Copying Music To iPod Illegal in Australia

by , 4:30 PM EDT, August 3rd, 2004

The subject of copyright is an oft-debated one today, in part because of the change that the Internet is bringing to the world all around us. In the face of readily-available digital duplication and piracy, corporate copyright owners have striven to gain new copyright powers that far exceed traditional copyright.

That battle is likely never to be won by any of the involved parties to their satisfaction, but one thing that content owners, technology companies (Apple in particular), and consumers alike have profited from is the ability to put your legally purchased music on a portable music player such as an iPod. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, however, doing so, even from a legitimately purchased CD, is not a legal option in Australia. From the Morning Herald:

The next time The Clash's I Fought the Law is blaring away on your Apple iPod music player, savour the irony that not only are you likely to be an outlaw - you are getting away with it with the help of one of the world's biggest brands.

You are not alone. There are 100,000 of you across the country and the police aren't coming after you. Yet.


Most people know it is illegal to download songs from the internet without paying. But far fewer people know it is illegal to copy music from a CD you have legally bought.

Anyone who has copied songs from a CD onto an iPod or computer hard drive has fallen foul of Australian copyright laws, which critics argue are failing to keep pace with technological change. Copying music for personal use is generally OK in the US and Europe. But not in Australia.

The article also includes comments from Australian consumers on the issue, as well as industry people, such as:

The situation is "mad", says Phil Tripp, a music publicist who is lobbying Canberra on behalf of the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA, which represents songwriters and publishers). "So you bought a CD and you think you own the song. Wrong! You own the bit of plastic and that's it."

There is much more information on the subject in the full article at the Sydney Morning Herald, and we recommend it as a very interesting read. Note that the Morning Herald requires free registration.

The Mac Observer Spin:

There are people in the recording industry, including many in the US and Europe, that salivate at the idea of consumers having to pay for the ability to play a song in each and every device we might use. Once for your car, once for your computer, once for your home stereo, and once for portable music player; make that an expiring license that has to be renewed, and their vision of heaven on earth would be reached. Yes, there are definitely some people who are desperately seeking such an arrangement, never seeing that it would actually kill the recording industry as they know it.

Such people are in the minority, however, even amongst the profit-hungry suits in the major labels. Most are simply doing all they can to hang on the status quo instead of working to find new ways of doing business in the digital age. The market place will deal with that, however, and in the long run we hope that we will wind up with a system that balances copyright with consumer fair use. The balance is currently tilting towards content owners, but these things tend to be cyclical.

That's what makes the Australian situation so interesting. The laws on the books right now firmly favor content owners, making criminals out of hundreds of thousands of Aussies, with that number growing every day. The key thing there is that many of those Aussies are voters, and when and if the majority of voters are law breakers, they will most likely be able to vote in people who will change the law to reflect reality. The only other long-run option is that this law is simply never enforced. It will be interesting as can be to see what happens.