OT: Do you do mp3 ripping and do you think it's legal?

Submitted by ChicagoB1GRed on June 20th, 2015 at 10:55 AM

Recently I started to show a friend how to convert YouTube videos into mp3, and her first reaction she's get in trouble for pirating music.

Which got me thinking. I'm no attorney, and I'm sure the law here is arcane and probably muddy enough to even cause head scratching and debate among lawyers practicing more everyday law.

My take, it's okay to copy a song off of YouTube, as long as it’s only for personal use. The "fair use" allows one copy for personal use, just like when you record a TV show with your DVR, you are then creating one copy for your use. It does not become illegal until you start distributing that show, or music for profit, or passing on to friends for non profit use. Just the act of distribution is where it officially becomes illegal.

Where I think mp3 ripping crosses the line, or at least is legally challengable, is conversion services that also archive MP3s and store them on its servers for future downloads. So if a user visits the site and enters a URL that someone previously had, then instead of re-ripping the song, they could just go to its servers and give the user a copy of the MP3 that was already stored there. Which … is essentially a lot like illegally downloading music.

Now, whether mp3 ripping in any form is moral, is another question. The quality isn't that hot, I think most people are like me and do it for casual use and sampling, and that it leads to more licensed purchases, rather than to build a serious library.




June 20th, 2015 at 11:06 AM ^

It's technically against you tubes terms of service to download any of their content. So, yes it's technically illegal. But No, I don't think they really give a crap about the millions of people that do it

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June 20th, 2015 at 11:51 AM ^

I don't know if it is illegal or not to rip MP3s but something being against terms of service does not make that something illegal.


It just means you agree not to do it to get access to their content in return. Usually the harshest punishment is them taking away access to their content (unless there is an actual law against the issue).


Youtube could put in their TOS "You agree not to post cat videos". That doesn't make it illegal to post cat videos. Just against the service agreement. If you post a cat video you will not go to jail.


June 20th, 2015 at 1:19 PM ^

Actual in this case, it being against the ToS does in fact mean it is illegal.  By not complying with the ToS for their service, everything you do with youtube is basically illegal as it is the ToS that provide you a legal means to view the content.  Its important to remember that youtube is a *service* and not a *sale*.  The laws, rights, restrictions etc associated with the two are fairly different. 

So legally, mp3 ripping from youtube is full on violation of copyright. 


June 20th, 2015 at 5:54 PM ^

They are contracts, not laws.  Breaching a contract isn't illegal, it just makes you subject to the sanctions contained in the contract (including compensating the other parties to the contract for losses suffered).  Legal document /= law.


June 20th, 2015 at 11:13 AM ^

Not necessarily. YouTube wants you to watch on YouTube, and nowhere else (clicks/visits = ad $). I would think if it were really illegal, they would have sued FireFox for distributing a free add-on that allows users to download YouTube videos. But, I'm certainly no expert in the legal department, so I could be very wrong.


June 20th, 2015 at 11:17 AM ^

Legally I don't know, but personally I feel like it's stealing if I do it. A lot of the artists I listen to are small to mid-sized (i.e. not millionaires on huge billionaire labels) so when I poach a song they're trying to sell, it's pretty tangibly money out of their pockets


June 20th, 2015 at 11:15 AM ^

Well the people who perform songs do so to earn money.  For them to sell songs they seem to have to put their music out there with a video.

If everyone downloaded songs but never paid for them at some point artists would have to make a decision to either work for free or stop.

If I like a song I'm going to buy the mp3 and download it.  I'm not interested in a potential huge fine and it helps me sleep better at night knowing I'm not stealing from someone.


June 20th, 2015 at 12:10 PM ^

Artists don't make money off album or song sales, though. If you're making a bunch of money as a music artist, it's because you're touring and selling items based off that. I don't download off YouTube (I pay for Rdio) but even what I'm paying for Rdio is a very small income for artists. If people stopped paying for recorded performances but continued going to live shows, the people who'd really be hurting would be the record labels, generally not the artists themselves. 


June 20th, 2015 at 2:12 PM ^

What you're describing is in no way analogous to what I'm talking about. 


It always kind of boggles my mind how in conversations like this, normal people will go to great lengths to defend record companies, a group of people who simultaneously are bad for music artists and are bad for the people who enjoy music being played. 

Gucci Mane

June 20th, 2015 at 11:28 AM ^

What I do know is free downloads are important for an artist, getting their songs out and listened to is vital in the modern day of music. The artists who tried fighting the new age of free downloads really hurt themsevles in my opinion. Some examples of people who have been smart and found ways to profit off free downloads include, Wiz Khalifa, Meek Mill, and Ace Hood.

Check out this study. http://entertainment.time.com/2013/03/21/illegal-music-downloads-not-hurting-industry-study-claims/


June 20th, 2015 at 12:31 PM ^

You are correct....it is up to the content owner as to whether the material is free or not.  If it is not, you are, in essence, stealing the party's creative work. Virtually all websites that have music/video content have a link that tells you exactly what you can and can't do.

I never have understood how people justify illegally downloading an artist's songs or movies.  It is no different from walking into a store and shoplifting.  In both cases, someone is hurt.  


June 20th, 2015 at 3:54 PM ^

stealing digital material is no different than walking into a store and stealing a CD.  It's just way way easier. 

Just because "everyone does it" doesn't mean it isn't criminal.  Artists have just given up trying to stop it because they found out that when push comes to shove, when people are presented with the opportunity to anonymously and easily steal things, they will.

The reality is, if people could easily steal cars and never get caught, they would probably do that too.  The only reason people don't do it is that they would get caught and go to jail. 


June 20th, 2015 at 4:18 PM ^

No...it is a crime, plain and simple.  It is the unlawful taking of intellectual property, which taking creates a loss of revenue for the content creator.  There is no argument that can be made that justifies stealing someone's property, and it is criminal.  Ever see the warning that is on every DVD you play? 

Bando Calrissian

June 20th, 2015 at 11:41 AM ^

Cool, but just because rap and hip-hop artists make money off mix tapes, doesn't mean that Indie Band XYZ who are on tour 150 nights a year sleeping in a van can do the same.

There are different markets and different approaches to monetizing music--people just don't seem to think that musicians deserve to make a living from their art, too.


June 20th, 2015 at 12:16 PM ^

The anti-profit guy is arguing to get these musicians profits.

$5,000 worth of music over time is not a lot. Let's say it is a 10 year collection. 10 years broken down is $500 a year which is a little more that a weeks pay if you are making minimum wage.

Thankfully for me I think 99.9% of all modern music is horrible, so my wallet and my morals are spared. I buy all my video game purchases and have spent close to $3,000 on it for comparative purposes.

Note: I am all for music being purchased! I just find the contradictions on this topic humorous.


June 20th, 2015 at 1:22 PM ^

Um, lets not confuse violation of copyright with theft.  They are logically and legally two entirely separate and distinct entities.

If you steal a car, you are depriving someone of property.  If you make a copy of a song, you are not.  AKA in one there is actual physical loss, in the other there is ephemeral potential loss of money but no actual physical loss of property. 

Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine when people confuse or conflate the two.