SDNY Court Says Music Downloads Cannot Be Resold

SDNY Court Says Music Downloads Cannot Be Resold


It is a common problem we all face at some point. You stumble across a song or album in your music library and think, "Why did I buy this? There is no way I will ever listen to this again." If the music is in a physical format, such as a CD or vinyl record, the solution is very simple: take it to your local resale shop and walk away with a little extra cash in your pocket.

This practice is legal thanks to the first-sale doctrine, which was established by the Supreme Court in 1908 in Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus and codified in the Copyright Act of 1976. The first-sale doctrine allows a person who has obtained a copyrighted work, such as a CD, by legitimate means to dispose of the copyrighted work. This happens every day at your local book, music, and movie resale shops.

But what happens if you want to get rid of a digital copy of that embarrassing pop album? You can simply delete it, but that seems like a waste. Why not resell it? Isn't it just like a CD? A Southern District of New York court provided the answer this week in Capitol Records v Redigi: No, at least not in the manner Redigi provided to users.

Redigi lost its most recent appeal after being accused of copyright infringement by Capitol Records. Redigi allows users to sell strictly digital music to others on the internet. While the startup tries to keep traders honest by forcing them delete originals after a resale, the process, because of its digital nature, still involves making a copy of the track without Capitol's permission, according to the court. There is no indication what damages Redigi may have to pay, but there is enough legal precedent in the case that it is doubtful others will follow in Redigi's footsteps.

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