CD Ripping is Still 100% Illegal in the UK. No, Really. It Is.

How many CDs have you ripped to MP3s? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Ever wondered about the technical legality of doing that?

Nope. Me, neither. I bought the CDs, so all I’m doing is transmuting the format so I can listen to the music I own on a different device. CDs are so 90s.

I can tell you one place where this practice is still patently illegal: the UK. In the age of streaming and falling physical sales (vinyl and Adele excluded), you’re still not allowed to take a CD you bought at HMV and turn it into something you can listen to on your iPhone.

Yep. Fifteen years into the new millennium, CD ripping is still illegal in Britain. The Telegraph has the story.

You may not know it, but copying music CDs onto your computer, or making copies of your digital music files, is illegal under UK law.

Despite the Government’s efforts to update the law to reflect how people have used CDs, or backup music files online to keep them safe, a High Court decision earlier this year overturned legislative changes that made it legal to make copies of published works such as recorded music or films.

This means that in theory, copyright holders are due compensation every time a CD is ripped or file copied, and people who do so are liable, although such cases are extraordinarily rare.

The Intellectual Property Office has now dropped attempts to change the UK law, saying it is looking at reform of European rules.

Why ripping CDs is illegal

The arrival of the CD, widespread computer ownership and then the mp3 format led to an explosion in digital music ownership. Millions used iTunes and other music programs to transfer the songs in their CD libraries to their computers and iPods.

However, copyright rules, as with many aspects of legislation, failed to keep up with the digital era. The law forbid making copies of material, since this would previously have been largely used for copyright violations such as duplicating and selling cassette tapes.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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