Many of us convert audio CDs we have bought from their native CD-DA format to MP3 or some other compressed audio format . The act of converting CDs is commonly known as “ripping” – when the term was coined, it had a perverse meaning. Many loved the idea they were “ripping off” the music industry by making copyrighted works available in a compact format that could be quickly downloaded over the Internet.

The CD is the physical embodiment of the song or concert and many people think that because they own the CD, especially if purchased in a store, that they can make copies of the CD. It is, however, technically illegal to do this.

The law grants authors the exclusive right to (i) make copies of their works and (ii) the recording of the song.  Therefore, in principle, it is unlawful to make a copy of a sound recording without the permission of the relevant authors involved. There is an exception to this general rule: [private]you are allowed to make a copy of the words or music for personal or private use. However, as weird as this sounds, the exception does apply to the recorded performance.  This therefore means that the copyright of the author of the sound recording (i.e. the recording company) is always infringed by copying the music for personal or private use.  This happens irrespective of whether you purchased the MP3 or CD or not.

Moreover, companies who provide their employees with computers (often with CD writers) to do their jobs, do not realise that they are committing “contributory infringements” when they allow employees to rip CD’s at work using the company owned equipment![/private]