.)

Simply, I only want to enjoy this music for myself. I don't desire to break any laws. I trade my money for this disc and go on home. But by purchasing this CD have I somehow agreed to do volunteer legal research into the matter so as to learn of any POTENTIAL restrictions on my usage? (FBI warning label... track it down...)

Ethically, I've never felt it necessary to even question my own behavior as far how I use the CDs I have bought. I've never sold a second hand CD to someone, but I have bought used CDs in stores with the assumption that they have the legal right to sell used CDs.

I believe in the free market and have to assume that the cost for the CD I am charged is what the seller intends it to be. I assume they are aware of the value and possible usages of the product even more than I and have set their price accordingly.

That said, if there are clear terms on the packaging that state usage restrictions, I will definitely abide by those if I choose to go through with the purchase.

The way I look at it is that it IS UNETHICAL to knowingly engage in activity where you are trading with others using property that is not yours (i.e. that you have not PAID or traded for in the first place). It is also unethical to intentionally break the law. I realize this is an indirect way to answer the main thread, but my point is that if you are concerned with your ethics it probably means there is something to be concerned about, and you most definitely should use reason to analyze your actions. If you're getting something for nothing... well, there's your answer.

Edited by freestyle
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But by purchasing this CD have I somehow agreed to do volunteer legal research into the matter so as to learn of any POTENTIAL restrictions on my usage?

Just like purchasing any other product, I frequently 'volunteer' to do all kinds of research beyond what is provided for me with the product because I find it in my rational self-interest to do so. Sometimes this is legal research and sometimes this is practical use research. I may want to use a product in a particular way, but it helps ME to know whether a given use is legal (or safe or whatever) or not.

I would offer that it is in your self-interest to take the effort to understand the legal ramifications of the copyright involving the products you buy, not because you are helping record labels with piracy, but because you are helping yourself by making yourself aware of the copyright limitations. Your post makes it sound like you think you are helping them by "doing research" when your concern should rightly be helping yourself.

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'TheAllotrope' date='Oct 2 2009, 02:18 AM' post='231933'

When you borrow a CD from a friend, you are authorized to listen to the music under "Fair Use", but you do not own the material itself, so you cannot rip it. But when you own a CD, you may of course rip it so you can have it available on a computer, mp3 player, etc.

What about second-hand CDs? For example, someone buys a CD, then rips the music, then eBays it. The buyer is only buying a CD, and has no way of knowing whether the other party has copied it.

1) Is it unethical to keep the music after selling the CD? I would tend to think it would be, for the simple reason that you were only licensing the music, not buying it - you don't have the right to the music itself, just the right to play it. When you sell the CD, you transfer your rights to listen to the music. But politically, how is this enforceable? And if nothing else, erasing a hard drive like this is simply destroying a value - it detracts from the quality of life of the individual erasing it, without any benefit to anyone else. I suppose it technically isn't his by right anymore, but I cannot see how the artist or original user would be helped by destroying the copies, nor can I see how any government - whose job it is to protect rights - could enforce such rules.

You forgot the priniciple from your first statement: the CD is to have 1 owner, 1 simultaneous user.

So you certainly cannot keep the music and sell it, new or used.

Don't rationalize that you are harming yourself by removing it from your computer.

Enforcement is not the primary issue, morality is. Is it moral to violate any rational law just because you can't be caught?

I always ask an Ebay seller if he is retaining music or any s/w after selling it; some are honest and I don't buy it if he says yes, and I still don't if I suspect he is being immoral.

2) Is it unethical to purchase such a CD, on the grounds that it probably was abused in the above manner? I would tend not to think so, since one person's moral stature doesn't depend on another's. But at the same time, isn't it an evasion to not consider who the seller is?

Of course - same principle. Your action to buy is independent of the seller's action to sell.

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Yesterday, I was thinking about this too.

I bought a Tchaikovsky and Chopin CD and I extracted the music for my iPod. Later that night, I sold the CDs to my dad.

I was thinking since the CDs remain the property of my family, it wasn't unethical of me if I kept the music in my iPod.

That is rationalization. He's a different person isn't he?

Note that there have been several suggestions here on how to tweek the law and/or evade certain aspects of it.

The law is clear and it generally does not matter whether a CD or other product has all the restrictive messages on it.

More importantly is the moral question: should you copy material that belongs to someone else? Would you want others to copy a product of yours?

Edited by TLD
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Your post makes it sound like you think you are helping them by "doing research" when your concern should rightly be helping yourself.

I don't think we disagree as far as the big picture issue.

But no, I definitely did not mean to sound like I was helping "them". I was intending to point out that I don't think it is rational to believe that my purchase comes with an unlimited set of obligations on my part.

I was only appealing to common sense here. That's all. If I buy something and intend to be the only user of it, what moral obligation do I have any other person or entity that is clearly not effected by my use? Were I to engage in any trade or exchange of this material I would be obligated to take note of the copyright holder's claims to the material, that much I said already.

Yes, I do agree that if you want to copy the songs to your computer, KEEP THEM, and then sell the CD to another you should do that research and determine if that is OK or not with the copyright holder and if it is within the bounds of the established law.

Check this link: http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/ This is a "warning" against "unauthorized" duplication. It is beyond generic when applied to yourself and your own use. And this is about as much as you'll see on any package before you buy it.

I've heard you're allowed one backup. Is that standard? Did every publisher agree to that? How do I know this applies to this particular cd? I've never found the source of that statement as it applies directly to music CDs. I do know a bit about what is DEFINITELY illegal, but I know of no cases where anyone has been found guilty of "unauthorized" copying of a CD they owned and did not share with anyone else.

I know what you're saying about practicality and rational self interest. I'm simply saying I don't think there is anything irrational or non-practical about using my CD for me only, in any way I choose. If, for my convenience, I transfer the digital files from the CD to my iPod (or many of my iPods) and I am the only one that uses the music, then what obligation (morally or ethically) would I have to go "research" whether or not that is OK? If I was signing up for that when I purchased the CD, I would have like to have been told that by the seller.

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When you go into a store and purchase a physical CD, exactly what agreement are you entering into?
The agreement that you enter into is between you and the store: you agree to give them however many bucks, and they agree to give you the CD. You do not enter into any agreement with the manufacturer of the CD. You are legally and morally obligated to obey the law, w.r.t. the manufacturer's property, and that is completely independent of any notion of "agreement".
But by purchasing this CD have I somehow agreed to do volunteer legal research into the matter so as to learn of any POTENTIAL restrictions on my usage?
In the sense that you also "agree to do voluntary research" when you buy a car, house, dog, or anything else. You might want to know that if your dog kills the neighbor child, you can be held responsible. Or if you drive your car into someone else's house, you will be held responsible for the damage. So as far as a CD is concerned, you "need" to know that you may not make a copy without permission, and indeed you should know that in order to be a moral and law-abiding person.

You might also want to know whether you can get permission to copy, but with a music CD, I never care because I don't need to make copies. De gustibus, I suppose.

I've never sold a second hand CD to someone, but I have bought used CDs in stores with the assumption that they have the legal right to sell used CDs.
Correct, because the physical object is your property.
That said, if there are clear terms on the packaging that state usage restrictions, I will definitely abide by those if I choose to go through with the purchase.
That's .... interesting. I've never seen any usage restrictions that are more stringent that "the law". I could imagine, though, a seller labeling his CD "You may only play this CD on a genuine SONY CD player". I would not be bound by such a phrase on the package, because when I buy a CD, I actually buy it and it becomes mine. Now, if the seller is not actually selling it but is leasing it, then it would not be my property, so I would not have the right to do anything to the CD at all, except that which was explicitly permitted by the lease agreement.

WRT copying music and software CDs, software copying is on clearly firmer grounds. Read the EULA and it will almost certainly tell you of your right to make a backup copy, and may tell you of your right to make "one home and one office copy". I do not know of any software (other than copylefted software) that allows you to make any number of personal copies. (Maybe it exists, but I've never seen it). This is an example of the kind of permission required under the law. Properly done, it must be explicit, and without such a statement, you are violating the law to make a backup copy. (In fact, I have a piece of software that can only be registered on one physical machine at a time, and has to be uninstalled to move it -- I have no idea what you do when your machine blows up).

OTOH the "right to pirate music", which is now generally assumed -- that you can make any number of copies for your various machines and people at home -- is kinda bogus. RIAA has in the past stated that it's okay for people to copy CDs to their Ipods or whatever.

RIAA points (in this page about "tools for parents") to a cutesy document here, distributed by "Childnet", which says "Copying music you’ve bought to your personal computer or player is a common activity which can generally be done without legal consequences". We might then conclude that this constitutes permission. (RIAA actually had a similar statement on their page, but I can't find it now -- for good reason, I bet). But read carefully: it is a statement of fact, that you are unlikely to be prosecuted for violating the law. Furthermore, RIAA does not hold the copyright, and their saying "it's okay" does not bind all of their members, nor could it even imaginarily bind any non-member, like a foreign manufacturer. When it comes to music, it's pretty close to impossible to find out with reasonable certainty whether personal copying is actually permitted.

Morally speaking, you have to judge whether the conclusion "I have permission to make a copy" can be reached rationally. With a software EULA, it's much clearer. With music, I honestly cannot say that I see the evidence that there is any such permission for personal use. At most, I see from rights-holders, a begrudging statement that there is little chance that they can detect IP theft unless it's done in an open, P2P or other traceable fashion, and therefore you can probably get away with the crime. In my mind, that is not permission.

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FYI TLD, I only raised this issue as a hypothetical point I was curious on to see if my own thoughts on the matter were consistent. I'm certainly not, have not, and don't plan to copy music then resell it.

But the thing I'm trying to answer is mostly just the one raised in part 2 of the OP: What is the extent of research on a seller's character necessary before a purchase can be made? Is it an evasion to do no research and simply say that any wrong they've committed is their own and your buying the CD does not affect it? Should one research until one has verified the virtue of the seller, within reason?

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OTOH the "right to pirate music", which is now generally assumed -- that you can make any number of copies for your various machines and people at home -- is kinda bogus. RIAA has in the past stated that it's okay for people to copy CDs to their Ipods or whatever.

Are you saying it is immoral for me to have my cd's on my computer, my son's computer, and both of our MP3's?

I don't consider it piracy at all, but I am very curious to hear any argument to that effect.

I'm not sure that's what you were implying here...

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OTOH the "right to pirate music", which is now generally assumed -- that you can make any number of copies for your various machines and people at home -- is kinda bogus. RIAA has in the past stated that it's okay for people to copy CDs to their Ipods or whatever.

The most pertinent online statement from the RIAA that I found is here:

Copying CDs

* It’s okay to copy music onto an analog cassette, but not for commercial purposes.

* It’s also okay to copy music onto special Audio CD-R’s, mini-discs, and digital tapes (because royalties have been paid on them) – but, again, not for commercial purposes.

* Beyond that, there’s no legal "right" to copy the copyrighted music on a CD onto a CD-R. However, burning a copy of CD onto a CD-R, or transferring a copy onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player, won’t usually raise concerns so long as:

o The copy is made from an authorized original CD that you legitimately own

o The copy is just for your personal use. It’s not a personal use – in fact, it’s illegal – to give away the copy or lend it to others for copying.

* The owners of copyrighted music have the right to use protection technology to allow or prevent copying.

* Remember, it’s never okay to sell or make commercial use of a copy that you make.

(boldface added)

So, the RIAA's current statement (which is significantly different from its statement as of February 10, 2007 as I posted here), merely asserts that making copies to your personal computer hard drive or portable music player "won't usually raise concerns" provided the conditions are met. This statement is frustratingly murky -- e.g. the "no legal 'right'" language prefaces "onto a CD-R" only -- the phrase "transferring a copy" seems grossly inaccurate -- the limiting word "usually" invites the question of "when isn't it 'usually'?" -- and "won't ... raise concerns" doesn't actually describe a grant of permission. OTOH, if it were a clear-cut copyright violation, then what was the point of the statement? Its only effect can be to encourage, with a wink and a nod, an example of the very behavior that the RIAA as a general matter exists to stop. They didn't have to be so ambivalent about it, and given that the RIAA is the U.S. recording industry's watchdog on these matters, I can only say how disappointed I am in the lack of clear guidance that has been dragging on now for years, and that no grant of permission to do what the RIAA says "won't usually raise concerns" actually exists.

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FYI TLD, I only raised this issue as a hypothetical point I was curious on to see if my own thoughts on the matter were consistent. I'm certainly not, have not, and don't plan to copy music then resell it.

But the thing I'm trying to answer is mostly just the one raised in part 2 of the OP: What is the extent of research on a seller's character necessary before a purchase can be made? Is it an evasion to do no research and simply say that any wrong they've committed is their own and your buying the CD does not affect it? Should one research until one has verified the virtue of the seller, within reason?

Piracy is so widespread and accepted by so many that I prefer to buy new, myself. You never really save that much money, anyway. That being said, I think a modest effort to ask the questions to which the answers might pose a moral breach and using common sense in assessing the responses/situation should be enough to set one's mind at ease.

Anyone disagree?

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Are you saying it is immoral for me to have my cd's on my computer, my son's computer, and both of our MP3's?

I don't consider it piracy at all, but I am very curious to hear any argument to that effect.

I'm not sure that's what you were implying here...

I should have read the RIAA link before posting. It states copying OK as long as it is not for another person.

My son is, in fact, another person. I don't think my son having my CD's on his computer is a problem, since he lives with me and can listen to the actual CD anytime he likes. What about both of us taking it "to go" on our MP3's?

Thoughts?

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Are you saying it is immoral for me to have my cd's on my computer, my son's computer, and both of our MP3's?
Consider two cases. Smith takes my property, and has no reason at all to believe that I give him permission to take it. Jones takes my property, and has a reasonable but false belief -- the falsehood of which he could have determined with some persistent research -- that he had my permission. Smith is clearly behaving immorally. I also conclude that Jones is behaving morally, on the assumption that there is no evasion in his accepting the false belief. However, when Smith learns that he does not actually have permission, then he can no longer act the same way.

In this case, moral evaluation hinges on the person's knowledge context. Like Seeker (whom thanks for finding the relevant statements in that swamp), I dislike the conduct of the recording industry for evading clear and believable answers to the permission question. Their conduct is dishonest -- they are trying to have their cake and eat it, too. But that does not negate the fact about permission.

A few years ago, the recording industry initiated force against consumers by inducing the government to impose a tax on recording media -- tape and tape-like substances and specifically labeled Audio CDs -- on the assumption that nobody ever uses cassettes except to steal music. So when you buy tape, you are paying royalties for the music. I don't know if, buried in that law, is an automatic permission to copy music.

You have a choice to buy a second copy of the CD; or, to have only one. The implication of one copy is that it can be played on only one machine at a time, and that if you want to play it on two machines you have to take it from machine to machine. The value to a family (or fraternity) obtained by purchasing a second CD is the same as obtained by purchasing a second car or TV -- convenience. The question that you need to ask yourself is whether you believe that the copyright owner has given you permission to make yourself convenience copies, and whether that permission is just for you, or is it for the entire family. If your neighbor is a close friend and you give him permission to borrow your CDs anytime, would that permission extend to a neighbor? I don't see how it extends to anyone.

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I should have read the RIAA link before posting. It states copying OK as long as it is not for another person.

My son is, in fact, another person. I don't think my son having my CD's on his computer is a problem, since he lives with me and can listen to the actual CD anytime he likes. What about both of us taking it "to go" on our MP3's?

Agree totally. That is the line to draw.

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Consider two cases.....

You have a choice to buy a second copy of the CD; or, to have only one. The implication of one copy is that it can be played on only one machine at a time, and that if you want to play it on two machines you have to take it from machine to machine. The value to a family (or fraternity) obtained by purchasing a second CD is the same as obtained by purchasing a second car or TV -- convenience. The question that you need to ask yourself is whether you believe that the copyright owner has given you permission to make yourself convenience copies, and whether that permission is just for you, or is it for the entire family. If your neighbor is a close friend and you give him permission to borrow your CDs anytime, would that permission extend to a neighbor? I don't see how it extends to anyone.

You make this far too complex. You don't have to ask that: "convenience" is not what the industry is going after; they just want to stop copying where it could replace further sales, and it cannot be assumed that you will buy 2 copies for your home just so you can play in 2 rooms of your own home!!!

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You don't have to ask that: "convenience" is not what the industry is going after; they just want to stop copying where it could replace further sales, and it cannot be assumed that you will buy 2 copies for your home just so you can play in 2 rooms of your own home!!!
The industry seems to be claiming that you have permission to make "convenience" copies, except that we really don't know what is included. Nobody needs to be concerned with what the industry is going after, they need to be concerned with whether they have permission to make copies. It is reasonable to conclude that permission has been granted for convenience copies, though I doubt that it's the correct conclusion.
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The industry seems to be claiming that you have permission to make "convenience" copies, except that we really don't know what is included. Nobody needs to be concerned with what the industry is going after, they need to be concerned with whether they have permission to make copies. It is reasonable to conclude that permission has been granted for convenience copies, though I doubt that it's the correct conclusion.

You "doubt" without any reason to do so; again over-complicating.

What the industry is targeting is exactly what enables one to determine the line to draw re copying - short of explicit wording in the copyright.

"Convenience" applies only to the owner and the owner's home; it cannot extend to others.

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