Download vs Rip - legal differences

Can anyone explain to me why it’s apparently perfectly legal to give money to a supplier and receive in exchange a digital download containing the equivalent of a CD, but not acceptable to buy a CD, rip it, then sell it on?

In both scenarios the end result is very similar - your hard drive contains a digital copy of the album for which you’ve paid (I’m talking here about new products, not s/h), the artist has received his/her royalty cut and you don’t possess a physical, tangible product.

I can see that by selling the CD you are perhaps depriving the artist of an additional royalty (but only if the buyer were to be in the market for a £10-£15 purchase as opposed to a couple of quid). Other than that, I really can see no practical difference. Am I missing something blindingly obvious?

The industry will close any loophole they can in order to protect their revenue, so they closed the CD copying ‘loophole’ simply because they could, despite the fact that the ruling is rarely, if ever enforced.
I think the mistake you are making is to think that there might be any joined-up thinking going on here!

Because the download company have paid for a license to do this and you haven’t. No one has the right to copy a copyright work willy nilly.

Was unlucky to buy high by the blue Nile last week from musicMagpie…would not rip, just kept spinning. Looked on the web, apparently some were released with copy protection, I guess we should be thankful that did not become widespread
. Probably because it does not conform to red book std with copy protection?

It strikes me that ripping then selling could potentially deprive the industry of a lot of money if it wasn’t discouraged. Theoretically one CD could be passed on to an infinite number of people who could all each rip it & sell it on. We know that won’t happen but the principle remains, if not the scale.

With downloading you’ve paid the required fee and have a copy. You’re just as much required not to pass that on to other people as you are for a CD. It’s about who sells each digital version / copy; you or the industry.

1 Like


See the below link to the forum archive for a solution to your Copy Protected CD ripping issue.

Thanks Guinnless, I asked for a refund, I have no other means of ripping. It was only £1.50 so not a great loss, annoying and bit of a surprise.

If you download it how many copies are you allowed for personal use?
Is a backup permissible?
Is download for playing elsewhere allowed?
I could legally loan a CD to a friend, can I do this with a download?

You are not allowed to play it in a public place without a subscription to PRS.
I’m not sure about the legalities of loaning to a friend, I suspect it’s not legal though.

Digital downloads are no different to a CD or LP except much easier to copy.

I find iTunes is often able to rip copy protected CDs where other ripping software fails.
I guess you are technically entitled to a refund on the basis that if it doesn’t conform to Red Book standards, it’s not a CD.

1 Like

Under UK law you can’t copy a CD for any purpose.

1 Like

So, in theory, all those who make back-up copies of their UnitiServe or Core music folders, no matter whether they have kept possession of the physical media, are breaking the law? You mean I’m hanging out with a bunch of criminals?!!

In that case isn’t simply ripping a CD with the Core or UServe also illegal?

1 Like

Who knows?! I’ve been trawling through Google search results, and I have to say I’m really none the wiser. There would seem to be a lot of contradictory stuff out there, most of it written by self-professed ‘experts’ (we all know who they are😉). All I know is that I will carry on buying CDs, ripping them, making 2 or 3 backups as the mood takes me, and disposing of the CDs as I see fit. Another question; if I choose to give away a CD to a friend or charity shop, I presume that means, according to ‘the law’, I ought to delete or destroy all copies in my possession? Doing so will add not a penny piece to the artist’s bank balance, so what on Earth is the point?

1 Like

I’m guessing this may have been prompted by my thread about getting rid of old CDs

When you buy a CD my understanding is you buy the physical media and the ‘rights’ therefore are to the music it contains and the ability to play it for personal use. Copying it to another media is OK as long as it remains for personal use only and the original still exists in your possession. If you sell the disc you are supposed to destroy any copies. You should not lend it for someone else to rip a cop, but you can lend it for them to listen to it.

In a same way you can copy a download onto different devices at different resolutions for personal use but if you chose to sell on the original file/the download access you’d have to destroy those copies. Again you should not share the copies with others unless you’ve paid the appropriate ‘rights’.

I guess ‘the point’ is that the contract you buy is for a licence to that music on that media.

Don’t forget ‘home taping is killing music’ !


I think the point is that the record company (and artist) should get paid for every person-copy out there. Duplicating so two people have it is depriving them of that. When you sell secondhand, including for zero cost, or if you donate the same value to a charity (which in effect is what you do when giving to a charity shop to sell), then you transfer the licence to play the music to the new person, and if you want to play it still you need to buy it or the record company/artist are losing out.

It is of course theoretical, in that it ignores the fact that the person buying secondhand, or the person selling it, might simply not choose to play it if the only way to do so was to buy a new copy.

As for selling secondhand (it retaining a copy), it occurs to me that the legality might not be one set in the letter of the law itself, but possibly up to the record company concerned, and any printed wording on the disk or packaging and whether it prohibits transfer of the licence to play the music.

I suspect that while it is lent to someone you cease to have the right to play any copy of it you may have.

Strictly speaking, yes, any rip is illegal.

I was always under the impression that it is licenced ‘as a book’. (Remember them?), in that it’s ok to have copies, backups etc as long as it is only being played by one person at any one time.

As I suspected, the U.K. position would appear to be a complete Fred Karno’s Army! What with this, and the paltry pittance artists receive from Spotify/Tidal et al, it’s no wonder the music industry is coming to rely more and more upon self produced and self promoting artists who reap more from live gigs with a sideline of selling their home produced CDs afterwards than via traditional sales or downloads.