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7.1. The Rules of Engagement

Throughout this book I've said the same thing over and over again: You are entitled to create MP3 copies of the music you own for your own personal use. You are not entitled to make accessible digital copies of music to which you do not hold the copyright. While the ramifications of this are fairly clear (i.e., you can't just copy tracks from a CD and put them on your web site), there's a whole lot of misinformation floating around out there, and many people believe there are numerous exceptions to this rule. Let's try and set some of these common misconceptions straight. Some of the content in this section is paraphrased from the "Top 10 Myths" section of the RIAA's ancillary web site, http://www.soundbyting.com. Please see that site for the recording industry's perspective on artist and consumer rights in the digital arena.

Everything in this section may seem like small potatoes to you. It may seem trivial and unimportant. You may think that your personal activities are too small and insignificant to be noticed. While that may be true, remember that if you are caught, copyright violation that involves more than 10 copies and a value exceeding $2,500 is a felony in the United States. OK, chances are pretty slim that you'll go to jail over it. Very few people ever see anything but a cease-and-desist letter, or have the plug pulled on them by their service provider. But it's important to realize the potential gravity of what you're dealing with here.


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