Legality of Copying CDs to iPod

Q: I have just bought an iPod. Is it legal to copy music from CDs to the iPod?

– Mark

A: The answer depends on your country of residence. In the United States, yes, it is legal to transfer your CDs to your iPod, if you own the CDs. But your question raises an interesting issue: the fact that the RIAA (the Recording Industry Association of America) has so aggressively attacked people for file-sharing makes honest people wonder what rights they have regarding content they have purchased.

You can copy music from your CDs (importing it into iTunes and syncing it to your iPod), and you can make your own compilation CDs from the tracks you import. You are also allowed, at least in the U.S., to make a copy of any CD or DVD you own, to have a backup in case of damage. And it is generally considered “fair use” to make a copy for a second CD player you may have at home or in a car.

Note that this isn’t the case everywhere else in the world. Some countries make you pay a “copy tax” when you buy blank media (CDs or DVDs), hard disks and even iPods. In exchange for this levy, your rights may vary. Canada, for example, is in the midst of an active debate over whether copying of CDs to the iPod is legal based on the government’s recent decision to stop applying their copying tax to iPod purchases. This hasn’t stopped Apple from selling the iPod, nor has Australia’s apparent outright prohibition on CD copying.

Kirk McElhearn is the author of several books including iPod & iTunes Garage. His blog, Kirkville features articles about the iPod, iTunes, Mac OS X and much more.
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