Published on December 30th, 2012 | by Alan Cross


Feel Free to Lend This CD to Your Friends. The Internet Has This One Wrong. Mostly.

There has been much Interweb talk about a passage included in the liner notes of Mumford & Sons’ Babel album.  I quote:

The copyright in this sound recording and artwork is owned by Mumford & Sons. Warning: all rights reserved. Unauthorized copying, reproduction, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting prohibited. 

The word that has people in a tizzy is “lending.”  What, exactly, does that word in this little bit of legalese actually mean?

First, I highly doubt that whatever lawyer drafted this language meant that you can’t let your friend borrow the disc. I’ve seen similar warning labels on CDs for years, so this isn’t really anything new.

Instead, it probably alludes to the practice of lending the disc to someone who might do something illegal with it.  It’s also in line with various rules around the globe that involve things like libraries which allow people to borrow CDs.  

Even though this warning is common on CDs, it does have implications for a pending Supreme Court ruling in the US regarding “first sale rights.”  It’s a bit complicated, but it works like this when it comes to physical recorded music.  

If, as an American, you were to buy a CD that was manufactured outside the US (say, Canada or Mexic), you would be prohibited from reselling it domestically.  The thinking is that by reselling a foreign-made disc in the US, you’re denying the rightfully-appointed rightsholder of that disc the chance to sell it.  They have “first sale rights,” which you just torpedoed.

So what?  Well, imagine the implications this would mean for people selling stuff–any kind of stuff–on eBay.

In other words, Canadians really have nothing to get into a froth about regarding this warning on Babel or any of the hundreds (thousands?) of CDs that feature this same warning.  But I will concede that the language is overly broad.  That’s a problem in case anyone decided to clamp down on…something.





About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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One Response to Feel Free to Lend This CD to Your Friends. The Internet Has This One Wrong. Mostly.

  1. Rick Cole says:

    If I own a CD, I can give myself authorization to lend it out. Is my local library doing unauthorized lending when I borrow a CD?

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