Sony BMG: Copying Music You Own Is "Stealing" And You Are A Criminal

More silliness from the RIAA, according to Ars Technica. Jennifer Pariser, the head of litigation for Sony BMG, was called to testify in the case of Capitol Records, et al v. Jammie Thomas.

She thinks making even one copy of music you own is “stealing.” Like, for example, ripping CDs for your Mp3 player. Or downloading songs you already own.

Pariser has a very broad definition of “stealing.” When questioned by Richard Gabriel, lead counsel for the record labels, Pariser suggested that what millions of music fans do is actually theft. The dirty deed? Ripping your own CDs or downloading songs you already own.

Gabriel asked if it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music which they have purchased, even just one copy. Pariser replied, “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’,” she said.

We feel this statement is going to make Jennifer extremely popular on the internet. Yay!

Sony BMG’s chief anti-piracy lawyer: “Copying” music you own is “stealing” [Ars Technica] (Thanks, Theron!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. ndonahue says:

    Ms. Pariser sure puts the ‘fair’ in fair use.

  2. Geekybiker says:

    Hello fair use!

  3. nickripley says:

    Her reply, and then mine to that:

    Thank you for your lovely note. I believe I testified that downloading a CD from Kazaa is illegal, not that ripping a copy of a CD you own for your personal use.

    Just to refresh your memory:

    Says Jennifer Pariser, the head of litigation for Sony BMG: ‘When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song. Making a copy of a purchased song is just a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’.


    (She is Out of the Office today, btw.)

  4. ChaosMotor says:

    If copying a song from a CD you own to your own personal computer or MP3 player is stealing, what are the labels doing when they print “promotional” CDs that they SELL to customers via the “Buy 1 Get 8 Free” BMG et all mail distribution, then CHARGE THE ARTISTS for the cost of the “promo” CDs that they SOLD?

  5. rmz says:

    The comments on this one are going to be great, I can tell already.

    Anyhow, I’d be curious to know if she thinks that “MP3” is synonymous with “piracy.”

  6. nickripley says:

    @nickripley My first post didn’t come through:

    I hear you are a lawyer, but you honestly believe ripping a CD for listening on a digital device is stealing? You aren’t much of a lawyer if you aren’t familiar with the Home Taping Act…. (You know… like the Sony SonicStage software does with it’s mp3 ripping… that product your company distributes.)

    Wikipedia has a nice summary if you wanna stop being a c*** for a minute and read it: []

    It’s people like you that are destroying the music business. I own several Sony MiniDisc recorders, even the latest RZH-1, and I will not ever buy another Sony product as long as your company takes such stupid, unlawful positions. Seriously, just because you are a complete corporate schill does not mean you can go around deciding the law.

    Have a good day!

  7. supra606 says:

    I can’t express in words how thrilled I am to see this organization going down in flames for the crimes they have committed against so many people. It’s just icing on the cake if they’re going to spend the entire trial making statements that prove they are just as stupid as we’ve all known they are for so long.

  8. savvy9999 says:

    Consumer replies, “When a record company makes yet another lousy, overhyped, disaster of a bubblegum-pop album, I suppose we can say it stole not just money, but a little piece of soul from the entire culture.”

  9. supra606 says:

    My first comment seems to have disappeared. Anyway, I love how these people prove me wrong every time I think to myself “they certainly can’t top the level of stupidity they’ve reached today.”

  10. hypnotik_jello says:

    Lube ‘er up!

  11. supra606 says:

    Oh, never mind. My first comment magically appeared. How very embarrasing.

  12. supra606 says:

    @hypnotik_jello: Yup. This trial is going to be very entertaining, particularly for the RIAA victims.

  13. catskyfire says:

    Interesting. It seems to fly in the face of the court decision that pretty much ruled you could make copies of stuff you owned, as long as it was for personal use. But then, the music industry would very much like that you ‘rent’ what you get from them, rather than ‘own’.

    It would also be great if the industry could figure out that they’re trying to plug a small leak while water is coming in another giant hole. The ‘problem’ is already there, and their ‘solutions’ aren’t working.

    …Of course, the industry would very much like to avoid how to really solve the problem. Stop releasing music that sucks.

  14. mrsultana can't get a password to work says:

    Wow. Nothing really to say to this buy, “WOW!”
    What’s next? I have to pay a dollar every time I hum a song? Because I had to hear the song to know what to hum.

  15. darkclawsofchaos says:

    so, if I buy an apple, and plant the seeds which grows more apples, is that stealing? I basically copying that one apple into many for my personal use, what is wrong with that

  16. catskyfire says:

    @nickripley: You had a nice letter right until you felt the urge to insult her with a epithet. Was that really necessary?

    Maybe you should reread some of the Consumerist’s guides to contacting people. Politeness and keeping ones cool are usually at the top.

  17. serreca says:

    @nickripley: Did you seriously call her a c*nt? Classy, dude. You may not like what she says but there’s really no excuse to call her that in an e-mail. Jesus.

  18. obbie says:

    i bet you they sell products designed to play these “stolen” tracks. Either that or they are just sore about losing so much ground to Apple with the iPod.

  19. BrockBrockman says:

    So, she’s the legal braintrust behind all this so-called “anti-music-piracy” business?

    *shakes head*

  20. jaredgood1 says:

    So, Jennifer, only men steal music? Sexist ninny.

  21. magic8ball says:

    Is it just me, or was there a post here last week or so about a Sony exec who admitted that he circumvents Sony’s copy protection to make copies for his own use? Someone ought to put him in touch with Ms. Pariser; it sounds like they have a lot to talk about.

  22. hollerhither says:

    Would have been a lot more effective without the c-word. I’m surprised she replied at all.

  23. Techguy1138 says:

    @darkclawsofchaos: Well yes
    Depending on the type of apple and if it was GMO and protected by a patent it may be illegal to plant them, st least for a farm.

  24. pegr says:

    Next up, Sony vs. Sony, as the hardware side makes tools that facilitate theft…

  25. Jaysyn was banned for: says:

    Why don’t you tell her what you think of her brainlessness?

    Jennifer Pariser (212) 833-7362

    And before you start whining this number is on the BMG website under contacts.

  26. supra606 says:

    A few other gems from her testimony: She admitted that IP addresses and screenshots do not identify human beings, she admitted that they don’t know how many people downloaded music from the defendant, and (probably quite a surprise to many people) that the record companies have actually LOST money on their lawsuits overall.

    The real test for the defense will be going against RIAA leader Cary Sherman but this girl certainly didn’t do her employer any favors today.

  27. thepounder says:

    This sh!t is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s.

    Sorry, nothing further to add. This subject is far too ridiculous for me to address lucidly.

  28. protest says:

    i thought the c-bomb gave the email a nice panache.

  29. Buran says:

    @darkclawsofchaos: Everything, according to Monsanto.

  30. Techguy1138 says:

    The problem that happens when you get to the term ownership.
    Technically the record company owns the song. Fully it’s theirs, they can give it away, sell it, stach it where it will never be seen again or as they do, sell limited rights to it.

    People feel that when they pay $9 that they own the song. This is NOT true. You have limited rights to the use of that song. One of the big issues is the limit of your rights.

    Fair use is pretty vague, generally to the advantage of the consumer. There is fair use to the duplication of the song, via the home recording act. I don’t doubt that MP3 ripping is covered in this.

    But in legal terms there are limits to duplication. If I get my dad a CD and rip a copy to listen to all is fine unless we are both listening to different parts of the music at the same time. It may be legal, within rights, to borrow the CD but there are no rights granted to lend MP3’s. To put it in short ripping your CD’s to MP3 is legal so long as you delete your songs if you lend out the CD. Ripping your apartment mates CD is legally a wrong.

    You have the rights to make a copy for yourself. You have the rights to download a copy of a song you have on cd. What is not in your rights is the distribution of copies of the songs online. You do not own the song or copyright. Making copies of the songs available online counts as unauthorized distribution and copying, since the copy of music you have is no longer solely for personal use.

    It gets even murkier,or clearer, with digital downloads. If you download a copy of a song for lets say 10 cents as a 64kbps mp3, you intern to not have clear rights to a copy of the same song ripped from a friends CD at a higher bit rate. Record companies would think of it as saying because you purchased a ticket to one artists convert you can get in for free to any other performance.

    They may be technically right on a number of issues but that still doesn’t make it sensible. Going after people who are ripping CD’s for personal use they are setting themselves up to lose.

    People DO have the right to make personal copies of media. Comments like hers are stupid. A cd that can not be ripped to MP3 is almost worthless in todays market given the spread of MP3’s.

    I’ve only bought 3 cd’s since Napster closed it’s doors. With the attitudes they have I don’t even take their music for free. They can keep it.

  31. Skeptic says:


    @nickripley My first post didn’t come through:


    I hear you are a lawyer, but you honestly believe ripping a CD for listening on a digital device is stealing? You aren’t much of a lawyer if you aren’t familiar with the Home Taping Act…. (You know… like the Sony SonicStage software does with it’s mp3 ripping… that product your company distributes.)

    Wikipedia has a nice summary if you wanna stop being a c*** for a minute and read it: []

    You emailed her that? I wonder how long until the ex parte order to you ISP and the the demand letter from the “Settlement Support Center” show up? And that’s if you are lucky. These people sue mac users for using Kaza, people who’ve never used a computer and dead people for downloading. Suing you should be no problem…

    Calling her a C in public was a really dumb thing to do…

  32. SoCalGNX says:

    Scarier yet is selling something to someone on ebay with a bmg email address (working there). BMG will forever spam you after that.

  33. rdm24 says:

    I agree with the sentiments expressed here that using the “c” word (or any abusive language) is really unproductive and distracts from your message. Which I otherwise wholeheartedly agree with.

    I thought you were explicitly allowed to make copies for personal use (e.g., I make dupe CDs for my car, so when it gets broken into (an inevitability), I don’t have to buy new CDs or make a claim on my insurance for them).

    Screw them. I’ll just stick to independent labels who aren’t so lawsuit-happy.

    I wonder what the “tort-reform” lobby–normally a front for big business–thinks about this issue.

  34. adamondi says:

    Man. I wonder how long it will take for people to get so fed up with this crap that they will just plain stop buying any music at all. I am dangerously close to that line.

  35. frankieman70 says:

    So then Evey time we listen to a song on the radio we should be charged a listening fee, what douchebags.

  36. persch5 says:
  37. coan_net says:

    If I paid for a song, I should be able to play that song for my own personal use however I want. (This i why I still have over 1,000 cassette tapes sitting in my garage – to show proof that I own the right to those songs on those tapes.

  38. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @Techguy1138: Ownership? Herein is a problem…the RECORD COMPANY owns the song, not the artist. What BULLSHIT.
    I feel not one whit of remorse or pity for the poor poor record companies. Here are companies that charge artists for manufacturing and packaging of digital downloads (i.e. songs you buy on iTunes) just as though they sold you a physical product. Read that again. It’s true.
    Fuck the labels, fuck the RIAA, and fuck that cunt.
    OMG, profanity!!! Run back to conservipedia you wankers.

  39. swalve says:

    @doctor_cos: If they record company owns the song, that means the artist signed away his rights to it. So grow up and get educated.

  40. rolla says:


    i wholeheartedly agree. The record companies have been raping (for lack of a better word) consumers AND artists for so many years. The fact that they are only now embracing the digital download instead when napster was in business illustrates their stubbornness to adapt to the changing world, and show that they had hope in continuing to charge crazy prices on albums by suing everyone and everybody.

  41. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    No wonder our legal system is so fucked up….law schools are giving idiots like this a JD, and the bar association is admitting morons like her!!! Best of all, she probably went to like Harvard Law or something, and worked for some big law firm in NYC. Well, she’s a disgrace to the American legal system, Harvard Law School (or whatever law school she went to), the NYS Bar Association, Sony BMG, and every other corporation and law firm she worked for. Not to mention every corporate attorney in the United States.

    I keep saying the bar exam needs to be harder, the LSAT needs to be harder, and law school itself needs to be harder. Much. Or maybe just require a higher passing score. And now you know why. It’s to keep imbeciles like her from practicing law (and fancypants pearson is in this category as well).

    Besides the legal system, I bought all my music, and I’m entitled to use it in any damn way I see fit (short of selling it for profit), so piss off. I’m not paying for multiple copies just because I have friends over and I’m playing music for them. There’s a precise reason we pay for it. By the way, we BUY CD’s. We BUY MP3s. Therefore, we own the 0’s and 1’s on the MP3 file or the CD. And we can use it in any damn way we see fit, short of reselling for profit (that opens another can of worms with copyright laws and such).

  42. ndavies says:

    Is there any audio of her testimony online? It’s just the kind of thing that would sound good sampled extensively in music.

  43. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    She’s an embarrassment to the New York State Bar Association and should certainly be disbarred for saying that. Someone forward the above post to the NYSBA.

  44. RvLeshrac says:


    Actually, it is considered a “work for hire,” and the record company owns the copyright by default. The artist has to ADD his or her rights to the contract, the record company doesn’t have to specify otherwise.

  45. Dickdogfood says:

    What if I took an MP3 and made a copy of it (Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V) on my computer? And just, y’know, left it there. Useless, sure — but is that stealing? What’s the RIAA’s position on that?

    What if I made ten copies of the file — and again, left them all on my computer? Have I stolen a piece of music ten times over?

  46. vitonfluorcarbon says:

    If it is not permissable to rip an MP3 from a CD I BOUGHT legimately, and it is not permissable to DOWNLOAD an MP3 from a file swap site, then I suppose I will stop buying CDs and only “Steal” them from the file swap sites since it is cheaper to me. Do they not want me to buy CDs? What a frigging joke. I don’t mind buying a CD of an artist I enjoy, but telling me I can’t rip it and put on my iPod is going too far.

  47. reykjavik says:

    She’s right and wrong at the same time. When it comes to intellectual property, in particular copyrights, a copyright gives you exclusive ability to copy, and no one else may do so without prior consent from the copyright owner. However, she’s wrong, because copying for yourself and friends has statutorily been considered fair use and exempted from infringement. So essentially, jurisprudentially speaking, it is theft, but statutorily it isn’t.

  48. Techguy1138 says:

    I can see how the record companies pulling crap like this is ripping off the consumer. But the prices that they charge are reasonable.

    It like $10-15 for a full album of music. CD are damn cheap. How much do you think a CD should cost? $1,$2,$5?

    They do need to make the costs and profits more transparent to the artists. It’s not good to bankrupt those who make you money and do half of the work.

  49. erratapage says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but the quote feels a little “out of context”….

    On the other hand, I don’t believe the RIAA has helped any recording artist, so I’m all for taking an industry spokesperson “out of context.”

  50. jydesign says:

    Singing a song in the shower is illegal! It’s “just” a really bad copy (at least that’s the case for me). The RIAA will be dragging you bathing thieves out in cuffs from bathrooms across America…

    Who knew liking music could be so dangerous?

  51. Techguy1138 says:

    @reykjavik: Are your friends really included? I thought it was self only. That would make the whole internet piracy argument moot.

  52. Andrew says:

    Haven’t bought a CD in years. Don’t plan on starting again. On of the advantages of really hating almost all modern music, I suppose.

  53. dextrone says:

    @IRSistherootofallevil: I think 90% of lawyers fall under that category….

    Oh well, GO INDIE MUSIC. I found great alternatives to those other ones.

  54. girly says:

    Is it legal to listen to the cd’s you buy with your friends? Or do you have to make sure no one else can hear it?

  55. milty45654 says:

    Better be careful ThePounder, before they have you paying royalties for quoting song lyrics…lol

    This sh!t is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s.
    Sorry, nothing further to add. This subject is far too ridiculous for me to address lucidly.

  56. Joafu says:

    Say I buy a CD in stores for a certain amount of money, enjoy it for a number of months before breaking the CD, losing it, having it get stolen, etc. Because I bought limited rights of listenership to the cd, can I go and just grab one of the shelf at no charge? I did pay for a copy of the CD. Of course, allowing me to burn my own CDs ‘legally’ eliminates this problem. Go die in a hole, RIAA.

  57. edrebber says:

    Perhaps Jennifer Pariser should contact the Sony marketing department and direct them to have this statement printed on every CD they sell.

    “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’,”

    Put your mouth where your money is instead of shooting it off in court.

  58. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    DEXTRONE: Then maybe we should disbar 90% of the lawyers in this country.

    The NYSBA should sue her for disgracing the bar association and the legal profession.

  59. marsneedsrabbits says:

    The ironing is delicious in light of the Betamax case, aka Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, 464 U.S. 417 (1984)

  60. cde says:

    @marsneedsrabbits: The ironing is delicious? I smell a new meme being born…

  61. aikoto says:

    Is it just me or does anyone feel sorry for Jennifer. She is catching a lot of negative net attention for this.

    Of course, if she had morals, she’d quit working for a company like that, but then again, if she had morals would she be a lawyer?

  62. ViperBorg says:

    @jeremyduffy: Quite frankly, if you go on stand and say that, your responsible for what you say. No, I don’t feel sorry for her, she fuckin said it. Not my damn problem.

    And in response to your question: No.

  63. dualityshift says:

    Based on her comments, do you not think that Sony Corporation would have to stop making Mp3 players, since they are creating the tools for the crime they accuse us all of? If that is the case, shouldn’t the RIAA go after the makers of these products that steal their songs?

    We should be making a betting pool as to how long this moron is kept on the case.

  64. Saboth says:

    The Record industry need look no further than themselves for the decline in record sales. I don’t pirate music or software, and I haven’t bought a CD in probably a year. I have DRM music on my new computer I can’t play because I haven’t “authorized it” or installed the proper software to play it. I have CD’s laying around that won’t play on certain devices in my house/car. The price keeps going up, but the convenience goes down. A downloaded CD should cost like $5 at this point, yet prices keep on creeping up to $11-$15. They don’t have to print anything, cut the disk or ship it…it should be cheap. Just forget it lol…they can put themseleves out of business if they want.

  65. lazyazz says:
  66. lazyazz says:

    @darkclawsofchaos: Depends on where the apple came from:


  67. lazyazz says:

    Crap.. sorry ’bout the double post

  68. @magic8ball: Yes there was: []

    @adamondi: I haven’t bought any music in years now. I don’t illegally download anything either. If I can’t somehow get to it for free I don’t listen to it. Most of what I have now is stuff from Overclocked Remix. (I really need to check out some independent music though because I miss music with singing in it.)

    the record companies have actually LOST money on their lawsuits overall.
    @supra606: That is SO awesome! That makes my day in fact.

    @jeremyduffy: Why should I feel sorry for her? If I kick a puppy would you feel sorry for me after people yelled at me for it?

    Joafu: I really want someone to try this. I want it to go to court so their “you don’t really own it” argument can get thrown in their face.

  69. LionelEHutz says:

    @Techguy1138: I’m guessing that you don’t know a whole lot about how the music industry works. Here’s a brief rundown, but if you’re really interested pick up the books written by a person going by the name of “Moses Avalon” to get an insider’s perspective on how artists get screwed.

    All but the most established artists typically make next to nothing off of album sales. The advances they get are loans that are used to not only provide some money to live off of but also to pay for recording costs, which include fees paid to the producer and engineers. Artists don’t see another dime from record sales until the label has recouped all costs, including the advance, from record sales. Artists do get statutory mechanical royaties and royalties from performances (collected via their publisher and organizations such as ASCAP) but other than the mechanical royalties, those revenue streams are separate from the album sales. Mechanical royalties are paid based on each CD manufactured, not each CD sold. I have no idea how MP3 sales are counted in this, but considering the screw the artist nature of most recording companies I imagine that either the artists aren’t getting a thing or they are only getting paid for downloads.

    Also, the CD costs aren’t cheap and that $15 or whatever price tag has a lot more to do with price fixing than actual cost to produce and promote, etc… In fact, several record labels were sued for anti-trust violations a few years ago and they ultimately settled with several state AG’s, giving consumers some paltry refund if they merely said they had bought CD’s between a certain period of time. I think the ‘refund’ was around $22 per claimant.

  70. nickripley says:

    I stand by my c-word. You are what you eat, you sow what you reap, or something like that.

    I’m so tired of having to be nice to people that don’t deserve it.

  71. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:


    Fine, but you might want to know that, in addition to offending the lawyer, your c-bomb also offended a lot of your fellow commenters (who flagged that comment).

    The flagged reports don’t have a place for the flaggers to add messages, so I can only offer my personal opinion: I don’t care about the profanity, but in this context I thought it was unnecessary and classless, and that it didn’t do anything to bolster your position.

  72. novelgirl says:

    This is pure insanity. Quick does she know people can listen to music by taking CDs out at the library?! Guess they’re ripping off Sony.
    Record labels can either innovate or go the way of the dinosaurs

  73. nickripley says:

    It expressed my opinion of Jennifer Pariser to Jennifer Pariser, which was my only intention.

  74. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    If I were to express my opinion to her, it would be so harsh that it might make her soulless ass cry. But then, I’d love to see her sitting in the corner of her office crying her eyes out.

  75. Jim says:

    @novelgirl: Oh my God, now you’ve done it. I’ve wondered for years why I am allowed to take books home with me and read them, remember them, and directly or indirectly refer to knowledge gained from them – sometimes even directly quoting them (with proper citation when written though) – without violating the author’s or publisher’s rights under copyright law.

    @girly: A great question! Ask a church that got nasty messages from the NFL about showing the Super Bowl in the church. I’m betting there is a definite limit to how many people can listen at the same time without requiring a Public Performance License from ASCAP/BMI.

    This Jennifer chick’s (is that what you guys meant by c-word?) statements are astounding because they make perfectly clear that NOBODY can understand the freaking copyright laws (as do many questions posted here, like girly’s for example). If they can’t be understood, they can’t be followed, they can’t be enforced. Fix the laws or get rid of them because these are currently just doing what most laws do – keeping lawyers’ kids in better schools than yours.

  76. Jim says:

    @nickripley: “It expressed my opinion of Jennifer Pariser to Jennifer Pariser, which was my only intention.”

    Until you posted it here. Accept. Let go. Move on.

  77. Onouris says:

    After thought I’ll retract what I was going to say.

    It included walls, shooting, and things shoved up where the sun doesn’t shine.

    God damn record industry.

  78. Well damn.

    Who the *bleep* was on the jury?

  79. dualityshift says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Wives of the RIAA management team.

  80. kahri says:

    Here’s a perfect example of a company fighting itself. Sony BMG (label) wants to sell you the right to listen to “their” music (once or twice) vs. Sony (equipment manufacturer) wants to cash in on the digital music generation with CD ripping (tech speak for COPYING)software, download websites and consumer media recorders. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you don’t want people digitizing media, then DON’T make the software & hardware with that purpose. And,in turn, If you DO want people to use YOUR products to digitize media, then don’t try and sue them for it.

  81. kahri says:

    sorry for the multi-posts: So are we supposed to believe that the bluray burners they are now trying to shove down our throats is for burning excell files and word documents?

  82. Coyote says:

    The one thing I find thats wrong with the defenders of “licensing” the music you “buy” is this. If I break a CD or it gets scratched beyond playability am I able to contact the recording label and get another copy? For the “licensed” material I paid for? If I’m paying for an intangible object that is being delivered to me on something that has no worth (disc, box, etc) shouldn’t we be entitled to this?