UMG Says Throwing Away Promo CDs is Illegal

They say everybody’s a critic nowadays, so I’m guessing we all get our fair share of crummy promo CDs from desperate labels. Well, you better not dump them just yet, because it might be illegal to get rid of them.

In a brief filed in federal court yesterday [pdf], Universal Music Group (UMG) states that, when it comes to the millions of promotional CDs (“promo CDs”) that it has sent out to music reviewers, radio stations, DJs, and other music industry insiders, throwing them away is “an unauthorized distribution” that violates copyright law. Yes, you read that right — if you’ve ever received a promo CD from UMG, and you don’t still have it, UMG thinks you’re a pirate.

UMG apparently believes it has “eternal ownership” over promo CDs. Our friends at EFF are fighting this, correctly pointing out that this crazy idea totally goes in the face of the “first sale doctrine” under the U.S. Copyright Act, which states that “once a copyright owner has parted with ownership of a CD, book, or DVD, whether by sale, gift, or other disposition, they may not control further dispositions of that particular copy (including throwing it away).”

So now what the fuck are we supposed to do with that album? Return to sender? Hey, how about this: don’t send us shit unless it’s good? How about that?

5 thoughts on “UMG Says Throwing Away Promo CDs is Illegal”

  1. This is too ridiculous to be true. I don’t believe this story, and I think you’re making it up. Even if you hand me a certified letter from the legal department of UMG explaining it very clearly in large type I still won’t believe you.

    I will retreat now to the magical world of purple dragons and green clovers that lives in my heart.

  2. So let me get this straight… all of those CDs that I liberated from my college radio station in the interests of “No one will miss this one, I can give it a good home”. I’ve always referred to the practice as “permanently borrowing”, but you’re telling me that I was really doing my radio station a favor all along, that now they didn’t need to throw those CDs away? NIIIICE!!!!!

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