Court says you can’t resell digital music files

In a judgment filed Saturday, U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan sided with Universal Music Group’s Capitol Records, which had sued ReDigi for copyright violation.

Sullivan’s argument, in a nutshell: Unless the copyright owner gives you explicit permission to do so, you can’t resell a digital media file.

That doesn’t make sense to me.

  • Jay

    It makes perfect sense: because you can make infinite copies of a digital media file, there’s no way of knowing which file is the true original file that you actually bought. Therefore, without the restriction, you could essentially buy one copy and then resell it to an infinite number of buyers. Allowing that is what doesn’t make sense.

    • accidentaldesign

      Those are my thoughts, too. Logical enough. But that isn’t the argument that won.

      The “unless the copyright owner gives you explicit permission to do so” argument is strange to me. Couldn’t any copyright owner use this argument to forbid the resale of any physical content, too?

      • Except the ruling was not about physical media – that would be a separate thing entirely. It’s literally a different ballgame since physical items are looked at differently. A physical CD is considered an original that you can physically transfer without making a copy. Digital files are seen as very different beasts due to their makeup and – most importantly – their distribution.

        We also have more established case law regarding first sale doctrine and physical items.

      • lucascott

        They tried. They failed with physical items so long as the original item is what was being sold, since no copy was being made.

      • That’s where the first-sale doctrine comes into play. I wrote an article explaining why they ruled the way they did and what it means on my site (also I spoke with an intellectual property attorney about it). You can read the article here:

  • Billy Razzle

    I guess we’ll all have to stop selling our old CD’s then.

    • Those aren’t digital media files.

      • And as I just mentioned above, the court specifically separated the difference between physical and digital and upheld first sale for CD’s. THey are very different things.

        • Billy Razzle

          I know what they meant. It was just a comment on the fact that people call non-physical things “digital”, when CDs, DVDs, Video game Discs, etc. are all “digital media”. None are analogue.

          • It’s digital content on a physical medium – that makes it very different in many respects. Again, it’s all about the distribution method.

          • Billy Razzle

            “Again” I know what they meant.

          • ehmjay

            Okay, so can I remove that digital content and re-sell it as an MP3? No? Okay, so what if I copy that physical medium, can I sell that?

            As Billy says, in today’s day and age the lines are a lot less defined than they were 30 years ago.

    • JDSoCal

      This is a trial court ruling, not an appellate case, so it’s not binding on you or me.


    Which part of Software License you don’t understand that is the license of use not a product sold for you to own. I guess you haven’t any of Apple’s EULA.


  • Makes perfect sense to me. When you buy entertainment content, you are merely paying for permission (aka license) to use it – the content creator does not give up ownership.

  • JDSoCal

    He’s a trial judge in New York. Only a binding decision on the parties, not on anyone else.