The incredible flexibility digital music has given us in using and transmitting music has also created a big controversy in copyright law. The poor sound quality and transmission difficulties associated with analog recordings meant these issues were not paramount in the minds of record companies. In this series, you will be made aware of what is legal, illegal, and what could be prosecutable.
Step 1: The creator’s rights
An artist who creates the music has rights regarding its use. They have the right to exclusively copy, modify, distribute, and perform the piece. If someone who is not the copyright holder violates one of these rights, that person is subject to prosecution.
Step 2: What rights do I have as a buyer?
If you purchase a copyrighted piece of music, then you have rights as a user of that work. You can legally make a copy on cassette tape, and make as many copies as you like, as long as they are for your private use.
Step 3: Are digital downloads legal?
It is perfectly legal to purchase and download a track from a site such as Emusic.com, and then make copies for your portable player. Again, as long as it for private use and you do not sell these copies, it is fine.
Step 4: What works are copyrighted?
Every piece of music is automatically copyrighted (even if it doesn’t say so specifically on the cover) and is thus covered by the copyright laws mentioned above.