Cosmo apparently supports music piracy! Or it is fair use? Thanks to Podcasting News for posting about this Cosmos suggestion of asking friends to burn you a CD of music you’ll like (and returning the favor) because “Having new tunes is ideal, but shelling out the cash to buy said music hurts.” The Podcasting News blog post does an interesting job of discussing this. I’m rather surprised that Cosmo would suggest this, when we all know the music industry has come down recently on people sharing music. However, we do have some fair use to our purchased music.

Of course where music sharing comes in under fair use is an interesting matter. A quick evaluation (+ means falls under fair use, – means it does not)
+ Your sharing does not involve you making money off of it. But trading one mix CD for another could be argued to be “commercial” so do be careful with this.
- Your use is not for comment (not really), criticism, scholarship, education, news reporting, or parody.
+/- The amount of work used is a hard question. While you may only be copying one song off an album, it is still a whole song. Does music count as songs or as albums? Copying a chapter from a book is generally okay, but a song?
+ The work has been published and is in commercial form.
+/- The market value effect is also hard to evaluated. This one can depend. In Cosmo’s case you are clearly copying the work to not pay for it–as it is a “Shameless Money-Saving Trick.” However, often if people like a song off a mix tape they may buy it or the whole album. Thus your use could create additional market for the song. Copying a whole album would more of a “-” in this case, as it is doubtful that someone would buy a whole album they already have. But they may buy additional albums. So it is still a hard call.

However, it looks like overall sharing a CD of songs (from various artists and albums) with a friend arguably falls under fair use. You may want to follow the CD with an offer to buy them the CD of whichever song they like best or something along that line. More “fair use” would be sharing a CD from a single artist, but requesting it back when they have listened enough to see they like it. Other options include using music you have permission to share, such as Creative Commons licensed music and much of the podsafe music. Also, many artists that have not be “found” by huge record labels want you to share their music, as it is the best way to get fans. I know I frequently share my favorite smaller artists with others and know I have developed quite a few fans for these bands, and, as a result, earning them more money then they would have if I had not shared. I also do often buy friend CDs of these bands to support the bands too.

I am a firm supporter of utilizing our fair use when we have it. So, while I do not agree with how Cosmo presented this, and certainly doing it to save money is less “fair” of a use, in general the idea of a mix CD for a friend does seem to fall under fair use.

Of course, I could discuss this forever, as there are so many ins and outs of fair use.

Something to say?