Is it illegal to sell CDs that you have ripped? Without the CD, you don’t have a license for the music

My dad is moving to a new house soon so Kate and I are in San Luis Obispo going through a bunch of my old stuff. I stashed some boxes here when I moved to New York City a few years ago.

We’ve found some real treasures: old Apple and Mac computers, Think Different posters, Phi Psi gear, Kobe and Shaq autographs, and a ton of photos.

I absolutely cannot figure out what to do with all the music CDs I own. I have about 400 legally purchased CDs in their jewel cases. I haven’t touched them in years since they are all in my iTunes library. These CDs take up a ton of physical space for nothing.

I would love to sell the CDs, give them away, or donate them to a library. But all of these options would be illegal. I have a digitized copy of this music on my computer, and the physical CD is my license for that music. Without the CD, I’d be a music thief.

So now I have no choice but to keep these CDs around for the rest of my life. If the RIAA ever comes knocking on my door and looks at the music on my computer, I’ll need to be able to show them that I really did buy this music.

What do you think? I don’t believe in pirating music, movies, or any other content. But am I going overboard here? What would you do?

Maybe the record labels need a recycling system where someone can trade in a CD for a digital license for the music.


  1. You could always trash the cases and put all of the CDs into one of those soft-sleeve albums (for 400+ CDs, get one one of the big ones like DJs carry). This way, you stay legal while minimizing the amount of space they take up.If you don’t care about keeping the CDs readable, you could even just load them up on a spindle or two that blank CDs usually come on – they’ll get scratched and won’t play after a while, but if you’re like me, you won’t care because you have the more versatile digital files ripped (and backed up, of course).

  2. wow that’s a great idea. This is actually what i’ve done with my DVDs already. They are in a CD binder and I tossed all the cases.There are some CD cases I’d love to keep but for the most part, CDs in a spindle really would be good enough.Thanks for the idea!

  3. oh well, keep them, u never know they might be a treasured collection for your grandchildren , just like "records" are hot even to date!the artwork, is also irreplacable. digital is digital- cannot replace the physical.

  4. isn’t the burden of proof on the RIAA though? they need to prove that you stole the music. you don’t need to prove that you didn’t steal it. if I’m wearing a gold watch, it’s not like I need to keep the sales receipt on me at all times, proving that yes, I purchased the watch. if someone is going to accuse me of stealing the watch, they need to show beyond a reasonable doubt that I stole it. that’s why the RIAA is going after people who share 5 songs on kazaa and not folks who have filled their 80 gb ipods with music…even though we all know that there is no way that person actually paid for $20k in songs or whatever it would cost to fill it up.owning music without a license is just fine. distributing or "making available" copies is not. so, in answer to your question, it’s illegal to sell CDs you have ripped if you don’t delete the mp3 copies. if you want to keep your mp3s, it’s totally fine just to destroy the CDs though.

  5. I’m not sure it’s actually legal to rip them. What you bought was a licence to listen to that music on the medium it was supplied on, I don’t think you’re free to transfer that to another medium just because it’s convenient to you.I’m not saying that’s not silly, just what I understand.

  6. The general interpretation of the Fair Use clause of copyright law is that you are permitted to reencode the music for your sole use in an equivalent format, so you are good w.r.t. criminal copyright law. There is no EULA or contract accepted when buying jewel case CDs, so you don’t have any other private obligations. This particular aspect of fair use is pretty safe.

  7. Adam, super awesome comment. You should make that a blog post :)Agree with your assessment. It’s safe to destroy the CDs since I do legally own a license now, but not legal to resell them.Now i’m torn by the sentimental value of these CDs…

  8. Soft-sleeve album for holding CD’s might be good idea, I have used similar to store disks for making them easier to handle if I really want to listen from CD…I still have plastic CD covers stored in different place but have been wondering what to do with them as I’ve been listening the same music from iTunes etc. for long time already.The question might be quite different if I would be talking about LP records that few people have been collecting (like collection of 4000+ LP records is already something). 🙂

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