Category: Digital Media

The Pace of Technology – Digital Music, Redigi & Copyright law

If you are a below 35 chances are that you are buying or have bought digital media like music, movies, ebooks etc on iTunes, Amazon or any other digital marketplace. But, I dont think you have realised that can’t sell it or pass it on to you kids, as you could in the past.

Physical media is easy to resell and pass on and rent. And, its legal since its covered by the first-sale doctrine in the USA and similar laws in other countries. Digital media, as of today cannot be resold or passed on. That said, I see no way of really enforcing this as I can pass on any music and movies I own. So, this is all very confusing.

Apple says that you cannot burn music bought from iTunes to a CD but you can copy it to a USB drive – really!  Thankfully, the idea of protecting music was dropped by Apple in 2009. So, now you can burn any purchased music to a CD or copy or it to a USB drive, which means that purchased media is no longer tied to your machine and can be passed on to anyone – but not legally. And, you still cannot sell it.

Selling “used” digital music just like to could sell used records or CDs is not legal but Redigi is fighting hard to build a marketplace for used digital media. I just do not see them succeeding because used digital goods are exactly the same as the original. They do not age or scratch or stop playing unless the format goes away, like minDV for example. So, it will always be better to buy the same asset cheaper on redigi than from the publisher or the record label. Now, the way redigi works is not completely unencumbered. There’s way too much big brother code it in to make it worthwhile to use this service right now. I do not want them to track what music I own and how I secured access to the digital media files on my machine.

So… technological pace has once again overwhelmed laws and judiciary. As of right now, they judges are trying to figure out how to interpret old laws like the first sale doctrine, in 2012-2013, without giving too much power to the copyright owner. The recent ruling gives the publisher monopolistic rights on digital content. So, it seems like its game over for Redigi.

Redigi has come up with Redigi v2.0 -using the pace of tech to its advantage – and will try to appeal this ruling. I think they’ll burn out of capital and engineers before they see a favorable ruling.

If this intrigues you, listen to this podcast from NPR’s planet money that does a great job of explaining the issue and see Redigi

–Anubhav