What are the MP3 restrictions?
Can I rip music for myself?
The unrestricted nature of the MP3 format, as well as the freedom that it helps to create might lead one to believe you can do anything with it you want. This is not true, however, and a general knowledge of how these restrictions work will keep you in compliance with the law while satisfying your music related needs.
Step 1: Enjoy your CDs
If you have a large collection of CDs that are getting out of hand, you can utilize the best part of the MP3 format by ripping it (taking the music off of the CD and putting it on your hard drive). This is perfectly legal and easy to do.
Step 2: Keep your files offline
If you plan on making these files, be sure not to post them to your home page for others to download. Even if you don't charge for them, you are in violation of your rights to use music. Some sites will not allow you to post MP3 files on them anyway.
Step 3: Watch the files you share
You are technically in violation of the "First Sale Doctrine" if you give copies of music away to others. Only if that person buys a copy are you in compliance.
Step 4: Are there exceptions?
There is a provision in the new SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative) that will allow you to give away 3 copies of some material to friends.
Step 5: What about Napster?
Napster (the software which makes your MP3s on your computer available for others to copy) is in litigation right now. There have been no precedents in cases such as this, so you can use the site legally as long as the courts allow it to operate.