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.

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Photo by flickr user OpenDemocracy, used under Creative Commons license


  1. The article states that “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.” What is not mentioned are the publishers and songwriters whose songs are also being re-sold. It will be curious to see if ReDigi is apportioning some of the resale price to those parties as well.

  2. Not legal. Again another music service being too clever by half with both the copyright law and the terms that attach to digital music downloads. Here are the relevant sections of Amazon MP3 Terms of Service:

    Rights Granted. Upon your payment of our fees for Digital Content, we grant you a non-exclusive, non-transferable right to use the Digital Content for your personal, non-commercial, entertainment use, subject to and in accordance with the Terms of Use. You may copy, store, transfer and burn the Digital Content only for your personal, non-commercial, entertainment use, subject to and in accordance with the Terms of Use.

    2.2 Restrictions. You represent, warrant and agree that you will use the Service only for your personal, non-commercial, entertainment use and not for any redistribution of the Digital Content or other use restricted in this Section 2.2. You agree not to infringe the rights of the Digital Content’s copyright owners and to comply with all applicable laws in your use of the Digital Content. Except as set forth in Section 2.1 above, you agree that you will not redistribute, transmit, assign, sell, broadcast, rent, share, lend, modify, adapt, edit, license or otherwise transfer or use the Digital Content. You are not granted any synchronization, public performance, promotional use, commercial sale, resale, reproduction or distribution rights for the Digital Content. You acknowledge that the Digital Content embodies the intellectual property of a third party and is protected by law.

    Alas, they’ll probably raise a nice seed fund. When the labels and music services file a suit against them, they’ll complain to the press that they are being persecuted.

  3. not remotely, feasible in that any even partly intelligent person would just keep a back up of an mp3 but sell an original.

    Hell i got a like a 250 gb drive just for a back up. I’d just plug it in, copy the originals, unplug the back up drive and sell the original, rinse and repeat forever.