Strong opinions, weakly held

Physical CDs, what should I do with them?

We’re reorganizing the closet, and I had the chance to get down all of the boxes of CDs that I’ve accumulated over the years. The question is, what do I do with them? I never touch them any more, because I’ve ripped them all. I have a copy on my laptop, a backup on an external hard drive, and another backup copy on my iPod. Do I really need the CDs any more?

Would you keep them? If not, what would you do with them?


  1. Ginger Stampley

    July 6, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Ours are boxed in the closet. We keep them for archival purposes (we lost a hard drive full of music in a lightning strike) and as licenses for our ripped copies.

  2. I am thinking about putting mine in storage. I think I need to keep them to prove my fair use of the music I have on my computer.

    I do know others who have ripped their whole collection, then sold off the physical disks.

  3. I had the same idea you have — why do I really need these anymore? I had digitalized my music collection a long while ago and I never seemed to need the CDs anymore. However, I have recently decided to switch from the Ogg Vorbis format back to MP3 and I can tell you I am glad that I kept at least some of my music on CDs. I don’t know what format you keep your music in — if it’s lossless, then no problem. If you’re keeping it in a lossy format, however, do consider what a format change could do to you and where you’d still be able to get your music from.

  4. Double check that your backup strategy is robust (automated, offsite, regularly verified), save any cover art or nice packaging that you’re particularly fond of and then throw the rest out.

    The CDs are mostly useless as backups. Re-ripping them would take a lot longer than downloading in most cases. If the discs are there to make you feel better about your backup strategy not being good enough, stop fooling yourself and spend the money and time to do proper backups that you can be confident of.

    Keeping CDs as a “license” or to “prove fair use” is pointless. The RIAA isn’t going to come to your house and inspect your hard-drive. They bust people who are uploading or downloading. If you’re caught doing that, owning the CD doesn’t serve as any kind of legal protection for you. Owning the CD might make you feel morally justified in downloading an album off bittorrent, but from a legal standpoint, you’re deluding yourself.

    So toss them and use the space for something better than obsolete technology.

  5. Re-shingle the roof.

  6. Keeping CDs as a “license” or to “prove fair use” is pointless.

    Okay, but then what do you do with the CDs? If you give them away or sell them, you’re technically violating the law. And throwing them away seems like such a waste.

  7. throwing them away seems like such a waste

    Living in Manhattan for a decade and moving from tiny apartment to tiny apartment a few times in that time period has taught me that learning to throw away anything you don’t really need to keep will pay for itself many times over.

  8. So, silly question: Say you rip the CDs to something lossless, maybe AIFF. The technology doesn’t matter, the notion is that there’s nothing more to be gained from the physical medium.

    Clearly selling the CDs and retaining the files is illegal (and unethical), but if you just throw the CDs away, should the RIAA ever come knocking on your door how do you prove that you own the rights to have those files?

    In these days of printers getting C&D letters, I’ll be keeping my physical media, even if only in a box in the attic, for as long as I’ve got those files anywhere on my network. It’s the only proof that I’ve got that I have some right to them.

  9. I think I’m going to get some binders and move the CDs to the binder. I’ll still have them around in case the music police raid my place or if something better than MP3 comes along later, but I won’t have all of those annoying jewel boxes taking up space.

    Throwing the CDs away seems wasteful and selling them or giving them to someone else is unethical (since I still have the electronic copies).

  10. I moved mine to binders. It’s not a perfect solution ’cause now I have a small stack of binders to shuffle around with me, but I was really, really surprised at how heavy and how much space those jewel cases took up when I tossed them out (which also felt pretty wasteful to me, but I didn’t know what else to do with them.)

  11. if you just throw the CDs away, should the RIAA ever come knocking on your door how do you prove that you own the rights to have those files?

    First, the RIAA has never “come knocking” on anyone’s door in that way. If you’re not sharing your files, you have nothing to fear there. If you are sharing files and get caught, you’re screwed whether you have CDs or not.

    Second, if, for some reason, they did come knocking, what would having the CDs gain you? There are two possible interpretations of fair use wrt ripping your CD collection. The RIAA has argued that fair use doesn’t cover ripping your CDs to mp3 for personal use (they want you to pay them again any time you format shift). If that interpretation wins out, clearly keeping the CDs hasn’t helped you. The more reasonable interpretation of fair use is that you have the right to rip your CDs for personal use and backup purposes. With that interpretation, there’s still no burden on you to prove that you originally obtained the music legally (eg, imagine that you’d ripped your CDs for backups and then lost your CD collection in a fire. That’s exactly what “backups” are for, right?).

  12. Univenture binders have come in quite handy in my quest to save space.

  13. I can see how selling them would be illegal but how is giving them away against the law?

    My two cents is; find some lower income school, donate them to the music teacher, (if they have one, if not art teacher/principal etc) ask them to bundle them up and give them away in packs to kids who really like music.

  14. Don’t ask me — I still have vinyl! At least I can still play the CDs.

  15. I came across a chair made out of used books on Boing Boing: http://www.boingboing.net/2008/07/16/chair-made-from-disc.html

    Perhaps with your cds you can form a big radio. A tribute to the archaic.

  16. lets face it folks , the days of physical cds are over

  17. What about those of us who actually LIKE buying CDs? You know, collectors? People that actually enjoy going to the music store, buying CDs to build their collection. Some of us out there LIKE the CD cases and the liner notes, etc. Yes it does take up alot of space, especially if you have collected hundreds of CDs, but it really makes me sad to see that they are becoming obsolete. Don’t get me wrong, I have also backed up all my CDs to my computer, and I use the mp3s just as much as I use the CDs, but from a collector’s standpoint, I think it kind of stinks.

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