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Reselling iTunes Library is Copyright Infringement, Court Says

Posted by: , 18:24 AEST, Mon April 8, 2013

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Reselling your legally purchased iTunes library is copyright infringement, a U.S. Federal court finds, reconfirming the idea that you don't own what you buy in the digital age
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Image/Photo Credit: Ryuichi IKEDA @ Flickr, CC

A U.S. federal court has handed down a decision that affirms the notion that what you "buy" on iTunes doesn't belong to you at all.

The case was brought to the court's attention when a new start-up, ReDigi, was sued by record labels for copyright infringement. ReDigi had a new take on digital music, by allowing users to sell their pre-owned digital music collections.

ReDigi cited the First-sale Doctrine, which limits the rights of the rights holder on the copyrighted works sold to the first sale only. It is this century doctrine that allows people to sell their used items. Only two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the validity of the doctrine, and formally extended it to apply to foreign based works.

The record labels, represented in this case by Capitol Records, disagreed with the use of the First-sale Doctrine in the case of digital music. Capitol Records argued that what ReDigi was selling was an unauthorized copy of the music, and as such, the First-sale Doctrine did not apply.

And New York District Court Judge Richard Sullivan sided with Capitol Records. Sullivan noted the differences between digital content and physical objects such as music CDs, and said that the transfer of ownership that ReDigi allowed was simply the act of making a digital copy, regardless of whether the original files were deleted or not.

"The court cannot of its own accord condone the wholesale application of the first sale defence to the digital sphere, particularly when Congress itself has declined to take that step," Sullivan noted in his ruling.


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