MP3s being resold online by ReDigi has not happened without any scuffle. According to a Wired report, a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Capitol Records is trying to stop them dead “in their tracks.” Instead, the judge did not grant any injunction and set a trial date for August.
The key issue in this story is the right of an owner of copyrighted materials to offer them for sale. It’s sometimes called the “First Sale” doctrine. This precedent, set by the Supreme Court of the United States, basically says if you bought a copyrighted work, once you own it, you do not need further permission to sell it to someone else.So, ReDigi has taken it upon themselves to allow people to upload music files to their cloud, offer them for sale and ReDigi makes up to a 15% commission.
Sure, the prices of songs aren’t pennies on the dollar like used cassettes, they are around 75-85¢ each, which saves you a few pennies – especially if you are buying a bunch of tracks. Sure, we have all come to accept 99¢ as a decent price for an audio track – I click on “buy now” all the time to download songs I hear on satellite radio on my phone, but I remember when the same price got you not one, but TWO songs on a “cassette single” or even when it was $1.49 for a vinyl single (45 not 12″). Considering the second song you got was usually not too compelling, perhaps we devalue it to only 25¢ of the 99¢ for the cassette. Now, let’s remove the cost of the physical media, packaging, shipment and distrubution. We are probably down to mere pennies. And yet, we are okay with paying 99¢. Okay, it’s 2012, not 1982, so I’ll take the price hike.
The record labels seem to believe that you cannot resell their copyrighted works. While ReDigi provides testimony that their system does not allow the original owner to use the file again, and it’s pretty much “stuck” with the purchaser, everyone’s feathers are still ruffled.
Personally, I can see where there is a very grey line about digital media. I mean, if I have a 24 hour viewing of a downloaded movie, can I sell it to someone else once I’ve watched it? Sounds like a lucrative business model for popular titles, right?
The Court has set an August trial for this case, which will likely be well attended and reported on by the news. Due to the Courts lack of interest in imposing any immediate sanctions against ReDigi, you are free to upload your music, listen to it from the cloud or offer it for sale to someone else until August – at least.
Do you think people should be allowed to sell digital works which they purchased and no longer want? Will this extend to ebooks and other digital media including video content? As technology continues to progress – the evolving legal position on such matters is bound to continue to change. I would personally not be surprised if this case ended up in the Supreme Court to decide.