US record-label body the RIAA and movie-industry moguls at the MPAA are attempting to argue that copying a CD to a computer for carrying on an iPod does not, and has never, constituted fair use.
A report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation says 14 organisations, including the two mentioned, have submitted a filing as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's regular review process of exemptions to provisions against tampering with technological protection measures.
This means that, in essence, all rights to copy anything are held by the copyright owner. Those rights can be sold or assigned, which is why a record label can reproduce and distribute a given musician's songs. Since copyright holders haven't granted specific permission to make a copy of a song, you aren't allowed to, by the letter of the law.
Within American law, "fair use" is an exception that, among other things, allows people to make copies within certain circumstances and constraints. So making a copy of a CD for your own personal use is within the scope of fair use. That's the way copyright law has worked for quite some time.
But these new claims show that the right to tote your CD's contents around on your MP3 player were never expressly given, and that, for some reason, fair use doesn't apply. The implication is that all this time, they've been graciously allowing us to make tapes and MP3s from CDs bought for personal use.
The RIAA also claims that digital rights management has only increased legitimate access to copyright works.