The Dos and Don'ts of CD Copying and Ripping

CD copies: Just because you can doesn't mean you should

Ripping music from a CD refers to making a digital copy of the music so you can transfer it to a computer, mobile music player or another CD. You can use Windows Media Player to rip music from a CD or one of the many other software CD ripping programs available for the purpose. However, just because you can rip music from a CD doesn't mean you should.

When it comes to copying music and the law, a lot of people are confused about what they can and can’t do. The bottom line? It is illegal to copy music to distribute it to others. That said, it is perfectly legal to copy your own music for some purposes. Here is a list of CD dos and don’ts that will keep you out of trouble.

CD Dos

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  • Ripping CDs: Only rip original CDs that you legitimately own. Borrowing an original CD from someone and copying it is illegal.
  • Digital music files: You can transfer digital music files to your own MP3 player providing the files have been ripped directly from a CD that you own (or providing you purchased the digital files online).
  • Copying a CD: Only copy original CDs that you own. You can burn one complete CD backup copy for your own personal use.
  • Respect copyright: Don't assume that just because there isn't a copyright notice on a CD or it's packaging that it is free to copy and distribute.

CD Don’ts

  • Don't download ripped CD tracks: Never download copyrighted music from shady internet websites that provide you with ripped CD tracks.
  • Don't use file sharing programs (P2P): If you do have a file-sharing program installed on your computer, ensure that your legitimate CD copies are never made available to others on the internet. This constitutes copyright infringement, and you risk being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
  • Don't copy a CD to give away: Never make copies of CDs that you legitimately own in the belief that it is OK to give them to your friends and family. It isn't.
  • Don't borrow a CD and copy it: Borrowing an original CD from someone to make a copy for yourself or others is illegal.
  • Don't copy digital music files: Don't copy digital music files from someone else’s MP3 player or computer, even if they own the original CD.
  • Don't use copyrighted music online: Even if you purchased the music and own it, you shouldn't use it on your website or YouTube channel.

Digital Music Files

CDs aren't as popular as they once were. As listeners turn to buying digital music online from iTunes, Amazon, or one of the many other music services, most of the same warnings apply the music as apply to CDs. Just because you bought the digital music file online doesn't mean you are free to distribute it in any way. It is yours, and you can copy it from one device to another, but you can't legally give it away or share it with others. 

Free Online Music

There is a surprising amount of free music available from reputable free music websites. Anything that is in the public domain is no longer protected by copyright and can be downloaded and shared or used to accompany your website or YouTube video. However, public domain and copyright laws are complicated, so read the terms of any site you plan to download free music from. There may be restrictions on its usage.