musicians with masks, PicassoSix months ago I set out to make sure all the digital music on my devices was legitimate. How did the project go?

Now there are legal and affordable ways to legitimately own digital music, there are no excuses for owning pirated material. For years the music industry blamed the internet for its decline. That was never the whole story.

Or maybe not, checking all the songs stored on my computer are legal proved harder than expected.

Just to be clear, illegal means songs I haven’t paid for when I probably should have paid for. If I own the CD, then rips for my personal use are legal.

Songs downloaded from band sites or other legitimate online services offering free material don’t count. This last category confuses things a lot because often there’s no audit trail.

When I started there were 15,000+ songs in my iTunes library. I guess most were illegal.

Digital music mainly legal

Today I’ve around 10,000 songs. Nearly all are legal. If I come across anything potentially dodgy, I buy a legal copy or trash the file.

I’d like to say all are 100 percent kosher, but that’s not realistic. I’ve deleted everything I know is dodgy. Where possible I’ve either purchased songs from iTunes, brought the music on CD or downloaded them from Auckland Library’s Freegal service.

One big problem is knowing for sure something is legal. iTunes songs are straightforward, I can tell from the app what was paid for and downloaded. With CD rips I can look at the physical media.

There’s nothing so obvious on the Freegal songs to tell me they were legitimate free downloads. The same goes for other legitimate free downloads.

The other huge problem is that Apple’s New Zealand iTunes site doesn’t offer many of the songs I’d like to buy – nor does Amazon. Generally I note the song and head off to TradeMe or Real Groovy to find a CD copy – most CDs cost under $10 and can be a much cheaper way of buying music than iTunes.

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