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Did Amazon (UK) Just Make You A Criminal?

by Graham Needham on 27th June 2013

So, Amazon UK launched their AutoRip service in the UK this week. Basically it's an automated service where you buy some music from Amazon and they put that music in your "Cloud Player" as digital MP3 files. In principle this sounds cool and saves you time and effort ripping the music yourself. This service is even available for some none digital formats like vinyl and cassettes. Yes, even cassettes!!! (After all, old formats never die!)

An important part of this service is that Amazon will go back through all your old purchases as far back as 1999 (even those dodgy cassettes) and give you the digital MP3s retroactively and that's the crux of the problem. Again, it may sound great but there's a potential gotcha - Amazon UK could have just made you a criminal! Eh what? you may well ask. Well it's a well known fact that record labels and artists don't like you downloading their music for free - it's against the law - and they actively seek you out if you're pirating music or in fact even if they just suspect you're doing it and don't actually know for sure!

So, what's the problem with Amazon AutoRip? Well, if you bought music (CD, vinyl, cassette, etc) from Amazon UK and have done any of the following with the physical item:

  • lost it
  • sold it
  • given it away e.g. as a (birthday/Christmas) gift
…You could now potentially be a criminal because of Amazon. And let's not forget that in the UK (as of publishing this blog post) it is still actually illegal to rip a CD to your computer!

You see, Amazon puts the digital music in your Cloud Player regardless of whether you still own the physical item. How can you be allowed the digital version of the music if you no longer own the physical item? There is nothing in Amazon UK's AutoRip Ts&Cs about this situation and I'm sure they certainly do not cover you legally for such an event (what they do clearly state is that if you return the physical item they will charge you for the MP3 version so they're specifically not giving you the digital version of the music separately, for "free"). What's worse is that if you've set your Amazon Cloud Player to automatically download files to your device/computer, Amazon just automatically put (potentially) illegal files on your device/computer. Now the chances of being caught are slim but what happens, through whatever investigation causes it, your device/computer is checked, they find the music on your computer and you cannot produce the physical item? Is the Amazon UK order in your account online proof enough? What if, in the future, you no longer have access to that account or have closed it? All of that is irrelevant if you sold the physical item or gave it away (as in a gift) because you no longer own the physical item!

It sure would be nice to know the legality of such situations and whether Amazon are basically legally giving us music that we no longer own, for free or whether they are turning us into criminals - some sort of clarification on the matter would be very nice. Amazon?

To clarify, the question is: If you buy a physical music item from Amazon with AutoRip and you no longer own the physical item does Amazon AutoRip give you the legal right to keep and use the digital MP3 copies of the music?

If the answer is "yes", can Amazon please state this is their Ts&Cs.

If the answer is "no", why is Amazon not stating this is their Ts&Cs? Why are they retroactively giving illegal music to their customers and why (in some cases) are they automatically downloading this illegal music to their customer's computers/devices?

UPDATE 08/07/2013 - Clearly there is an issue with gifting as I just pre-ordered a CD for myself and at the end of the checkout process found this quote at the bottom of the page:

The MP3 version of your AutoRip-eligible album will be added to your Cloud Player library for free on the day of the MP3 album's release. Does not apply to gift orders.

Blog Post Author = Graham Needham
Blog Post Created On = 27th June 2013
Blog Post Last Revised = 31st August 2017 18:32
Blog Post URL =

This blog post is representative of the blog author's individual opinions and as such any opinions that may be expressed here may not necessarily reflect the views of everyone at MacStrategy or the holding company Burning Helix.

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