EFF Explains Why You Should Be Allowed To Sell Promo CDs

from the first-sale-first-sale-first-sale dept

Last summer, a district court ruled that selling promo CDs is perfectly legal. This was an important ruling, because it reinforced the right of first sale -- which has been a part of copyright law for ages -- and it made it clear that companies couldn't wipe out the limits of copyright law simply by declaring them void. The case involved a guy, Troy Augusto, who was selling CDs on eBay. Many of the CDs were "promo" CDs that had been sent to reviewers and radio stations -- stamped with the words to the effect of "Promo: Not for Resale." I've got a few such CDs in my own collection.

Universal Music Group claimed that these CDs remained its property because of that stamp. However, that goes against the entire first sale doctrine concept -- which has always allowed individuals to resell copyrighted products that they possess. Universal's claim was that the stamp meant that it continued to own the CD, even though it never asked for such CDs back. If allowed, this would effectively let any company create their own copyright laws by simply stamping the content with the rules. So, forget the current, already ridiculous, term for copyright. New authors or musicians could just stamp every product with "Property of the content creator" and you would never actually own the product.

Luckily the court disagreed... but Universal has appealed, and the RIAA has filed a brief siding with UMG as well. The EFF has now filed its own brief, noting the ridiculous consequences of any ruling where Universal wins. Allowing Universal to win would effectively mean that all of the extremely important (and already diminished) limits found on copyright today no longer apply. That would be a travesty and go against everything that copyright was originally designed to represent.

Filed Under: promotional cds
Companies: eff, riaa, universal music


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jan 2009 @ 2:13pm

    It would be accurate to say:

    "Last summer, a district court ruled that selling promo CDs is perfectly legal under circumstances such as exist in the case that was before the court."

    Change the facts a bit and it would change the outcome. In this case the CDs were given away like popcorn without any reasonable expectation on the part of the provider and the recipient that the CDs were only being "loaned", so to speak, and had to be returned at the end of the loan period. The outcome was based upon the reality of the situation, and not on the basis of a label on the CDs that did not reflect the reality of what was happening between the provider and the recipient.

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