Today there are several services that allow people to quickly and efficiently resell used products online. And while platforms like eBay, Amazon and LetGo are popular places to sell everything from used furniture and clothing to electronic products, another site, RedGI, wants to allow users to resell rarely used digital music files over the Internet. The problem? That business model is against the law. After losing in district court, RedIGi appealed to the Second Circuit, where oral arguments were heard earlier this week.
The arguments focused mainly on the doctrine of the first sale, whether digital files constitute “material objects” as required for the doctrine to apply, and whether the reproduction of the sound recording is done through the distribution process on the RedGI platform. Judge Leval also opined that there is a high probability that the Supreme Court will take this case. When pressed on the issue of relative importance, Welsh referred to the London-Sire Records case, in which the court stated that “electronic files are material objects. However, as one of the judges quickly pointed out, the London-Sire court specifically states that “the electronic archive (or, perhaps more precisely, the appropriate segment of the hard drive) is a material object.
Instead, he argued that technology “moves the digital file, which, according to him, is equivalent to a material object from one computer to another. Many people are copying their CDs and sharing their MP3 files on the Internet, and many don't realize that their actions may have legal implications. For example, digital distribution allows you to store thousands of digital music files on a device that fits in your pocket and access them through several devices, whereas in the past no one carried thousands of CDs in their pocket and their ability to listen to a given CD was dependent on the physical presence of that CD. A file can be downloaded millions of times and duplicated on millions of computers, but no property has been moved.
No record company or store is being scammed, since you must be the owner of the CD before you can extract an MP3 from it. There is no discernible difference between a “used” digital music file and a “new” one, remember that these files are identical copies of the originals, and no matter how many times you listen to a music file, it remains as good as new. It's no more legal to share your MP3 collection over the Internet than to lend an album to a friend so they can copy it to tape. The funny thing is that I haven't been downloading MP3s, which the RIAA considers to be the only important reason why CD sales have dropped.
In addition, you can legally copy the music you own, such as making a cassette tape from an LP or CD, or copying MP3 files to play on your iPod.