Is Selling Used MP3s Legal? ReDigi Responds

image from t3.gstatic.com When startup Redigi announced last week that they'd open a marketplace to re-sell "used" mp3's this summer, many in the music industry questioned the legality of the company's plans.  "I can't imagine how," wrote Boston based music attorney Rob Falk. "A legal music download is generally issued as 'personal license to use,' and I believe that by its terms, is non-transferable." But in response to our inquiry, a ReDigi spokesperson replied:

To answer your question about the legality, the distinction is that ReDigi is the marketplace that makes it possible for buyers and sellers to interact with each other directly. Sellers exercise their legal rights under US copyright law and first sale doctrine in the legal transfer of music.  This has never been done, because their hasn’t been the technology to do this and to do it legally. 

As far as the labels go, every label and every artist will receive proceeds from every single sale.  In the past this is something that has never been done before in used music.  No matter how big or how small, ReDigi pays all of them.  This is a new source of revenue for them that has never previously been available. 
We are going to release additional information on the technology behind ReDigi very soon that I think will answer the rest of your questions. 

More: ReDigi Says They'll Sell Your Used MP3's Legally

Does anything that the Redigi spokesperson or Attorney Rob Falk wrote change your opinion of the legality of download resale?


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  1. I *own* music in digital format, music that I *bought*. Yes, some stores (which I would never use) license music, and that might be a different story, but I’m talking about music you *bought*, which is a really different matter. For music you bought, you are entitled, in almost every country, to resell it. Attention: this isn’t a defence of Redigi, on the contrary… Not only they seem to not distinguish music files owned versus music files licensed, but they ignore the fact that the first sale doctrine enables someone to sell second-hand music, without interference of having to give (again) a share to the copyright holders.

  2. I’m with Rob in the “don’t know how” department. Yes, the first sale doctrine would allow the purchaser to resell his/her copy of the work. However, the doctrine was obviously created in the days of physical, e.g., I bought the book that was printed on paper and can sell my paper copy.
    In order for the first sale doctrine to apply to digital, you would actually have to transfer the physical 1s and 0s from your hard drive to the new purchaser. However, that’s a practical impossibility. Moreover, when one “buys” a digital copy, while the transaction looks & feels like a purchase, their right to use the digital copy is still limited by copyright law.
    There are 6 exclusive rights in copyright, among them are the rights to duplicate and distribute. Thus, even under the old physical system, creating a photocopy of your book (or copy of the album) violated copyright except that the same is considered a fair use for archival, time-shifting and other personal purposes. Making a copy and giving it to a friend was technically an infringement not subject to a fair use defense, although it would never be prosecuted.
    It is technically impossible to move the “physical” 1s and 0s from your hard drive to someone else – you necessarily are creating a copy. Creating the copy is no less violative of copyright law than the curtailment of the first-sale doctrine. They are in direct conflict but yet are both equally valid parts of the same law.
    One might argue that by deleting all of my copies so that the only copy left is retained by the new purchaser, I have technically complied with the spirit of the first-sale doctrine. However, there is no way of guaranteeing it and it’s very unlikely this is what would happen in practice.
    In short, the 1976 Copyright Act is not a living being like the Constitution, susceptible to interpretation as the times change. While it has been adapted (in large part beyond it’s logical limits), there comes a point where it simply cannot accommodate a situation and it breaks. This is one of those times. The first sale doctrine and the exclusive right to duplicate and distribute are in irreconcilable conflict.

  3. The big labels would only allow this (breaking their own rules and laws) if it made them money, but I garuantee that they would have to have a greater control of what this company wants to do. It seems ridiculous though. Why only get a percentage of the sale of an mp3 when you can supply the same exact thing selling it yourself or elsewhere? Then again that IS what they are doing with iTunes and other mp3 services, so why partner with a service that may bring down sales or lessen the value of the product you are selling? Sounds like too much work to have them change their rules for this.
    Free album download at http:/www.facebook.com/chancius

  4. Let’s think this matter from a consumer’s perspective.
    Why do consumers usually go to second-hand markets?
    To get what they can’t get elsewhere either because of the product’s scarcity (no production anymore) or because I can get that product for less compared to the prime market.
    Why on Earth, as a consumer, would I go on Redigi to buy second-hand mp3s whereas I can already surf the Web to get any tracks for less whether I do it illegally or legally.
    I doubt that business model be adjusted to the consumer market.
    Your thoughts?

  5. What would stop me to download a bunch of mp3 illigally (or rip my CD’s) and sell them on ReDigi? no way its possible to get a technical solution that cant be screwed with

  6. File this whole idea in the “massive waste of time’ section.
    I feel sorry for the (incredibly dumb) angels funding this company. These putzes are are going to get sued by the majors, and after they send zillions defending themselves, even if they win, they’re going to quickly find out that no consumers give a shit.
    The future is streaming on demand – what is the point of fighting an uphill battle for a business model and or/format that is going the way of the dinosaur?
    Music downloads have a very small perceived value, and the secondary market for these files will be a much smaller increment. To consumers, that is – to the labels, they’ll want their .99 cents all over again, publishers will want their full mechanical. Guaran-fucking-teed.
    To whoever the poor business development sap is that will be assigned to meet with the labels to try to pitch this and get it licensed:
    You’ll spend the next couple of years getting your ass kicked, your dreams crushed, and being made to feel like an idiot. At the end, if you’re lucky, you’ll end up with a deal that makes it impossible for your company to make money and/or offer terms attractive to consumers. Whatever you think the commercial offer is going to be now, trust me, it’s going to be twisted and mutated into something that horrifies you by these people. And all the while, you’ll be missing your kid’s Birthday, your anniversary, and God knows how many other important life moments.
    Quit this company now and go work for someone who has a clue, while you still have dreams, hair, and a future.

  7. It’s not legal, period. Even if it’s made through a “marketplace”. MP3 is a license, not a common good. And this license says you cannot resell (or even give away) a file you have purchased.

  8. Mp3 will fall under similar licenses as software. And the license is determined by the master copyright holder, Not the end user. SoftWare licensing is a separate entity to copyright.

  9. Along with giving users the power to recycle their digital music files, the ReDigi™ Marketplace also aims to help strengthen the music industry through the ReDigi Foundation program, which grants a share of proceeds from all music sales to both artists and record labels each and every time a track resells.
    do your research..

  10. if you research redigi, from credible sources or even going to the site, you will see solid facts on why/ how the redigi team has made this legal.
    you should all be pumped that there will soon be a site for you to be able to benefit from your old, unwanted songs.

  11. This is NEVER going to happen. Several companies or groups have tried to come up with ways to permit this over the last couple of years, but none has ever come to fruition. The content industries absolutely hate hate HATE the used resale markets. There’s no way on earth any offer of a fraction of a resale market would be sufficient to convince the music labels to throw away one of the biggest “advantages” of digital from their point of view.

  12. Old Record Guy seems to have a bit of a woody for this idea. I don’t believe anyone on this thread ultimately knows how this will shake out. If Redigi is able to legally operate or cooperate with labels, great. If not, one more start up bites the dust. Maybe old record guy should join Redigi or share his highly opinionated and surely infinite wisdom with some other businesses. I love big mouths that spew forth dribble 🙂

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