Copying CDs or DVDs Permitted or Stolen?

Analog detours enable one to legally copy protected audio CDs and video DVDs and not as much is forbidden as the music industry would like you to believe.


It is a widely spread misbelief that whenever a copy protection is in use, you may not make a copy of that disc. This is over-simplified and therefore incorrect. In March 2007, a copyright reform was passed. This amending legislation grants the right to make a private digital copy. Nevertheless, this law does not override the rule that security measures may not be infringed. However, making an analog copy circumventing the means of protection is not explicitly forbidden and is therefore permissible. This article briefly explores the legalities of making legal copies of music or videos.

Legal MP3s from Webradio

Using the right software, it’s cinch. Being easy to accomplish does not, however, mean that it’s legal. Copying music from the Internet is permitted under two conditions:

  1. The music copied may only be used for private purposes. But what is “private purposes”? Let’s put it this way: As soon as you start making and distributing multiple copies, It no longer constitutes private purposes. Putting your favorite songs on your personal website to show people what you like to hear is already public distribution. However, making a copy as a birthday present for a good friend, for your player in the car, or for a relative will usually not cause any problems.
  2. The webradio station from which you obtain the music may not be »apparently illegal«. Practically seen, you as layperson cannot really determine whether the site is illegal or not. Apparently illegal are such stations that do not pay any royalties to performing rights societies – like GEMA in Germany. Such stations are not known. Purchasing ripping software is absolutely legal and not prohibited in any way.

Circumventing Copy Protection

Some software houses use a loophole in the law, when making analog copies that are afterwards redigitalized. Protected discs only hinder making a digital copy from a digital copy. The Urheberrechtsgesetz (= Copyright Act) prohibits a circumvention of the legal protection. It is also forbidden to sell or import such programs that enable you to circumvent the law. The law does not, however, forbid you from making an analog copy from the digital original – even if this only a detour to create a new digital copy. This is legal. Therefore, it is possible to connect the analog line-out from the audio CD player to the line-in plug of your sound card in your PC.

Legal or Illegal?

The only difference is that the copy is not made directly in your computer but with an analog workaround. Your stereo converts the CD to analog signals, usually to be sent out through the speakers, and only when sent through the sound card will it be digitalized again. Seen from the perspective of the music industry, this will surely be illegal because the analog copy is only an intermediary to the digital copy. They try to reinforce this opinion by claiming that according to the Federal Ministry of Justice the law would not differentiate between analog and digital copies.

Analog Workarounds are not Prohibited

Taking the intention of the law and its development into consideration, the only answer can be that it is not prohibited to work around technical security measures. The motivation of the draft bill (Bundestags-Drucksache 15/38, p. 1) »The copyright owners protect their rights herewith against use without their consent.« in these motives and in the legal discussion, only the »digital copy« was discussed. This discussion is comparable to the situation of fencing off your house with a sturdy steel door and seven locks; it cannot be a surprise if the thief sneaks in through the open back door. As far as the freedom of speech guaranteed by art. 5 GG goes, it is within this guarantee that the music industry may have a different opinion and promote this opinion – just as is the case with this article.

Published on the old CMS: 2007/6/27
Read on the old CMS till November 2008: 367 reads

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