In a development that most industry observers were expecting, digital music resale service ReDigi received a letter from the Recording Industry Association of America demanding among other things that it cease operations, hand over copies of its sales records, and “quarantine” all of its digital music so that it can’t be accessed for any purpose except totting up how much ReDigi owes the record labels.

The RIAA’s letter, which Digital Media Wire has obtained a copy of, makes several specific assertions regarding why it believes ReDigi is acting illegally. One is that it displays photos and cover art for commercial gain without permission. Another is that the service makes a copy of each song as it moves through the ReDigi servers, which violates copyright law and the anti-circumvention provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And a third is that ReDigi enables users to hear a 30-second sample of each available track, but it does not have any streaming music licenses in place to do so.

ReDigi obviously disagrees. “ReDigi’s core business and technology platform protect and promote the rights of copyright holders, and are designed that way through all phases of the process,” the company said in a statement sent to Digital Media Wire. “ReDigi brings significant new technology to support copyright protection initiatives in the digital age.”

Unlike earlier attempts to create a market for previously owned digital music files, ReDigi only deals with digital music that it can confirm was purchased legally from a digital retailer. Additionally, the company said, “ReDigi’s technology provides a mechanism, once a consumer makes the choice to sell a digital track, one that the consumer rightfully owns, by which all known copies and future synced copies are removed.” It also points out that this is more protection than is available for CDs and other physical forms of media.

ReDigi takes the position that its service is covered by the first sale doctrine, which permits people to resell copyrighted material they purchased and is codified in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 109. Jennifer L. Pariser, senior vice president of litigation for the RIAA, countered in her Cease and Desist letter, “That provision … does not permit the owner to make another copy, sell the second copy and destroy the original. Thus, even if ReDigi’s software and system works as described by ReDigi (i.e. that it deletes the original copy before it makes the sale), ReDigi would still be liable for copyright infringement.”

ReDigi does not currently intend to make further comments to the press regarding the RIAA situation until the matter is resolved, but it is trying to garner support from ordinary consumers. Tuesday afternoon it sent a tweet that said: “Music fans, ReDigi thinks it is your right to sell digital tracks you have purchased. Do you agree? #redigirevolution.”

So far, none of the services selling the digital tracks in the first place have voiced an opinion regarding ReDigi, even though it seems likely that consumers would have to violate their terms of service to resell music. Apple’s terms for iTunes are jumbled up in legalese intended to apply to everything Apple sells, but others like Amazon, Emusic and Rhapsody are pretty clear.

Emusic, for example, says: “You acknowledge and agree that you have no right to provide any files obtained through the Service to any other party or through any other means.”

Rhapsody says: “All licenses to download are personal to the customer. Your request to ‘purchase’ a track by downloading is personal to you, and the track may not be used, sold, rented, transferred, licensed or otherwise provided to any other user.” (The intriguing quote marks around “purchase” are Rhapsody’s.)

Amazon gets a little wrapped up in jargon, but it does say, “You are not granted any synchronization, public performance, promotional use, commercial sale, resale, reproduction or distribution rights for the Digital Content.”

Related links: –

New York Times’ Media Decoder –

Digital Media Wire’s previous story –

ReDigi –

Amazon MP3 Music Service: Terms of Use –

Apple Terms of Use –

Emusic Terms of Use –

Rhapsody Terms of Use –

Photo by Flickr user cognoscenti, used under Creative Commons license