Label Goes To War With MP3 Reseller

Record label EMI have launched a legal battle against a startup business which is reselling MP3s.

Ultimate Guitar

Record label EMI have launched a legal battle against a startup business which is reselling MP3s.

ReDigi, which opened last year, offers fans the opportunity to sell on downloads they've paid for but no longer want. Tracks usually on sale for $1.29 can be found for 59c on their website.

But Capitol Records, a US division of the giant label, believes it's nothing more than piracy, and have applied to the courts to have ReDigi shut down.

Larry Rudolph, the fledgling firm's CTO (Chief Technology Oficer), believes the case will strike at the heart of the legal concept of ownership particularly US copyright law, which states that anyone who buys a creative work can resell the copy they bought.

Rudolph tells Technology Review: "You buy it, you own it. You should be able to sell it. If you steal it, you shouldn't be able to sell it. It's very simple."

But Capitol say the company is nothing more than "a clearing-house for copyright infringement," insisting: "While ReDigi touts its service as the equivalent of a used record store, that analogy is inapplicable. Used record stores do not make copies to fill up their shelves."

ReDigi software verifies whether an MP3 was purchased fair and square before presenting users with the option to sell it on. If the system flags any doubt regarding a track, they will not offer to resell it. Once the data has been transferred, ReDigi then deletes all copies from the previous owner's computer system. It only offers a track for sale when it has completed that routine if one person has made a transaction for a particular song, then only one copy of the song will be available for second-hand purchase.

It's thought the argument will focus on whether a copy of a song is made when ReDigi transfer the file to their server, and whether a track originally downloaded from an online store constitutes a transfer of ownership of that copy of data.

Digital copyright executive Jason Schultz believes the firm could win the case based on current copyright law. He adds: "It strikes at the heart of the future business model of creative industries.

Are we shifting to a world where every single time you want to use some copyrighted content or media you have to pay, like on a toll road? Or do you actually own something, and you decide how you want to use it?"

Thanks to Classicrockmagazine for the report.

49 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I've never heard of this, but I can see how it could easily be open to corruption. What's to stop someone buying a song, putting it on 10 machines and selling them all individually? You wouldn't even need 10 machines - you could set up virtual machines on one PC. ReDigi wouldn't know any difference. I don't see how you can have a market for something that's as easily duplicable as an MP3.
    There are ways to remove the DRM (digital rights management) from files- such as mp3. So it'd be all too easy to buy the song digitally, legally. And then sell the legit copy, while keeping the DRM-removed copy. That said, I think $0.59 is a more fair price to pay for mp3s - digital music retailers should lower their price, and make ReDigi obsolete.
    Additional. Adding a recognition for a copying can modify a bit flag within the encoded data of the file so they will know it's been copied. Difficult to code but not impossible.
    The DRM for songs is a lot different to games. That said the DRM could be removed but the encoded data cant be without damaging the track. If they encoded a unique ID to the file then this really is a non issue, if they haven't they should really do so now because this wave of technology requires it, those who will lose out without it are EMI.
    I love my CD collection!
    Ditto- Love my CDs. A fair percentage of them were bought used, too.
    Idem. Also you'd be amazed at what you can find at charity shops. Picked up Slipknot's Vol.3 the other day for 1. Funny thing is I was only thinking 10 minutes earlier that I'd never find that CD in any charity shop around my area. Proved me wrong.
    Me too. I currently own just over 900 albums on CD and have never downloaded a single one of them. Why would I download a crappy quality MP3 when I can buy the good quality CD? Downloads do not make sense.
    Not that I am arguing for or against piracy in this post, but CDs are a digital format too. It is possible to download tracks in their original quality, Itunes just doesn't offer it. So the point about CD quality being superior is moot. The solution is not to use itunes. Or buy them on itunes then just download the HQ version from a torrent. If you are against piracy, you would still be paying for it, but you would get the high quality of the CD. Also CDs are very easy to damage. I am not saying you should give up your CD collection, or even stop picking them up. What I am saying is that digital tracks can be the same quality.
    This is another example why I don't buy mp3s but CDs instead; you don't have a physical copy of the music. With mp3s, it's more like buying the permission to listen to the music than anything.
    That's a good way of putting it. With a CD or vinyl record I feel like I'm getting a small part of the music for myself to own, to hold and listen to, but with the ubiquitous nature of MP3's, and how easy they are to obtain, it feels more empty and hollow, and like you said, paying for permission to hear it. That said, I do buy the occasional MP3 song/album if the price is low enough and I'm looking to get into a band.
    Okay as someone with a rather high level of technical knowledge about how all this system works I feel I should say something... The ReDigi model is a perfectly valid model. the arguement that will be presented to them is in two parts. When you purchase a digital copy of something you are not buying the copy but the license to use that copy. The second part is copyright of the copy. So I will tackle this in 2 parts. Part 1 - The license. Because you down OWN the copy you have on your system, you therefore cannot sell said copy. However because you own the license you can sell the license, thus rendering this arguement invalid. The term license is a little misleading as you cannot transfer say a drivers license to someone, but in this case you own the right to play the file which is perfectly valid to transfer on. Part 2 - The "Copy" Their main arguement is a moot point really. They believe the company will take the some off someone, replicate it a million times and sell all those copys purely on the basis of "That could happen". However to say this is to ignore the entirety of the system in place to prove the file is legitimate. The model tracks all sales, so if they were to actually do this it would be a simple matter for the company to be shut down when they are forced to present their sales and purchases and cross reference it with their stock. Since this has not happened one can SAFELY assume EMI have no bearing for this arguement. This would be the first thing they would demand in court, something irrefutable that cannot be set up. Since this is NOT the case they cannot win on current copyright laws. Conclusion So why the big arguement. They lose money as there now exists a retailer for used songs. This happened with the games industry, you take an old game in to trade in, the retailer cleans it up and sells it back on for pure profit and the company sees nothing. This has causes substantial losses to the games industry so it is an understandable reaction to them... But secondary to this is that it paves way for a future without a need for these retailers. It takes power away from their grasp as no more would people need to pay full price for a song. Although they will see more losses it's the loss of power that is driving this. If they fail this lawsuit then they know more businesses will start up that will eventually lead to digital copies being fully recognized as owned property. Ironically the companies want them treated as real objects when it suits them but they don't want to give the same rights to consumers as real copies. I wouldn't be suprised if EMI gets the other big names in on this, throws millions at it and even gets their artists to speak up about how it will effect them to win this fight, but for technology to advance and for us to gather the rights we should own for these copies we cannot allow this.
    You can buy a song off of iTunes, and make a copy of that file then sell the original file (provided you store the copies on a different drive)
    I never understood the fascination with mp3 files in general. I've always bought CDs, the only time I use mp3s is when I rip the files to my computer and on my mp3 player, but I never flat out buy/download mp3s. Actually, I kinda lied, sometimes I will illegally download a single (if it's available anywhere) and if I like it I'll then buy the CD, if I don't like it, I delete the song, end of. Sure, it's morally wrong, but in a way it's not much different to watching a YouTube music video just to see if I'm interested.
    Not to mention, it just feels nicer to have a physical copy. Which is why I'm also collecting more vinyl records these days.
    Really this sort of service is only going to be accepted as legitimate if the original distributors, ie iTunes, were the ones to transfer ownership, as they can retract the original ownership at their level. ReDigi isn't going to have control over people downloading another copy from iTunes, I wouldn't have thought. I'd be interested to know how it verifies the purchase of the MP3. Will have to read up more on this.
    You know what? The labels should have embraced online sharing from the very beginning instead being a bunch of greedy a-holes. Bands understand how valuable the internet is, why not the big dogs? Online selling is no different than a record store.
    It's complicated... It's fear of trying a new model that on the surfaces offers the risk of losing all sales. I could go on but I just had a massive rant on youtube about mega so i'm feeling a little drained...
    MoonBoots432 People, actually take a look at this and the cited articles therein, before making statements that do not apply to ReDigi. For one, ReDigi currently only deals with songs purchased from the iTunes store. They have a system in place for finding pirated songs (which is supposedly accurate).
    I'll concede the point to you. However, like I said in an earlier post (first reply to first post). What's to stop thousands- if not millions- of individuals from taken mp3 files purchased legally, copying them elsewhere (and removing the DRM while they're at it, it's easy), and then selling the original file?
    Because they wont be able to add the data to verify it was purchased. Technology, fools believe they understand it but the complexities of files are they contain a lot more data than people can decypher with a crackers tool. I agree it could become an issue if they could work that out, but if EMI would stop complaining they could have song ID's encoded into the files themselves (Wouldnt be suprised if they had that) so this could be effectively tracked.
    As for the original, All it requires is a simple encoded bit to flag whether the file has been copied. Spore proved that you can monitor this and all you need to do is allow for the file to recognize being copied and to change the flag. Difficult for coding but certainly not impossible.
    great idea for this company if they can manage it. however just don't think it can work legally. I have no problem with anyone selling something they paid for and no longer wants.
    If you can buy physical cds used I see no difference. The music industry is in shambles because of the oversaturation of musicians in the market. Ironically, you'll hear the same 30 songs played in rotation on a radio as if they have run out of music. Its why independent artistry has taken off. Alot now are funding projects with kickstarter. I applaud the move.
    How F$&#&ING cheap are people that they can't pay $.99 for a song instead of $.59? Dear ReDigi: Thanx for further destroying the music industry! Most artists practice MUCH longer than it takes someone to get a masters degree in college. You are helping make ALL that work useless!!!
    Not much logic to that since you need to do 12 years of school to get into college or university, then depending on what your major is your looking anywhere from another four to eight years to obtain a masters. I doubt most musicians practice for as much time as those students put in, sure people like Steve Vai do but most people will get an hour or two in on a daily basis.
    Most put the same 12 years into school, most larger acts have put in more than 8 years to get where they are. If you only practice 1 hour a day, your not THAT serious about it. Some of the better players put in 4-8 a DAY playing. simply put, musicians EARN the money they make. Businesses like ReDigi (and their customers) are just making it harder for good bands to make a living. Pay the damn $.99
    You should calm down man. I practice about 3-4 hours on weekends and 1-2 per day. Becoming a paid artist isnt all about practice, moreover, its what it is you have to present artistically. The music industry is NOT paying artists enough for their work, and are attacking fans over money earned from music they themselves did not create.
    paying for USED MP3s is NOT going to help. Barely more than watered down piracy. Becoming a paid artist IS about practicing, practicing your instrument/s studying music theory (for some), writing the music that you will play, or being able to play what other people write for you. You don't get far JUST putting on a good stage show, you gotta be able to play well as well (OK, save for pop/rap music maybe)
    Bill Wither's couldn't really play guitar when he wrote Ain't No Sunshine... To say that people should be paid for how much they have practiced is an odd concept. For most, its a hobby that then becomes a job. If you are only practicing to get paid one day and don't actually enjoy it - quit. Plus, compared to how much most pop musicians get paid, Steve Vai has probably nowhere nearly been repaid for all his practice.
    Never said there should be a pay scale based on practice....only that people that do well, practiced a LOT (save for your Bill Withers....who I would bet practiced singing for several years before that song came out), and deserve to at least get SOME compensation for their work. Piracy and ReDigi eliminate that compensation. And yes, Steve Via comparatively gets screwed by pop music...and I'm still gonna pay the whole $.99 for his songs
    Far out dude, you're very passionate about this topic. I'd be interested to know how much you earn from music, seeing as you're defending such an archaic notion as "X hours practice" multiplied by "Y talent" = "Z cash". I'd also be interested in your opinion on radio, a format for free music that has been used in this way for near 100 years. Neil Young said recently that "Piracy is the new Radio", and I'd agree with that. The only people earning good money from recorded music are the Big 3 record companies, big engineers/producers, and some massive bands (e.g. Metallica) that have weight to throw around for better royalties. This is why Napster happened, and why EMI are suing ReDigi - their outdated profit margins are not stacking up in the Digital Age, and they want what is 'rightfully theirs'. But all bands make their quid mainly from merch, and to some extent touring. There are plenty of ways to get your music/band/creative energy out there. Give it away for free! Network! Sell it for cheap through various websites! Let's do away with this pass ROCKSTAR CRAP and create a global music community for the love of music!
    Again, NEVER said anything like X practice times Y talent = Z cash. But the best out there have put in YEARS of practice and hard work (including playing smaller gigs) to get where they are, just for piracy and ReDigi to take what meager amounts of $$$ they make on their $.99 MP3s The difference in radio is that YOU can't hear the song YOU want WHEN you want to....and some DJ is probably talking over part of the song anyway....and the fidelity is comparatively crap. It was/is a great way to get introduced to some music for free, knowing it would sound way better, and you could listen whenever you wanted if you bought the CD/Tape/Album. TODAY merch and touring are the crumbs on the floor that remain. Until you get to the douche in the parking lot selling fake band T shirts as well. Artists still get SOME money from sales....unless people steal it or get it from ReDigi. If PIRACY is the new radio, music will get worse and worse. Most Proper bands will NOT receive enough compensation for their efforts and quit, or they simply will only tour their home area instead of doing any serious roadwork. Those that do tough it out will be a grain of sand on the beach....every little local band will have music on iTunes. Funny thing is, now that Lars was brought up, how much hell Lars got for fighting piracy.....turns out he was right all along.
    I mean, i suppose you should be able to sell things you have bought, but i do not agree with the way. If you are selling MP3's instead of the CD, not only are you selling a much worse sounding product, BUT you ARE claiming ownership of the music and not the CD. If you are just claiming to own the CD that you bought, then you should only be able to sell each track ONCE, otherwise you ARE cheating your ass off. Seems logical to me. Equivelant of a used record-store my arse.
    Merh. Who would honestly buy MP3's ? The sound-quality is so low. I am actually fairly certain that i read a study some years ago, that had determined that listening to MP3 music actually damaged your braincells, because of the quality. Your mind puts the music together more than it actually plays for you. Its st00pid.
    sorry bud, but no source no truth
    I agree with chrono on this, when you port an mp3 into a wave generator you can see there are no blips that constitute "Your mind plays more for you". The study you refer to I have never seen but I can safely assume it is bunk. Music is a powerful force that in one notable case braught people back into conscious states. The only damage an mp3 can cause is playing it too loud and damaging your hearing. Though admittedly the file quality is lower than SOME other forms of files however an mp3 is usually above the threshold of human ears to notice the difference.
    VaNilla YeTi
    Well maybe if these record labels weren't so damn greedy we wouldn't have a problem! I'm all for Piracy its a way of advertisement. 1.29 Yea I can afford it but its just too much for ONE song and if maybe the money actually went to the artist Id be willing to pay. But I DO by CD's a lot theirs nothing better than an actually copy.