Douwe Osinga's Blog: Making MP3s legal

Monday, September 15, 2003

Making MP3s legal

Music and the Internet make a cool combination. Audiogalaxy, now defunct, got me back interested in music. Before that, I just played the CDs I had, never discovering new stuff. Now I do find new artists and new songs that are interesting. Also, having all your music on a computer is way more convenient than storing it on CDs or tapes. You can play whatever you want, whenever you want it in whatever order. No more, hey why is this CD in that box.

But in the end, there is no way around it. Mostly getting music over the Internet is illegal. Sure, the big record companies are evil, a cartel and when the revolution comes, we'll see, but until then, we either change the law or have to keep to the law. Stealing from thieves doesn't make it right. So, I've decided to make my MP3 collection legal.

I'm no fan of DRM stuff where I loose the option to do with my songs what I want. I want to buy something and then own it. Fortunately, in the Netherlands there are a couple of ways of legally getting your hands on MP3s. IANAL and this is based on information I gathered from tidbits, so please let me know if I'm wrong.

Buying CDs
This is the easiest and most expensive way. You go to the store, buy the CD, rip the tracks and then dispose of the CD or keep it as back up. You can't sell the CD or give it away. In the past I have bought quite some CDs, so that's a start. Some of those where actually stolen, but I figure that I still own the rights to the music, though this might be disputable (can I replace a CD I bought, but that got damaged/stolen by downloading the songs?)

Public library
For some strange reason, it is okay to make copies of stuff you get from the library. The library pays for it. Otherwise it would be kinda weird that the library lends you CDs for three days. Of course, this worked out a lot better for the record companies when people could only copy their music to tape. The Asmterdam public library has a large collection with reasonable fees.

(Internet) radio
Again, this might be specific for the Netherlands, but here it is okay to record something from the radio and then later listen to it. Supposedly, this extends to Internet radio too. Shoutcast stations are perfect. Find a station you like and use something like stream ripper to save the broadcasted MP3s. Note streamcast songs tend to have a relative low bitrate (usually 128kbit or less).

Buy songs online allows you to download an unlimited amount of MP3s. Their selection is rather limited, with a strong accent on less known bands, ie mostly independent music, but that is kind of the point of course. And then there is, allowing unlimited downloads of MP3s of about any artist. The RIAA doesn't think so, but they claim it is legal in Spain and therefore in the Netherlands. In the same league, you'll find allofmp3, making use of the apparently more relaxed russion climate. Download while it lasts.

Any suggestions as to what isn't legal or what I missed, are most welcome.