Skip to comments.Is It Legal To Sell Your Old MP3s?
Posted on 03/20/2013 11:55:59 AM PDT by nickcarraway
Say you buy a textbook in another country, where textbooks are cheap. Then you bring the book back to the U.S. and sell it at a profit. Did you break the law?
No, you didn't. In a ruling that came down yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a student who had his friends and relatives buy textbooks in Thailand which he later re-sold in the U.S. on eBay.
The ruling was a key moment in something called the "first sale" doctrine, which says that, if you buy something that's copyrighted, you're allowed to "sell or otherwise dispose" of it without the permission of the copyright owner.
The publishing industry was, not surprisingly, unhappy with the decision. The Association of American Publishers put out a statement that said:
The Court's interpretation of the 'first sale' provision of US copyright law will discourage the active export of US copyrighted works. It will also reduce the ability of educators and students in foreign countries to have access to US-produced educational materials, widely considered the world's gold standard. The ruling means "you can't have the ghost of copyright following the object around and policing it, " said Jason Schultz, a law professor at UC Berkeley who filed an amicus brief on behalf of the student. When I talked to him yesterday, he told me the case has important implications for interpreting "first sale" doctrine in the digital world.
A literal case in point: If you buy a song off of iTunes, can you turn around and sell it to someone else?
There's a company called ReDigi that's basically a digital version of a used record store. You can sell them your old mp3s, and you can buy "used" mp3s that other people have sold.
Capitol Records is suing ReDigi for copyright infringement. The complaint alleges that "ReDigi makes and assists its users in making systematic, repeated and unauthorized reproductions and distributions of Plaintiffs copyrighted sound recordings."
ReDigi says what it's doing is perfectly legal under the "first sale" doctrine.
The company argues that you own the songs, and you should be able to resell them just like you can a physical CD. It says its technology can ensure compliance with copyright law, first by verifying that you legally own a song, and then by removing all traces of the song from your computer and synced devices once you decide to sell it.
Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling only covers physical copies of copyrighted works, and its implications for digital resale are unclear. But Schultz says the ruling could sway the judge in the ReDigi case.
"The decision says first sale is really important and has always been part of law. I think it will push him to find a way for ReDigi to work, to find a way forward for them that copyright allows," Schultz said.
Of course, Redigi isn't the only company planning for the new digital resale future. Both Apple and Amazon recently applied for patents which would allow users to resell digital content like e-books, music and movies to other users. According to the NY Times, both patents call for the seller to lose access to the file after the transfer has occurred.
It’s the same with beer: you don’t buy it, you rent it!
copyright means just that...You can’t copy my book and sell it. Owners of the copyright and publishers are paid by the unit.
Redigi will lose this case because they’re claiming their software does something it cannot possibly do. There’s no way to prevent people from keeping a copy of the song. there’s too many loopholes available in the technology. The concept itself is interesting and probably should be legal, but the nature of file based property is that all sales are copies, and copying is exactly what copyright law is supposed to control.
Who gives a care if it’s legal. Do it anyway. Copyright law is idiotic, and at least you bought it legally the first time.
If you buy an MP3 and listen to it in the, and there are passengers, you a breaking the law, because those passaengers didn’t pay the owners of the copyright for it. They are stealing the song.
So if I have a yard sale and sell some of my old books, the Association of American Publishers will consider me a “criminal”? Nice.
It really doesn’t matter that it’s a digital copy v. a physical one. Legally, the principle is the same. You should have the right to sell it. As long as they make a reasonable effort to make sure there is not a copy of it on the computer with a search program or something, that is adequate.
Even with physical CDs, there is no way to ensure you didn’t make a copy of the movie or CD prior to selling it.
There is simply no way to do so. There is no way to ensure you didn’t take a photo of every page of a book before you sold it.
The fact that it’s easier to make a copy with a completely digital copy is irrelevant to the legal principles.
Garth Brooks didn’t even want stores to be able to sell used CDs.
The ruling went in your favor. You can sell your books.
Barnes and Noble’s monopoly over school textbook sales at universities needs to be investigated. It’s called price fixing.
If you have and old MP5 you want to sell let me know.
Let me google that for you - Internet online book sellers.
Microsoft has argued that you buy a LICENSE to use their software, not the physical software itself and that you have no right of resale.
MS even used to shut down ebay sales of SEALED software if it came bundled with a computer and you are not an authorized vendor for the software title.
Bill Gates apparently doesn’t have enough money even though he insists that death panels are a good idea for the peons and that “you” aren’t paying enough taxes.
No, you could always do that under the "first sale" doctrine (a copyright holder gets to collect its royalty only the first time the copyrighted thing gets sold). No one ever disputed that so long as you bought your books in the U.S.
The issue in this case came about because textbooks are subsidized and/or price controlled in some foreign countries, so it created an arbitrage opportunity for people who could buy books overseas and re-sell them in the U.S. The specific issue before the Court yesterday was whether the "first sale" of a copyrighted item means only the first sale in the U.S.; the Court ruled (6-3) that a first sale anywhere counts.
Oh, yeah, I have the complete works of the Doodletown Pipers and Yoko Ono on H&K. Let me know how much you are willing to pay.
Yeah, it’s a pity you can’t just download an MP5 from PirateBay. Yet.
I don’t know if I buy that that arbitrage is so possible. If you buy a textbook cheaper in Thailand, and sell it for more in the U.S., you are adding a lot to the cost in transporting it. Sure, this girl did it as a one-off, but is there evidence this is cost effective for some large scale enterprise?
So, what, under your theory, selling of any used CD is now illegal because there could be a copy out there somewhere?
The question really becomes: Can copyright holders hold buyers to the license scheme? Because you do not buy a copy of a track off of iTunes, you pay a one time fee to license a digital copy of it, which you're permitted to do various things with (including burning it to a CD in some cases.)
Does that license survive scrutiny, or is it like every other attempt to use the forced license scheme: A sales technique that has no standing in the court of law.
I think Redigi has a long road ahead of them, but I don't think they'll lose out of hand. They've attempted to do due diligence, which is far more than any used CD seller anywhere does. That example could be what tips the scales in this case.
All I know is that the U.S. publishing industry thought it was a possibility, and spent a lot of money (way more than the amount of damages claimed in this case) to bring the issue all the way to the Supreme Court.
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