Teenagers don’t think copying CDs is a crime

The majority of young people — even those who refuse to download pirated media — see nothing wrong with making a copy of a CD or DVD to share with friends.

A new poll by the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg News found that among teens ages 12 to 17, 69 percent said they believed it was legal to copy a CD from a friend who purchased the original.

By contrast, only 21 percent said it was legal to copy a CD if the friend got the content for free. Similarly, 58 percent thought it was legal to copy a friend’s purchased DVD or videotape, but only 19 percent thought copying was legal if the movie wasn’t purchased.

The survey results angered the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America. Both contend such sharing — they call it “schoolyard piracy” — is illegal and now a greater threat than peer-to-peer downloading.

Evan Collins, 15, expressed his view of the issue: “I think you’re allowed to make, like, two or three copies of a CD you bought and give them to friends,” Collins told the LA Times. “It’s only once you make five copies, or copy a CD of stolen music, that it’s illegal.”

Attorneys told the newspaper that copying a purchased CD for even a single friend can violate federal copyright law. However, the poll found Collins’ attitude pervasive among young people.

Even lawyers admitted the laws are confusing. Distributing free copies of a purchased CD or DVD is only a federal copyright crime if the value of the copied discs exceeds $1,000, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elena Duarte told the Times.

However, giving away even one copied CD or DVD may be a civil violation or break a state law, depending on where the act takes place.

The issue is at the center of huge battle between content owners and copyright activists. To date, courts have generally avoided staking out legal policy on the appropriateness of copying CDs for friends or how many friends constitutes a copyright violation.

However, the personal sharing of favorite media is a long tradition that’s ingrained in American culture. Some argue that such activity is what created the value of the media in the first place.