Federal judge rules 'used' digital music cannot be resold

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Saturday that ReDigi Inc.'s "pre-owned" digital music sales infringed on Capitol Records LLC's [corporate website] music copyrights. ReDigi's online service allowed customers to use its platform to buy and sell "used" digital music originally purchased from Apple Inc.'s [corporate website] iTunes [official website] service. Judge Richard Sullivan had in February denied [text, PDF] an initial injunction request by Capitol to shut down ReDigi. In his decision, released Monday, however, he held that the case was distinguishable from the recent Supreme Court decision in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons Inc. [text, PDF] and found that ReDigi, as a purveyor of digital products, was not protected from infringement liability by the first sale doctrine [17 USC § 109(a)]. The doctrine usually allows for the resale of copyrighted materials that have already been put in the market by creators or publishers. In refusing to apply it to this situation, Sullivan stated that, "here, the Court cannot of its own accord condone the wholesale application of the first sale defense to the digital sphere, particularly when Congress itself has declined to take that step." The court granted both Capitol's injunction against ReDigi and attorney's fees.

Music piracy and copyright infringement have been controversial issues in recent years. In September the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] reinstated [JURIST report] a $220,000 jury verdict in a music file-sharing case against Jamie Thomas-Rasset for downloading 24 copyrighted songs. That case went through a long appeals process, as the award had been reduced to $54,000 from $1.9 million [JURIST report] in 2011. The Supreme Court has since declined to rule on the case. In 2008, following much controversy between the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) [official website] and Internet websites, the RIAA stated that it would discontinue its policy [JURIST report] of suing suspected file-sharers and instead would seek cooperation with major Internet service providers to cut off access to repeat offenders.

 

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