Slashdot is reporting that selling used MP3s has been ruled legal. Unfortunately, Slashdot jumped the gun on that–it’s not quite what happened. Capitol Records asked a judge to shut down Redigi, and the judge refused. So Redigi can continue to operate, at least until the case goes to trial.
That in itself is a victory. But this isn’t the Super Bowl, where it’s just one game. More like the World Series.
Redigi is trying to argue that the First Sale Doctrine applies to MP3s. The First Sale Doctrine is the idea that after a consumer buys something, the same consumer is free to resell it when it outlives its usefulness. So when your boy band phase is over, you’re not stuck with those MP3s.
After spending my entire life watching Disney have its way with copyright law, I always assumed the digital era would mean the ultimate end of First Sale, meaning no more used sales. Once you bought something, you were stuck with it, and no buying cut-rate used copies either. And then the next step would be lack of ownership entirely–we’d be able to listen to whatever we wanted, but we’d get a bill at the end of the month based on what we listened to.
There are technical issues to this, of course. I don’t know how ReDigi will ensure that all copies of resold music are indeed destroyed. Sure, they can scrub all the computers on my network and make me plug in my phone and MP3 player, but what about the flash drive sitting in a drawer that I forgot about? Sure, it really happens–I discovered 16 GB of MP3s late last year that I had no idea I’d converted. Sometimes it’s accidental, but it could also be convenient.
But now Redigi gets a chance to try to satisfy the judge. And it’s very telling that Google, who also sells MP3s, is siding with Redigi. I’m glad to see consumers still have some rights.