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What You Can and Can't Do With MP3s in the US
By The Associated Press

According to federal law, the owner of a copyright on a piece of music retains exclusive reproduction and distribution rights. But consumers are allowed to sell or give away the single copy of each CD, tape or album they buy.

The MP3 digital format -- which enables numerous, high-quality copies to be made and transmitted easily over the Internet -- has created uncertainty over parts of the copyright law. The rights remain intact in cyberspace, but it depends on where you keep your music.

Keeping a copy of Britney Spears' hit single "Crazy" in MP3 format on your computer hard drive is legal. Keeping that same MP3 file on your Web site server creates an instant avenue for the distribution of numerous copies, and is a violation.

In the U.S., the consumer can:

  • Create MP3s from copyrighted material.
  • Keep MP3s from copyrighted material on the hard drive of a home computer.
  • Download MP3s found on the Internet.
  • Upload MP3s to a portable device, such as a Rio player.

The consumer cannot:

  • Post any MP3s created from copyrighted material on the Internet.

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