Converting music CDs to audio files on a computer is unapproved and therefore illegal, the Recording Industry Association of America has said (PDF
) in a brief ahead of a crucial Arizona lawsuit. Hoping to support the arguments from group member Atlantic Records in its complaint against the Howell family, the RIAA contends that ripping CDs leads to "viral" copyright infringement; a single disc can result in millions of copies if shared through a peer-to-peer service, the brief claims.
The statement partly contradicts the RIAA's previous stance on the subject. Although the group is careful in the current case to make a separation between illegal file sharing and "space-shifting," or accessing a user's own songs to a different device for listening outside of a regular location, it argues that any transfer of songs that has not been explicitly approved is illegal. This appears to challenge a previous argument the RIAA itself made in front of the US Supreme Court when elaborating its position on legal use of digital music in a suit against the file sharing service Grokster.
"It's perfectly lawful to take a CD that you've purchased, upload it onto your computer, [and] put it onto your iPod," music label representatives said at the time. "There is a very, very significant lawful commercial use for that device, going forward."
The defendants, Jeffrey and Pamela Howell, have up to January 11th to respond to the brief ahead of a hearing on January 24th.