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RIAA goes after ReDigi for selling "used" iTunes tracks

updated 10:25 pm EST, Tue November 15, 2011

Trade group demands access to sales records

The Recording Industry Association of America has sent a cease-and-desist letter to ReDigi, threatening to sue the company over its marketplace for "used" digital tracks. The trade group demands that ReDigi shutter its operations, erase references to RIAA member artists from its site, "quarantine" current digital copies and provide access to sales records.

ReDigi allows users to upload unwanted music and list the tracks for sale, earning $0.20 per track for unsold uploads and an additional $0.12 per track once the content sells. The money is actually "coupons" that enable users to purchase tracks that have been listed for sale by other ReDigi users. Tracks are sold at a slight discount over iTunes, with popular songs listed for $0.79.

The company argues that its service is legal, relying on technology that claims to verify that tracks actually originated from legitimate sources, such as iTunes, and a subsequently wiped from a user's hard drive and synced devices before being sold to other users.

"This is how ReDigi stays legit, and how you now have access to an incredible marketplace where rights long accepted in the physical world may now be applied to digital goods," ReDigi writes in its FAQ.

Aside from the debate regarding source verification, the company is relying on the "first-sale doctrine" as a legal defense. The doctrine allows individuals to transfer ownership of a legitimate copy of a copyrighted work.

The RIAA argues that ReDigi's marketplace is still in violation of the first-sale doctrine, as the Copyright Act only protects sales of a "particular copy." The organization claims the the company must make a copy of each track and delete the original, which is not explicitly covered by the doctrine.

"[The Copyright Act] does not permit the owner to make another copy, sell the second copy and destroy the original," the RIAA wrote in its letter to the company. "Thus, even if ReDigi's software and system works as described by Redigi (i.e. that it deletes the original copy before it makes the sale), ReDigi would still be liable for copyright infringement."

It remains unclear if ReDigi will concede and shutter its services, or hold its ground and risk a court battle. [via Ars Technica and CNET]

by MacNN Staff



    Comment buried. Show
  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969


    IT makes one wonder...

    where these idiots find the lawyers who tell them this will fly. Perversion of first use/sale doctrine just to get around digital downloads. verification? Is there anyone in the MacNN audience who believes this? If so, you better call them up and tell them you will help save them from spending hundreds of thousands of somebody's dollars. The CRIMINAL mind ALWYAS believes in what they are doing by doing it until they DO believe it!

  1. swissmann

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Should be Legal

    If I bought a Vinyl record, or audio cassette, or CD and wanted to sell it, or give it to someone else when I didn't listen to it anymore I could. With digital media I buy it and I'm stuck with it??? I can't think of a lot of other things that you can't sell if you own it. I agree it's complicated to verify but if I buy something I want to be able to have the right to sell it if I want to.

  1. AlenShapiro

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Going to be interesting...

    When you buy something digital you are not buying something physical, you are buying a pattern of bits (or "state"). That pattern is copied and destroyed many times from disk to RAM, e.g. into virtual memory (represented in pieces of the pattern on disk and other physical media). When I upgrade my computer, I copy that "state" to the new computer and sell the old one after wiping its disk. I still own a license to that set pattern of bits and I've done nothing wrong by copying my licensed pattern to another machine and deleting the original.

    I should be able to sell my rights to the pattern I have licensed (unless my license specifically says I am not allowed to do so, in which case, it would be a specifically restricted license).

    Unless, of course, you believe the RIAA and their lawyers who would like to do away with any "fair use" movement of the "state" I have licensed. Why would they want to do that?

    It is all about control and job-security for the middle man, the RIAA, who are between the pattern producers (artists) and the pattern users (the rest of us). They have created a highly controlled distribution structure and require the pattern producers to sell their work cheaply to them to make use of that structure. Then under the guise of protecting the pattern producers they police the distribution of patterns by selling pattern licenses to the rest of us. This worked quite well until digital copying became technically easy and widespread, at which time they introduced an escalating series of legal impediments to copying patterns, including levies on copy media and hardware. More recently they have forced the introduction of something called Digital Rights Management (DRM).

    DRM is an artificial mechanism that changes the pattern I have licensed into another one. This new pattern (an encryption) will only reproduce the original licensed pattern when a (supposedly) secret algorithm is applied. DRM is an artificial mechanism that polices my use of the original licensed pattern and attempts to prevent me from distributing it, thereby breaking my license. Another tool they introduced - the DMCA criminalizes interference with DRM and provides the RIAA with a legal footing to harass pattern users. All this in an attempt to keep users in line so they will continue buying patterns from the distribution structure and not obtaining these patterns directly from other users.

    DRM has demonstrably failed to produce the desired effect. It has been soundly rejected by the pattern-using public at large and resulted in an increase in pattern piracy (or unlicensed pattern copying and distribution among users). The RIAA needed to escalate or give up. They have chosen to escalate.

    Having failed to achieve the desired effect by using technical mechanisms (DRM), the RIAA is trying to criminalize general fair-use in ever-increasing invasions of pattern-user's privacy and quiet enjoyment of the patterns they have licensed. It is an example of power-creep many governments would be proud of and all involving something that is essentially intangible.

    Ultimately the RIAA will not be able to protect their distribution structure. To do so they would have to dismantle social networks and the internet (which they are trying to do through the introduction of government sanctioned controls at the ISP level). They are spitting into the wind and will eventually fail. The only question is how much harm they do to art, society, and technology before they disappear.

  1. mgpalma

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I haven't checked, but...

    Aren't the terms of use for digital music the same as movies, in that you are 'licensed' the right to listen watch it, but that license can be revoked at anytime? Just like software? If that's the case, this business is NOT legit without the license owner releasing the license. Just wondering, I'm no expert...

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