Court Refuses Music Company Request To Shutter Site Selling “Used MP3s”—for Now

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 7 2012 5:20 PM

Court Refuses Music Company Request To Shutter Site Selling “Used MP3s”—for Now

Can you sell "used" songs from iTunes?

Photo by ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP/Getty Images

On iTunes, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” will cost you $1.29.

Torie Bosch Torie Bosch

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

Or, you can click over to the website ReDigi and pay 79 cents, or about two-thirds the iTunes price. That’s because ReDigi lets people buy and sell “used” songs from iTunes. The copies of “Rolling in the Deep” for sale on ReDigi were uploaded by people who didn’t want them anymore, in exchange for credits to get other songs from ReDigi. This is good for people who want to keep their music collections fresh on the cheap, but not so good for music companies that want to get a cut every time someone purchases a song.


So last month, EMI, which owns Capitol Records, sued ReDigi and asked a court to close the site while the case proceeds. Yesterday, according to ReDigi, a judge denied that request. In a press release, ReDigi calls this “an exciting step forward for ReDigi’s and the purchasing public’s fight to keep consumers’ intrinsic and lawful ownership rights to their digital property intact at a time when Capitol Records is fighting desperately to confiscate these rights.”

CNET’s Greg Sandoval explains:

ReDigi scans a user's computer hard drive to obtain the copy of the song the person wants to sell and then deletes it from the seller's hard drive. The startup, which launched a test version of the service last fall, asserts that the sale of digital music is protected under the same "First Sale" doctrine that protects the sale of CDs, vinyl records, DVDs, and other physical goods.
Ossenmacher has said the company discourages the illegal copying of music with a verification system, but he has also conceded that there's no way for ReDigi to guarantee that users who resell music through his service haven't made copies of their songs and stored them on some other hard drive.
EMI said that for ReDigi to operate its business, it must make copies of the music it finds on hard drives and this makes them unauthorized copies, a violation of copyright law. For this reason, there can be no claim of "First Sale" rights because the songs being sold are not legally obtained.

At the heart of this discussion is what, exactly, constitutes ownership and “copying” now that previously physical objects like records have been transformed into digital items. (Simson Garfinkel considered the question of possession and the cloud in Technology Review in the fall, but unfortunately it’s behind a pay gate now.)*

Read more on CNET and Wired.

*Correction, Feb. 8, 2012: This post originally misspelled the first name of Technology Review contributor Simson Garfinkel.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Syria’s “Moderate” Rebels Are Realizing That U.S. Airstrikes Help Bashar al-Assad, Not Them
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:43 AM “I Didn’t Want to Build the Next Twitter for Cats” Search funds are the quiet, dependable, risk-averse sibling to the startup. 
Oct. 1 2014 11:59 AM Ask a Homo: A Lesbian PDA FAQ
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 10:44 AM Everyone’s Favorite Bob’s Burgers Character Gets a Remix You Can Dance to
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Watch a Crowd Go Wild When Steve Jobs Moves a Laptop in This 1999 Demonstration of WiFi
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.