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How Would They Know My Music is (or isn’t) Legal?

Posted by Matthew Greensmith at 9:50 AM on July 29, 2008

An article surfaced today in an Australian newspaper regarding Australian customs officials being asked by the U.S. State Department to participate in checking traveler’s iPods and laptops for pirated music.

My question is, how would they know if it was pirated or not? Supposedly they were looking for “large quantities of commercial music.” Er. What does large mean? I’ve got 4,122 songs on my iPod. For every single one of those songs I either have the commercial CD that it came from, or purchased it legally through iTunes. But if I’m being checked in customs, I won’t have the physical CD’s on my person to back up what is on the iPod.

How could customs make a decision about whether or not the music was pirated? It’s mine, I bought it. But how would they know that, and how would I prove it while standing in customs? At this point, it is not illegal to upload my own CD’s to my iPod. But if I do, and I’m traveling outside of the country with my iPod, and I putting myself at risk?

Scary thought.


  1. From hydra at 2:40 pm on July 29, 2008

    I wonder if they can just scan it remotely soon… I’m sure Saudi Arabia will want to do that for adult content.

  2. From Richard Rosalion at 3:31 am on July 30, 2008

    True, it’s almost impossible to know (certainly impossible without some significant investigations)…. but, under current Australian law, those mp3s you’ve ripped from CDs are, in fact, illegal anyway (that is, assuming you’re Australian and ripped them in Australia).