I have been busy configuring my new toy, and it’s a time consuming process, because I bought it used. (Such a deal!) Anyway, I’m not given to following trends, so after my last MP3 player conked out for the last time, instead of buying a new Apple Ipod, I decided to buy a Creative Nomad Zen. A close friend has one, and I’ve played around with it enough to know that it’s an excellent, versatile, light-weight machine. (Well, light-weight enough for me! Some of these things are too light, and they make me nervous.)
More than one reviewer has rated the sound quality higher than the Ipod, but considering that most of what I listen to was originally recorded in the late 1950s, even if I had the original fidelity of the masters, it wouldn’t come close to what’s recorded today.
What’s taken a lot of time is that this used player has a 30 gigabyte hard drive which arrived two-thirds full (that’s 3,756 songs, to be exact), and all I wanted to do was put all my music in there and organize it into three or four groups, so there’d be nothing else to distract me. That way, if I hit the wrong button, I wouldn’t be listening to stuff like this.
Remarkably, much as I hate “felon rap,” I’m now wondering whether I’ve become some sort of felon by having it in my possession!
Seriously, the way they write laws these days, it wouldn’t surprise me if I committed 3,756 crimes simply by my act of buying a used MP3 player.
(Another reason I hate lawyers.)
Without getting into too much detail, the hypothetical law school exam question for the day is: how do I “do the right thing?”
Should I wipe the hard drive clean and fill it with my legal (mostly obscure, and not for sale anywhere) Doowop collection? Would I be committing a crime if I left the previous owner’s music inside the player? Or only if I listened to it? Or would I have to share it with someone else in order to commit the crime of copyright infringement? Am I allowed to “dump” the files onto my computer hard drive, or must I electronically delete them? Need the transfer be electronic, or was this accomplished when the MP3 player was sent to me in the mail? What about intent?
Will any of my readers be willing to pay my bail?
I promise to be good and never buy any used electronic equipment again!
UPDATE: Techdirt links to this New York Times piece in which writer John Schwartz confesses to similar multiple felonies:

Kenneth Chang is a colleague who recently sold me his iPod. After just a few months, he needed one with more storage.
The beauty of the thing is that it lets you carry all of your music with you, thousands of songs. It’s like having a radio station that plays the music of my life: WJHN.
After buying the slightly scuffed block of plastic and metal, I was ready to load my songs. But then I stopped. Ken had left more than 3,000 songs on the iPod, and a quick scroll through them showed that there were a lot I didn’t own, and many artists I’d never listened to, like a band called “The The,” with a wonderfully brutal song, “Armageddon Days Are Here (Again).”
And so I listened.

Whoa! This is serious crime we’re talking about here.
And it gets worse. Although the writer admits to a certain amount of moral squeamishness, he clearly doesn’t understand the profoundly heinous nature of his slide into a life of crime:

…eavesdropping on Ken’s iPod worried me. I have read about people randomly plugging in to each others’ iPods to figure out what songs are in their friends’ heads, or even in the heads of strangers. (They call it “podjacking.”) But this was a mind meld.
What if I hated Ken’s taste? Would I lose respect for him? I’m not talking about the Paula Abdul songs; we’re all entitled to our guilty pleasures. But what if it was all bubblegum, or deeply dull? It would be like opening his closet and finding Star Trek uniforms. I fretted.

A five year stretch in the federal pen ought to give him something to fret about!
Imagine. Prison time for possessing music you never wanted and don’t even like!
The world is getting crazier and crazier.