Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
promotional cds

ebay, eff, universal music

Who Really Owns Promotional CDs?

from the and-who-can-sell-them? dept

In my collection of CDs (and, yes, I still buy CDs), there's a relatively large number of "promotional" CDs -- many of which were purchased at independent record shops or online. It's not uncommon at all to find such CDs for sale, despite warning labels that say that cannot be sold. I've often wondered how enforceable that claim is, and we may soon find out. Universal Music claimed copyright infringement against a guy who was selling promotional CDs on eBay and eBay took down the auctions. The EFF is now suing Universal Music, claiming that it's a misuse of copyright law under the first sale doctrine (which says, like with any traditional good, you have the right to resell a digital good). Universal Music's response is that the CDs are actually still the property of the record label, and merely licensed to whoever received it. Of course, that could open up a ton of legal questions about ownership of certain goods -- especially if the receiving party never agreed to the deal. In the meantime, though, it's yet another case that highlights the blurring lines of ownership over tangible goods as makers of such goods try to make them more like digital goods.

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  1. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 12 Jun 2008 @ 7:47am

    Automobile Reviewing.

    At the time when new automobiles are reviewed, they generally exist only in prototype form-- the assembly line is still in the process of tooling up, and the publicity is timed to send customers to the dealerships as soon as the new cars arrive, as soon as the main assembly line starts running. There will probably be about five hundred examples of the new model in existence-- these will be the output of a kind of prototype production line, which exists to spot manufacturing snags ahead of time. This is not enough to permit the manufacturer to _give_ cars to reporters. What happens is that reporters are invited on all-expenses-paid road-trip vacations with the new car. The cars will have been given a special going over by the automaker's mechanics, so they will be better quality than what the consumer gets. The journalists receive _gifts_ of things like designer clothing, expensive sunglasses, what have you, and of course the hotels and meals are suitably plush, not the kinds of places the journalists could afford to visit on their own tab. The publicity office keeps track of what the journalists eventually publish, and "rewards its friends." The whole system is pretty much like radio "payola."

    Consumer Reports is in a class by itself, of course. Otherwise, the Wall Street Journal is about the only major media outlet which can insist that its reporters keep their fingers clean, forbidding them to accept bribes or freebies. A lot of the informal sanctions at a typical paper don't apply to automobile reporters. The automobile and consumer goods reporters are axiomatically not in the running for the big prestige editorial posts, which are filled from either the city desk or the national desk. The automobile reporters are off in their own little ghetto.

    The automakers are more respectable than the radio and recording industries, and they get away with more stuff over the long term.

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