Legally listening to my LPs as MP3s

One relevant legal issue is, given that it’s OK for you to rip your own music yourself, is it still OK even if it was not you who did the actual ripping (e.g., your friend who owns the same album ripped it and gave you a copy). It would be interesting to hear if there is any case law or common law on this.

Another issue is, regardless of whether you own the album in question, is it legal to download bunches of videos from YouTube. Their basic terms of service suggest the uploader agreed you can click on and stream whatever you want, but they don’t necessarily grant you any rights beyond that, namely to keep a copy offline. On the other hand, I would want to know what is actually established as legal fair use, not what the service agreement says.

Focusing on who originally uploaded it is not relevant; chances are good it was the artist or record company themselves.

I’m pretty sure it’s NOT legal to download music from YouTube.

The record industry has fought tooth-and-nail against many things that feel like they ought to be fair use. And despite their deep pockets, they have lost a lot of legal battles. You do have the right to copy music you own to play it on another platform, or as a backup.

But you don’t own music you listen to on YouTube, you only have the right to listen to it streaming right now. I agree that it’s irrelevant who originally uploaded it, though. Unless that somehow happens to be you.

As I understand it, and I am not a lawyer, it’s legal to make your own copies for your own use as long as you retain the originals. It is not legal to redistribute copies to other people. In other words, you can make an mp3 for your personal listening, but it’s not legal to share mp3s.

from what I’ve found after a short search, US copyright law doesn’t really solidly say whether “format shifting” (e.g. ripping CDs you own to mp3/AAC, or digitizing vinyl) is legal or illegal. The only solid thing is the DMCA forbids breaking copy protection to do so. So ripping DVD/Blu-Ray is technically illegal.

There’s an invention called the iPod, as well as MP3 players of various sorts. I’ve heard that you can carry all your music around and listen to it when you want, which is a bit difficult when it involves a record player, amp and speakers which don’t fit easily in your pocket.

But it can’t be legal to stream music but not to download it, since downloading is one of the steps involved in streaming.

Technically you’re right, but what makes the difference is the possibility of storing the downloaded stream locally so it can be accessed offline. Many music streaming services offer offline storing as part of their paid accounts, whereas you can only stream the music online from a free account (and have to accept the occasional ad).

I have not seen any evidence that personally downloading a stream from YouTube and saving it locally on your computer to watch later, which as far as I understand is what the OP described, is illegal. A few years ago there was a German Youtube-to-MP3 converter site that voluntarily closed after being sued, but the reason for that is that it was found that they cached the extracted/converted streams on their server and redistributed them, thus falling afoul of copyright regulation. At the time the EFF issued a statement reminding everyone that “Websites that simply allow users to extract the audio track from a user-selected online video are not “illegal sites” and are not liable for copyright infringement, unless they engage in additional conduct that meets the definition of infringement.”

That does not mean that you can do anything you want with the downloaded stream— it is still copyrighted as usual— but “There exists a vast and growing volume of online video that is licensed for free downloading and modification, or contains audio tracks that are not subject to copyright. Moreover, many audio extractions qualify as non-infringing fair uses under copyright.”

Oh, there’s tons of stuff that’s legal to download. Lots of music that’s been released recently is free to download with a “please pay the piper what you want to” PayPal button.

That’s not necessarily true. The DMCA has zillions of exemptions, and the list changes over time.

There does not appear to be an exemption for general format shifting, but there is one for overcoming obsolete formats. It may not be too long before DVD is considered an obsolete format. And in any case, there are obsolete DRMed formats which simply don’t work any more (ones tied to an online system), and these are legal to break.

There are also exemptions for the usual fair use practices and accessibility (text-to-speech, etc.) reasons.

Two thoughts:

  1. I thought that pirating things were not “illegal” but merely a civil tort for which you might owe the copyright holder some money unless the violations exceeded a certain amount of money. Perhaps a nitpick, but the term “illegal” could be misleading to posters and perhaps to the mods and not be a violation of the board rules.

  2. This idea of ripping old LPs seems to be a cheat and if I was a judge (and I have no knowledge of any prior law) I would view it as a breach of contract. For example, if in 1971 I bought The Beatles St. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, then I bought what I bought. I bought a large disc with music on it, and important to this argument, a mutual understanding that the media would degrade over time. I don’t think it was the benefit of the bargain that I can get a digital mp3 quality track of that album nearly 50 years later because of that purchase and have it to listen to for all time and presumably grant those rights to all my descendants in perpetuity.

The degradation was part of the meeting of the minds of my purchase, and I bought it in analog, not digital quality.

Obviously I don’t feel strongly about it either way, but that seems a pretty solid argument for anyone who claims that you shouldn’t be able to download an MP3 of a record you bought in childhood.

The downloading from Youtube (which your computer automatically does anyway, even if you don’t bother to save the resulting file) is a partially separate issue from that of ripping. Youtube itself does not check whether or not you bought the album 50 years ago.

As for ripping, I learned from Wikipedia that ‘The law makes no explicit grant or denial of a right to make a “personal use” copy of another’s copyrighted content on one’s own digital media and devices. For example, space shifting, by making a copy of a personally owned audio CD for transfer to an MP3 player for that person’s personal use, is not explicitly allowed or forbidden’, and also that ‘Consumer copyright infringement cases in this area, to date, have only focused on issues related to consumer rights and the applicability of the law to the sharing of ripped files, not to the act of ripping, per se.’

That was my understanding, and why I suggested that the OP was most likely OK as he was not engaged in any piracy by sharing any files, let alone selling them.

In the US, copyright infringement was a minor criminal matter in certain cases going back over a 100 years. In the later part of the 1900s a lot more was added and the penalties increased.