What with all the controversy surrounding Napster, the Recording Industry Association of America filing lawsuits against music fans, and some artists uploading audio clips from their upcoming albums to get publicity by complaining about illegal downloading, you’re perfectly justified if you’re hesitant to make your old audio cassettes and albums digital because it may not be legal.
As someone who was around when audio cassettes, boom boxes, and Walkmans was considered cutting edge, I remember the controversy that emerged. Young people, especially those who didn’t have extra money to spend on all the albums they wanted, simply hit the “play” button when the radio played a hit single, especially if was coming from a forthcoming album.
Amid congressional hearings on the subject, it as suggested that a signal be emitted from the radio stations that would make taping from them impossible. It was finally decided that taping from the radio was tolerable as long as the results weren’t either sold or duplicated and given away. Besides, if audio cassettes were such a financially harmful idea, why did the music industry start issuing albums on them?
It worked out okay until someone invented a way to bypass music business and distribute files on the Internet. The heavy metal band Metallica took center stage as the poster boy enemies of person-to-person file sharing, even though they built their own career on encouraging their fans to record and distribute copies of their concerts. (They even released a compilation of video footage bootlegged by their fans after sending out public assurances that the authors did not need to fear being placed under any kind of legal duress!)
Well, suppose you’re the owner of one of those Metallica home videos, or of an audio cassette of one of their albums. Or maybe you taped an interview they did from a radio or TV show. Your VHS and audio cassette players are nearly obsolete, and you’d like to preserve your recordings by using a converter to MP3, CD, or DVD. Would you be breaking the law?
Relax – the answer is “no.”
Since the dawn of the audio cassette age, the same principle still applies: If you are converting to MP3 from audio cassettes or record albums -- and don’t sell or distribute them while keeping the originals, you aren’t doing anything illegal. So if you’ve been putting off converting your record albums, audio cassettes, or video recordings because it seems too expensive and complicated, you don't have to anymore!
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