Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case that involved consumers’ rights to resell a digital product. Lawyers may get another chance to ponder these questions with tomorrow’s launch of ReDigi, which claims to be the world’s first online marketplace for used digital music.
Despite that claim, ReDigi is not the first such service, but there are two crucial distinctions between the startup and its precursors like Bopaboo and Lexink’s Unloder. One is that it only deals with digital music that it can confirm was purchased legally from a digital retailer. The other is that it deletes the file from the seller’s computer when the transaction is completed.
ReDigi’s technology enables a music file to transfer from one user to another without allowing multiple copies to exist at the same time. The service requires customers use its ReDigi Music Manager client, a platform that according to the company first verifies that the digital song was legally purchased and then removes the music file from the original owner’s computer and synced devices. Previously owned songs are stored by ReDigi until they are resold, at which point the track and license are transferred to its new owner.
“ReDigi’s technology signifies an important transition in the digital space, beyond the scope of what anyone thought was possible,” CEO John Ossenmacher said in a statement. “By allowing consumers to sell their used digital music, we are giving digital goods a resale value for the first time ever and opening a new realm of what is possible in the digital age.”
The company says it has sophisticated technologies for determining if songs offered for sale were legitimately purchased. “It is a bit like CSI: ReDigi,” Larry Rudolph, ReDigi chief technology officer, said in a statement. “In addition to the obvious, there are many subtle clues that determine resale eligibility of each track. We are extremely cautious and our technology is incredibly thorough in determining the eligibility of a music file. ”
Besides being designed to address the music industry’s legal concerns, ReDigi also gives artists and labels a significant portion of all proceeds from the sale and each subsequent resale of their music. “We are excited about the innovative programs that we have created to support artists and labels,” said Ossenmacher. “As we move forward, social responsibility will remain one of our highest priorities.”
That wasn’t enough to save Bopaboo, which did the same thing, but admittedly that long-defunct service did not have the ownership and transfer safeguards ReDigi has in place.
The law already treats music as a special case when it comes to the First Sale Doctrine by making it illegal to rent, lease or lend music for commercial advantage [The Record Rental Amendment of 1984, [17 U.S.C. § 109(b)(1)(A)].
Then there’s Vernor v. Autodesk Inc. (docket number 10-1421), which sought to have the Supreme Court decide whether the owner of a copyright in a work, by granting a limited license, can withhold ownership of particular copies of that work and thus deprive the public of the right “to sell or otherwise dispose of” those copies as provided for in the Copyright Act and commonly referred to as the First Sale Doctrine. Additionally, it was asked to consider if it’s legal to make essential temporary copies for using or transferring files. The Supreme Court declined to hear that case, leaving stand the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision.
Digital Media Wire is speaking with ReDigi and will revisit this story in more depth.
Related links:OpenDemocracy, used under Creative Commons license