Who owns the digital music you buy?

Often, you’re not buying the song so much as the license that lets you hear the song.

I believe that if I pay for it, I should own and that should include the ability to resell it if I want.

Note: I linked to the print version because Businessweek was using popups and multiple pages to show the story.



  • gjgustav

    Agreed. I’m not sure how they can say doctrines of first sale are different for digital purchases? Why? You aren’t buying the copyright in either case. You are buying the right to listen to the copyrighted work. If it’s legal to sell that right to listen on physical medium, then why not for a download?

    The court has somehow ruled that buying on physical medium somehow grants you extra rights. What rights are those? The doctrine of first sale, as written does and should not differentiate, and there is no reason for differentiating, as long as the first customer really does give up the right to listen when they sell it to another individual.

    • Michael

      Because if you buy a non-digital item you can’t sell it on the after market and still potentially keep it like you can with digital media. The only solution to that would be to bring back DRM and transfer purchases that way, but I’m sure that would open up a completely different can of worms.

      • gjgustav

        Well, I can make a physical copy of a CD and sell it, but that’s beside the point.

        Is making laws based on how difficult it is to enforce them a good idea? That’s like enacting a law making it illegal for stores far away from a police station to sell liquor because difficult to find out if those stores are illegally selling to minors. Stores next to a police station can legally sell liquor, because the law against selling to minors is easier to enforce.

        Copyright violation is irrelevant. Either you have the right to resell something you purchased or you don’t. The medium is ships on should not be considered.

        • Tvaddic

          I think the difference is that if you copy a CD, it obviously isn’t a real CD by the record label, it’s a blank CD. But it is much harder to realize it is fake with a mp3 file.

          • gjgustav

            As I said, that’s beside the point. I have an argument for that, but it would be tangental to my main point, which is why are we making laws based on difficulty of enforcing another law?

          • http://www.lazyprogrammers.com Eugene Kim

            And I say, it’s not just the difficulty of enforcing another law. My argument is that digital vs physical medium are completely different concepts that require different laws. This concept is the entire point for the technology behind Bitcoin, to insure that you can’t spend your virtual money multiple times.

          • gjgustav

            To the customer, the concept is the same. I couldn’t care less about Bitcoin or what the point of it is. If I buy a song, I bought a song, whether digital or on physical medium. If I sell it to someone else, and I want it back, I’ll have to buy it again.

          • http://www.lazyprogrammers.com Eugene Kim

            I’m sorry but not caring about an issue doesn’t make it any less of an issue. The technical obstacles are impossibly high, especially when the same people who want to resell their digital music also oppose any type of DRM necessary to enforce the “ownership” concept since it impedes on their freedom of use.

            Between allowing resale of DRM-ladden music and all the hassle it brings, and no-resale of a DRM-free song, I’d choose DRM-free any day. Wouldn’t you?

          • gjgustav

            I didn’t say I didn’t care about the issue. I said I didn’t care about Bitcoin. Bitcoin is not legal tender, no matter how popular it is or what it is designed to do.

            As to what I’d rather have? I’d rather have the right to resell what I have purchased and no DRM. The technical obstacles to enforce ownership may be impossibly high, but that’s a red herring. Enforcement of copyright is a problem whether or not resale of digital goods is legal.

          • http://www.lazyprogrammers.com Eugene Kim

            I agree with Tvaddic. What so many people don’t get between physical and digital mediums is the SCALE. A physical medium does not scale. If it is in one place, it cannot be in another. If it is in my possession, it cannot be in someone else’s. With digital medium, anything and everything can scale infinitely. There is no such thing as a “hand off” where something leaves my possession and is received by another. Everything is a copy.

            It’s like claiming ownership of an idea. You can’t “own” an idea in a physical sense; all you can do is claim you thought of it first. The second you tell someone of your idea, they have a copy of that idea. You can’t force anyone to remove all copies of an MP3 any more than you can force anyone to remove an idea from their head.

            When physical medium was replaced with digital medium, property rights must change from physical property to intellectual property as well. The concepts are different, the scale is different, and therefore the rules must be different.

          • http://www.lazyprogrammers.com Eugene Kim

            Note: I didn’t mean to say that emulating physical ownership in a digital medium is not possible. Within a tightly controlled system, the illusion of physical ownership is entirely possible. See any MMO RPG game. Without the tightly controlled system however, enforcement is incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

          • gjgustav

            BS. That’s like saying with physical medium comes the copyright. In either physical or digital case, you are buying the right to listen to the music, and that’s it. The physical medium is only the method of playback – not the right to listen, which is what the customer is really buying.

            Again, this law is based on enforceability of another law – that’s silly.

        • lucascott

          Legally you can’t. The doctrine of first sale only applies if you are selling the original.

          Apple recently patented a system that would ‘kill switch’, for lack of a better term your copy of a digital track if you sell it to me. If they can make it work then it would be in effect the same as you selling me your CD?

          But at this point reselling digital files is generally about making copies you don’t have the right legally to make, while keeping the original. And that is a violation of copyright laws.

          It’s disappointing that folks are so confused about this.

          • gjgustav

            I’m not saying what it is. I’m saying what it should be. To me, I couldn’t care less if it’s the original copy or not. Why should I? I bought it from a retailer, and if I want to sell it because I no longer need it, I should be able to sell it. And if I sell it, I’ll destroy my copies. If Apple has a system to destroy my copies after I sell it, then so be it. I couldn’t care less how my copy is destroyed.

            It’s disappointing that folks are so confused about this.

  • http://twitter.com/tchaten Tim Chaten

    Well I’m not sure how you could sell something you bought from iTunes. Sure you could sell audio file that you have DRM free, but with iTunes in the Cloud there is no way to transfer that to another person. Files you sell you’ll still have access to.

    Selling your digital content would have to come from Apple or some other distributer.

    • lucascott

      That’s the point. I could sell you my copy of whatever and email you the mp3 but I still have totally working copies. But I don’t legally have the right to make copies, much less profit from them and distribute them.

      Anymore than say I have the right to print all the articles in this blog, bind them in paper form and sell them. Or even the right to do it via Ebook and sell them. Those rights belong to Jim et al.

  • Gavin McKeown

    The problem is that while we weren’t paying attention we stopped buying “things” and started buying very limited licenses to use the thing. You didn’t buy the song Jim, so there’s nothing that you own for you to resell. It sucks but we should have paid more attention when the digital revolution came along. I compare it to the difference between CDs and DVDs. The recorded media industry launched CDs and made them plain digital files and the same worldwide. Then when DVDs came along, they’d wised up a bit and DVDs are loaded with DRM that it’s illegal to circumvent, have forced anti-piracy notices and will only work in certain regions on certain players. When we bought paper books and physical CDs, cassettes or LPs we were buying something. Now we’re downloading, the media companies have wised up again and don’t sell us anything anymore just a (very) limited license.

  • crabbit_git

    If you buy it you own it. Screw the Music industry.

    • Gavin McKeown

      But that’s exactly the point. You haven’t bought “it”. You’ve paid for a license to use “it”. If you don’t like those terms, you’ll have to buy something else, like physical media.

      • lucascott

        Still the same terms. You own the physical object and with it a license to use the materials contained in the media. Copy it out of the media for any use outside of previously spelled out ‘fair use’ and you s breaking the law

        • Gavin McKeown

          But the point wasn’t about copying from physical media to some other media. It was about being able to sell (or give away) the media when you’re done with it. You can do that with physical media as long as you don’t keep a copy for yourself and be within the established law. You can’t do that with something that you originally bought as an electronic download.

  • http://blog.scheeko.org francisco feijó delgado

    Technically that is not necessarily true and there is precedent, for example:

    “All land in Canberra and The Australian Capital Territory in Australia is held by tenure under 99 year lease provisions”