Music CD Copyright Law

Updated April 17, 2017

Copyright law protects the creative value of all original music works created by musicians, song writers, producers and record labels from copyright infringement. Only the original creators have exclusive ownership rights to a music CD. Under copyright law, anyone who copies, resells or shares music CDs without the permission of the copyright owner is subject to criminal and civil penalties.

Copyright Law

Copyright protection of music under copyright law gives the owner the right of reproduction based on the U.S. Copyright Act. Full ownership of a CD is not based on purchasing the CD, because the original creator maintains the exclusive rights of distributing, reproducing, performing or displaying the creative work. The Copyright Act also gives the copyright owner of a music disc the derivative rights to license or produce the music contained on the CD.

The Fair Use Doctrine

The fair use doctrine challenges the exclusive rights of the owner of a creative work such as music CD by placing limitations on these rights based on the right of fair use. Fair use suggests that when a person other than the owner of the creative work reproduces the work for the purposes of comment, news reporting, criticism, research or teaching, it is not considered to be an infringement of the work. Fair use suggests that the reproduction of a music CD for these purposes should not be considered as an illegal act or a violation of the exclusive rights afforded to the copyright holder.

Fair Use Defenses

In Section 107 of the Copyright Law, there are several rights to fair use based on various defences. These defences include the effect of the use of the copyrighted material on the value of or the projected market of the music CD, the purpose for which the CD is used and whether it is for non-profit educational purposes or noncommercial purposes. If any of these defences can be proved or upheld in a court of law, the defendant can use the right to fair use to prove that he did not violate any copyright laws.

Music Piracy

Music piracy is the illegal use of a music CD by reproducing, copying, sharing or distributing it for commercial purposes. Music pirates copy music from an original CD to sell or redistribute the music without the permission or consent of the original copyright holder. The increasing popularity of CD burners and online file sharing has enabled music pirates to illegally copy or download music from CDs. Many record companies have developed defence mechanisms using digital technology to prevent piracy of music discs.


The Recording Industry Association of America comprises member companies and major record labels that produce, create, distribute and manufacture almost 90 per cent of music CD recordings as well as sound recordings that are sold in America as of 2010. The RIAA not only promotes the interests of the music industry but also fights against music piracy. The RIAA brings litigation against any person or entity that violates the rights of its members. It has sued popular online music file sharing companies such as LimeWire and Napster as well as individuals for music piracy violations and has won the majority of its cases.

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About the Author

Allison McCalman has been writing professionally since 2009. Her expertise is in business, media, intellectual property law and tourism. McCalman's work has appeared in various online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast journalism.