General Question

nettodo's avatar

Legality of downloading album art?

Asked by nettodo (208 points ) August 4th, 2012

I just found out that the album art (metadata) of my music library is extremely messed up. Is it legal to download album cover art for the sole purpose of cleaning up messed up metadata and nothing else?

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7 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

iTunes allows you to download from within the application and will add it to your songs. Even ones you didn’t buy in iTunes. So I think it is safe to say the cops aren’t going to nab you for getting some album art off Amazon.

nettodo's avatar

The library is actually in Google Play Music, but yes, I did just grab the art from Amazon and put it there. Definitely reassuring!

SavoirFaire's avatar

There are two answers to this question: the theoretical answer and the practical answer. In theory, no one can answer your question. There is very little case law regarding album art, and none of it that I can find concerns your situation or anything closely resembling it. This is one of those things no one has a strong interest in clarifying through court action because both sides see the negative consequences of a potential loss as outweighing the benefits of a potential win. At present, the metadata is not considered separately from the song file itself, and so the legality of the former is dependent upon the legality of the latter.

In practice, there is virtually no chance that anyone would ever take legal action against you for downloading cover art for songs you legally own. This is especially true if you are just restoring what was originally there. That is, if by “cleaning up messed up metadata” you mean “the song came with the correct cover art and something went wrong somewhere along the way,” no one is going to care. Your actions do not threaten anyone’s copyright, and it would be nearly impossible to win a case against you without spending far more than it would be worth. So you have little to be worried about regardless of theory.

Standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. The above is based on seminars I’ve taken on copyright law and discussions with colleagues who have studied and/or practiced copyright law. The information may be out of date or based on a misunderstanding. It is always advisable to speak to a practicing lawyer.

_Whitetigress's avatar

I tend to Google an image and save it to desktop, followed by dragging it to the album (all selected) on iTunes. I just view it as metadata and pairing it with the song that it belongs to.

bolwerk's avatar

I would say, yes. It’s copyrighted material, and pirating copyrighted material is illega.

That said, I say go for it. You certainly have a moral right to download what you please regardless of what the law says, and if you have access, Usenet might be a good way to do it undetected.

Lightlyseared's avatar

If it’s for personal use you are probably OK.

_Whitetigress's avatar

@Lightlyseared Agreed, now if you’re selling it, that’s when it becomes illegal I believe.

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