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Court shuts down resale of digital music files

September 18th, 2013 by Joseph William Singer

Judge Richard J. Sullivan of the Southern District of New York held that owners of digital music have no right to sell that music to others. Capitol Records, LLC v. ReDigi Inc., 2013 WL 1286134 (S.D.N.Y. 2013). The case involved a company named ReDigi that created a software program that allowed legally-owned digital music files to be transferred by sale from one owner to a buyer in a manner that insured that the file was not retained on the original computer. The service also only allowed this to happen one file or album at a time so that it would not become a general means of selling the same song to multiple buyers. The service was limited to files purchased on iTunes or from another ReDigi user. The goal was to create a market for used digital music files.

The court found that the service resulted in a reproduction of the original file and that this was an unlawful copy within the meaning of the copyright act, as well as a violation of the copyright owners distribution rights and that the use was not a “fair use.” ReDigi had claimed that it was taking advantage of the “first sale” doctrine that allows those who buy a book or CD or DVD to resell it on the secondary market. The court disagreed because the sale of a CD does not involve a copy or a reproduction as is the case with digital files. Whether or not it would be a good idea to allow a secondary market in digital files, the court said, was an issue for Congress that might warrant amendment or modernization of the Copyright Act.

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