Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Can You Sell A Song You Downloaded Legally?

from the right-to-first-sale dept

Folks who believe strongly in intellectual property protection for digital goods seem to get very upset when someone brings up the "right of first sale" - which basically says the creator of a good has the right to sell it, but then whoever bought it has the right to go off and sell it themselves at whatever price they would like (I'm sure I'll get some lawyers quibbling on this one). However, in the digital world, this becomes difficult. What if I sell an MP3, but keep a copy? That's the question being asked by a guy who is trying to sell a song he bought on iTunes. He argues that he can sell a CD that he bought legally, so why not an iTunes song? I don't know enough about iTunes to know for sure, but I'd guess that part of the license terms forbid this sort of action (the guy selling the song says he can't find any such rule). Also, the guy has decided that any proceeds he makes from this sale will go to the EFF. I think this is a good thing, as it brings more attention to the issue of right of first sale, which many intellectual property holders want to claim doesn't exist at all.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    kai, Sep 3rd, 2003 @ 12:12pm

    now selling for $16.50

    What a profit! The guy bought it for 99c and the current bid is for $16.50

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Mike (profile), Sep 3rd, 2003 @ 12:14pm

    Re: now selling for $16.50

    Well, that's only because he's the first to do so, and is generating all this attention.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    aReader, Sep 3rd, 2003 @ 12:28pm

    Selling or Distributing

    I think, it is a matter of understanding the difference between selling and distributing. How is this different than making a copy of the software you have and then selling the original one or making a photocopy of a book and then selling the original book.
    This is where DRM can solve the problem, or am I dreaming?. If somehow a person can pass back a fraction of the original cost to the creator while re-distributing (also selling in this case) the digital asset, I am sure everyone will benefit out of it. This is not easy, at least right now. As Mike always says, music industry is missing the power of such an amazing distribution channel for digital assets (and not their crappy CDs).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Someone, Sep 4th, 2003 @ 7:10am

    A related question

    Here's a question that I've always wanted to ask:

    If I purchased a song once (say, on vinyl, cassette or, ugh, 8-track) does that mean I own the rights to that song? And am I, therefore, free to acquire that song on other media types at no charge?

    I've always felt morally justified in downloading songs that I used to own on vinyl. I wonder if the law backs me up there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    George Orwell, Sep 4th, 2003 @ 9:11am

    Re: A related question

    I do too, but I " think " it's not legal ... Big Deal. If I paid for a book once and lost it, I sure as hell do not have a moral dilemma with picking up the book years later from a friends house and rereading it ... Whats the difference ?
    On a side note: Would Benjamin Franklin EVEN be allowed to institute a Public Library System under todays draconian patent, copyright & trademark laws ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    DJ Foxx, Jan 3rd, 2005 @ 1:43am

    Re: A related question

    Wow, Excellent Comment. That certainly puts a whole new spin on things. I have been a DJ for many years so you can imagine the library I have accumulated. With all the music media I own (both new and used) Albums, 45's, Cassettes, CD's & mini discs that they would have one hell of a problem with any really serious music collecter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    JD, Oct 4th, 2005 @ 4:28pm

    Re: A related question

    For anyone who does not know anything about copyright law, here is a tip. Just because you purchase the song (or cd) does not mean you own the rights to the song; meaning, you could get sued if the copyright owner finds out that you are illegally distributing (which is selling) their works.

    Look at it this way. You put all your time and energy into producing a song. You put it on a CD and sell it as an album. Some fan hears the song and thinks its the best thing since sliced bread. The fan buys a copy of the CD and them decides - hey, I could make a profit.

    So, the fan continues to take the song (mind you - u put a lot of effort into this album) and resells it online. As the musician (artist) who created the work, you are expecting a profit from every album sold. BUT WAIT - you're not getting a profit per album sold. Why? Because the fan resold the song illegally and you can't make a profit from unjustified copies. Wouldn't you be mad!

    JUST BECAUSE YOU PURCHASE THE CD DOES NOT MAKE YOU THE COPYRIGHT OWNER! YOU CAN AND WILL GET SUED UNDER THE U.S. COPYRIGHT LAW (and Europe) - so think twice about illegal downloads and unauthorized distribution.

    Anyone with Q's may email me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Damion, Jan 20th, 2006 @ 8:37pm

    Re: A related question

    From the way you have worded your response, you are assuming the person who bought the cd is selling multiple digital copies of the cd.
    I propose that it is a legal grey issue.
    If I purchased a cd then I am intitled to sell the cd. Just look at the many second hand music stores there are in the country. They buy used cds and resell them for profit. Therefore, if I purchased a cd,then I should be able to sell a track or the whole cd. However, I believe the material cd must be destroyed as the contents are transfered to the new owner(s). This way you are not keeping the original and you are remaining ethical.
    If you have further information on copyright law please email me. I would like to get to the bottom of this!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Stefan Levy, Mar 9th, 2009 @ 6:01pm

    Selling tunes

    Yea, I have like 50,000 songs in my PC. I would love to sell some legally but do not know the laws. Where could I learn of them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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