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.
My heart doesn’t bleed for textbook publishers.
It wasn’t that long ago that I had to buy a 4th edition English book. I didn’t know the language had changed so much since the previous year.
Colleges rape students when it comes to books.
Then they rape their minds.
Foreign owned so called US publishers rape student for college textbooks.
The thing about Microsoft and their software.
It is my understanding that you buy/license the OS, but can use it on different PCs, but not at the same time.
So, if you bought a PC with Windows* and that machine crashes, you can reload the OS to a new/different machine.
Since most PCs come with the Microsoft OS preloaded, they have a sticker on the box with the registration/license code. You can pick up an old or inoperable PC pretty cheap, much less than the cost to buy the OS as a stand alone program.
So, if you need a new/newer or a version of Microsoft’s OS, you may want to look at buying a used machine.
Legally the principle is the same, but logistically it’s very different. If I sell a book I don’t have the book anymore, I may have copied it but copies lose quality. If I sell a CD I don’t have it anymore, I may have copied it, but again on some level I’ve lost quality if only on the cover and liner notes. If I sell an MP3 chances are I still have it, even if they’re buying software deletes it from my system I have other completely identical copies (guaranteed, I always have at least 2 versions of my MP3, the one I use, the backup and until I do my periodic cleanup the source).
It’s the copy fidelity that’s the problem. For things up until files copies lose some kind of fidelity, so if you sell your original but keep your backup you’re keeping an inferior product. An MP3 is an MP3 is an MP3, my backup is completely identical to the original, and in fact even in selling the original I’m really making another copy, I’m not selling those sectors on my HD, I’m selling that sequence of ones and zeros to your HD. It does matter to the legal principle, because now you’re selling copies not the original, and only the copyright holder is allowed to sell copies.
Yeah, now they tell us!!
I had to pay over $300 for my son’s Discrete math book at his university — new copies were ALL that were available — and no rentals to be had. Found out later the Chinese kids were downloading the book FOR FREE from China!!
At least the math book will be used over 3 courses.
They had to add "IM'ing" and "sexting" to the lexicon.
That’s not my legal theory. I’m pointing to the physical reality. If I rip a CD and sell the original I’m still losing something, I probably ripped to a lower bit rate, and even if I didn’t I’m losing liner notes and cover art, I may have scanned those but that’s an analog process which ALWAYS loses fidelity in copying. So one way or the other by selling the original I have lost it, I now am left with a lesser copy.
If I copy an MP3 file and sell the original I’ve lost nothing, I have an exact copy of those ones and zeros. And also remember how selling of files works, really you NEVER sell the original, the “original” is that sequence of ones and zeros on your HD, when you sell that you keep the sectors, the ones and zeros get copied to somebody else’s HD, they might get deleted from yours but you still sold a COPY not the original.
Redigi will lose because they say they’re doing something they can’t. They’ll get up in court and say they make sure the original is gone and can’t be used again, and then the RIAA will bring up a rebuttal witness that will describe the dozens of different ways there are around that, and their defense will be gone. They’re attempting to leverage copy protection that everybody in the industry knows doesn’t actually work, and that will be the counter. It’s unfortunate because the idea they have isn’t a bad one, but the physical reality of how these things works and the legal reality of how they interact with copyright law will kill them.
In the beginning, we were told that CD's were expensive because there were so few CD manufacturing plants in the USA because it was such new technology, but that the costs would come down as more CD plants were built. The prices never came down.
Then the industry realized that it could cut out its manufacturing and distribution costs by offloading the pressing of CDs to the consumer by virtue of CD writers on all the new PCs. The record companies no longer had to create the printed CD, they could send the digital copies to the customer to burn the CDs themselves. The prices never came down, but the brick-and-mortar storefonts began to disappear.
Then the miniaturization of technology produced the iPod and other MP3 players, so the physical CD was no longer necessary since the digital source could be played directly. The prices never came down, but the idea of selling a bundle of songs as an "album" changed back to the 1950's model of buying singles.
So now that the industry was able to cut its manufacturing and distribution costs because of technology by offloading the work to their customers, they're now going after those customers for doing what the industry asked them to do.
Due to inflation the prices functionally came down, as $17 wasn’t worth as much as $17 had been.
The record companies had nothing to do with CD burners in PCs, in fact they were against them. Attempting to get a surtax added to all blank CDs sold (which they’d successfully done with cassettes back in the 80s, while everybody was paying attention to the PMRC the cassette tax got passed in another room).
And the record companies stood against iPods and similar. It was a long hard road for Apple to get any of the companies to sign on, and they wanted lots of copy protection assurances. Original Apple files couldn’t be copied to anything but iPods, couldn’t even re-arrange them on your computer or they’d “expire”. Which of course everybody figured out how to circumvent. And of course in the meantime CDs have come WAY down in price, especially when you consider inflation.
All that stuff you’re saying was the industry offloading work is actually stuff the industry was against even happening.
FReepmail me to subscribe to or unsubscribe from the SCOTUS ping list.
Cause aproxamatly $350 million just ain’t enough from your friends in low places.
hehe, think they would ship to Japan? .. hmm.. on second thought, scratch that :p
300 is a steal on books nowadays!
pre-med books can go as high as $1,200, and you MUST have the current one, which they check. the only thing my kid can see that changes is the ISBN code and the cover.
That is true...a digital copy is not the same as a book photocopy etc. in terms of quality.