Capitol Records Alleges Infringement Against a “Used” Digital Music Seller. What?

The latest frontier in the digital copyright piracy fight involves a company that purports to be a reseller of “used digital music”. What is used digital music, you ask? Music that has been previously played and listened to, of course!

EMI Music‘s flagship label Capitol Records has filed a copyright infringement suit against digital music resale company ReDigi. The ReDigi tag line? “Sell songs you don’t listen to. Buy previously listened to songs at used prices.” A student in my Entertainment Law class presented this case during hot topics last week and I couldn’t resist looking into it. This case makes me laugh and applaud the ingenious use of the law to test the parameters of copyright law. In this case, it appears Redigi is remixing traditional approaches to the first sale doctrine to argue that the owner of a legitimate “copy” is entitled to lend, resell or dispose of the item and so forth. But that doctrine does not permit reproducing the material, publicly displaying or performing it, or otherwise engaging in any of the acts reserved for the copyright holder.

Who is Redigi?

The company describes itself as follows:

ReDigi is the world’s first and only online marketplace for used digital music. Its genius is in its ability to facilitate the transfer of a digital music file from one user to another without copying or file sharing. This gives digital music a resale value for the first time ever, and consumers the freedom to buy and sell the music they rightfully own. ReDigi also gives back to artists and labels through generous payments with every track sold (and resold).

This case exposes the difficulty in applying a 20th century Copyright Act to 21st century issues. I look forward to seeing the outcome of this case. While I have a good sense of humor, the circuit court judges are not exactly known for their humor in this regard!

Read the January 9, 2012 article at Chicago Tribune re: Redigi and Capitol Records

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