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Q: Ethics of burning CDs and downloading music ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   7 Comments )
Subject: Ethics of burning CDs and downloading music
Category: Relationships and Society
Asked by: stressedmum-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 09 Mar 2003 17:31 PST
Expires: 08 Apr 2003 18:31 PDT
Question ID: 174004
I'm just about to take delivery of an Apple Imac with all the bells
and whistles one of which will enable me to burn CDs and DVDs. I don't
want to steal anything, music included, and I was wondering what is a
morally acceptable way of taking advantage of the machine's
capabilities, music downloads on offer, etc. For example, could I,
with a clear conscience, buy an artist's CD then burn myself a copy to
play in the car and another one for the office while keeping the
original up in the house, or is that a bad thing to do? (Knowing I'd
never buy more than one copy anyway.) Or are there ways that I can
download an artist's music off the internet for free knowing that
there was some relationship between that website and the artist
regarding royalties, etc. I'm an absolute novice to this whole CD
burning game so please don't assume I am au fait with any of the
etiquette involved in downloads. I just wanna do the right thing! I
purposely nominated this under the 'Relationships and Society'
category because I imagine that it's a moral dilemma rather than a
computing or music dilemma.
Subject: Re: Ethics of burning CDs and downloading music
Answered By: robertskelton-ga on 09 Mar 2003 18:28 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi there,

Ultimately, in areas like this where there is basically zero chance of
ever getting in trouble for your actions, it comes down to what feels
right to you. From the wording of your question I believe that you
wish to pay for albums on CD, but now that we have the technology to
make back-ups, and copies for the car and work, it "feels right" for
you to do so. And you are looking for some external validation.

If you are only intending to make copies for personal use, then the
only difference is that you get to listen to your music at work and in
the car, and maybe someone else is there, hears it, likes it, buys it.
If making copies means you hear the album more, maybe you will tire of
it quicker and buy another CD sooner. The industry and the artist will
not lose anything, but they might gain.

So here goes - snippets on this topic I have found online, plus my own
personal opinion.

Single backups OK

Record companies say new CDs may allow for a single copy to be made,
but will be in a locked format to prevent repeat copying and burning.
"We need a minimal degree of copy protection to slow down frictionless
trading of music," says Ted Cohen, EMI's vice president of new media.

Popular artist Moby says:

"The music industry is going to continue to fall apart," he starts.
"More and more people are burning CDs and downloading music and the
end result is that the music industry keeps losing money. I think
burning CDs is a lot more of a threat to the profitability of the
music business than downloading. I think downloading is great. It
allows people to experiment with music and listen to music that they
otherwise wouldn’t."

"In many ways the record business has brought its troubles upon
itself. Charging US$17 for a CD that costs them ten cents to make!
Building in such exhorbitant profit margins, of course people are
going to burn CDs. There is one really simple way for the record
business to save itself, that is start selling CDs for US$5. If every
CD were US$5 CD sales would sky rocket. Either the record industry
will change itself or it will be changed by outside sources. It’s
going to fall apart no matter what." 

...Napster Experience (Transcript)
Coversation between Dave Winer and a San Francisco audience. It's very
long, but gives you lots of different points of view.

My Thoughts

I can't speak for the population at large, but I am not sure that the
decline in CD sales in the last couple of years is due to MP3s. Sure,
many folk give burnt copies to their friends, but this has been
happening since the 70s, except back then it was LPs and cassettes. I
think the most likely reason is that teenagers and young adults are
spending more money on video games, which means they have less dollars
to spend on music.

Contrary to initial publicity, CDs are quite easy to damage. For
someone like myself, who likes some quite obscure music, and can get
very attached to some albums, it is a no-brainer  -I make backups to
play, and keep the original safe. It's not just the cost of buying a
replacement, it's that often the titles get deleted and it can be
virtually impossible to replace them later on.

I used to download MP3s a lot when Napster was all the rage. Most of
my friends did the same. Typically I would just find a couple of
tracks by a artist who intrigues me, play those tracks a lot, and if I
liked them, I bought the CD. For all of us, our overall spending on
CDs rose, and at the same time we avoided buying CDs that we would
later regret.

Search Strategy: "burning CDs" ethics

Best wishes,
stressedmum-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thanks very much to each of you, robertskelton and to snapanswer, for
your research and your thoughts on this matter. It's an excellent
answer and gave me the reassurance (i.e. validation) I was seeking
that I wasn't doing something awful. It's interesting to read some of
the industry's takes on the matter too.

Subject: Re: Ethics of burning CDs and downloading music
From: snapanswer-ga on 09 Mar 2003 21:28 PST
What an interesting question and answer.  I believe you both deserve
credit for giving your thought and energy to this question.

To further add to what robertskelton-ga has noted, I completely agree
that making a copy for your own personal use is ethically sound,
falling well within the "fair use doctrine" which I believe to be on a
sound ethical footing.  As long as you only use one copy at a time,
and it remains for your personal use, I think you can rest with a
clear conscience.  I'm not sure what the current status of the law is,
as the fair use doctrine has been under significant legal attack...
however, ethically, I believe it remains sound.

Also, these days there are music download services that charge you a
subscription fee in order to compensate the recording industry for
music.  If you would rather download music, you can consider services
like these:
eMusic Service

PC Magazine:  "Pay-And-Play Music Services" by Konstantinos

An interesting free music site is the IUMA: Internet Underground Music
Archive.  These are MP3s from independent, unsigned bands who post
their music for free use in an effort to promote their music.

Two other music sites that I enjoy are (Music Videos) and, though these sites are not focused on downloaded
music.  They do offer free video and music streams.

I think the Moby quotes that robertskelton-ga cites raise an
interesting issue, which is, whether or not you are ethically obliged
to support the current music distribution oligopoly.  Does the
recording industry use unfair market practices to keep prices
artificially high?  Is the recording industry operated with the best
interest of artists in mind?  If you decide that the recording
industry does not operate ethically, are you ethically bound to
support it?  Interesting things to think about.  Still, I think the
spirit of your question is based upon your desire to support artists,
rather than steal from them, which is a good place to start.

Finally, if you are interested in Copyright and Fair Use issues in the
digital age, you may be interested in the work of Lawrence Lessig, a
prominent Stanford Law School professor who is dedicated to these
TechTV:  Big Thinkers:  Lawrence Lessig on the corruption of the

Lawrence Lessig's Web Site
Subject: Re: Ethics of burning CDs and downloading music
From: maxhodges-ga on 10 Mar 2003 10:48 PST
Copying Music to CD: The Right, the Wrong, and the Law
by Robert A. Starrett

Digital Producer:

Wired article of the subject with some interesting links:,1412,54270-2,00.html
Subject: Re: Ethics of burning CDs and downloading music
From: modernker0uac-ga on 14 Apr 2003 18:44 PDT
In my opinion, i will continue to download any information i feel i
like.  Its just like when i was a little kid and taped songs off the
radio.  The internet  is a quicker and more permanent way of doing

If an artist is worth it, yes, i go out and buy the cd, if i can find

As far as the moral issue, if you decide to download a song, movie,
etc, and you truly enjoy it, or feel as though you are obligated to
support the artist, then you can send the average $0.99 to $2.00 that
the average music artist makes per each album sold.  That's right, the
17.99 you just spent on a CD, your favorite artist made $1.30 if they
were lucky.  Movies?  Send each leading actor of the movie a check for
$0.12.  The other 5-7 dollars you spent on that movie ticket went to
the theater itself and the company that released the film.
Subject: Re: Ethics of burning CDs and downloading music
From: macsux-ga on 12 Jun 2003 11:44 PDT
I completely agreee with modernker0uac-ga. Record companies simply
hold a monopoly and exploit artists. I have no moral problem with
seeing them disappear all together since this will put all artists at
a fair competetive level. For example, just because record company
chose to promote Britney Spears makes her music better then many other
artists nobody hear of? NO! I've hear hundreds of songs from unknown
artists that are as good as or better then she is. Record companies
create politics in this business and "create" music stars.

The concept of CDs is outdated - there are plenty of artists who have
1 or 2 good songs, while the rest is crap. Why should I pay $17 for a
CD that i only like 1 track from?

I would much rather see music being free to download, and if you like
it, there should be a site where you can make donations. I and many
others would much rather make a donation then be forced to buy

PS: Juicy discussion :)
Subject: Re: Ethics of burning CDs and downloading music
From: mr_j-ga on 15 Jul 2004 10:47 PDT
I have a large CD collection (2,500+). The first thing I do when I buy
a CD is to record it onto a portable hard drive. I back this drive up
once a week to a second drive that I keep at my office. I also make
CD's to listen to in my car. I have some valuable and rare CD's and I
would be devastated if they were to be stolen out of my car, which is
why I keep copies there.

I think all of these things are legitimate uses. I buy the CD as a
"backup" and it goes into a storage cabinet in the garage once it's
recorded. I will lend CD's to friends if I think they may like the
music, but not if I think they're going to copy the disc.

I don't think the cost of CD's is a valid argument for stealing music.
For example, I think BMW's are too expensive, but that doesn't give me
the right to steal one, I just choose not to buy one instead. However,
I also think the record companies are trying to be overly restrictive.
If I want my music on a hard drive and I've bought it legally SO WHAT!

If restrictive copy protection gets put on music, I'm going to stop
buying it. I don't buy DVD's for that very reason--you pay $25 and
within a week they get scratched and you're out of luck.
Subject: Re: Ethics of burning CDs and downloading music
From: banjobarry-ga on 22 Jul 2004 10:31 PDT
Today there are several services for Legal music pay downloads--like
Apple's now highly popular Itunes Music Store.  All of the these
downloads are $1 a song--a la carte or $10 an album

There are also services by Sony, Musicmatch, Real Networks, and of
course Napster (now legal to buy the songs).  Napster and Itunes have
the largest library and widest range of independant labels available! 
You can preview the songs to make sure you're paying for the right

I would recommend Itunes, because the program is so innovative and has
the best features for any digital jukebox/music player and CD burning.
 You can make CD lables and check out all of the cool features, and
more songs are added by Apple about every day.

For Free music downloads (can be illegal) use WinMx because it doesn't
have any spyware!!!

Kazaa, Edonkey, Limewire, and other file swapping programs install 
spyware and other junk on your computer.  Don't Use these programs
unless you want pop-up ads and other slime crawling around inside your
Subject: Re: Ethics of burning CDs and downloading music
From: fafco-ga on 09 Mar 2005 06:38 PST
The best site for free and totally legal music downloads is  They have more than 500,000 tracks from all of the
major labels and they're all free.  No credit card required and
nothing to buy.  Check it out:

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