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The real lowdown on Mp3 downloads – #2

The real lowdown on Mp3 downloads – Levelling the Playing Field #2 

[Originally published in Menu Magazine in Olympia, Wa, circa 1999]

You’ve likely heard of Mp3, haven’t you? Mp3 is a compression/encoding standard which allows near-CD quality duplication of audio files at a fraction of the size. Because the files are much smaller than regular CD audio files, they are fairly easily transferred over the Internet or burnt onto homemade CDs. Convenient? Yes indeed. Legal? Well that depends.

Before getting into the fun, revolutionary part and the technical portion, we must first look at some historical precedents so we can figure out the legal ramifications of this brave new format.

When I was a kid and there was a song on the radio that I liked, I would cue up an 8-track or cassette tape into the home and wait for the song to come on again. Then, I quickly hit the pause button to start recording, albeit missing the first few seconds. Legal? The courts figured this out when TV broadcasters were complaining about VCRs on the market and Yes you can record a commercial public broadcast for personal use, even if the quality is poor.

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