If you own something, should it be yours to sell? The website Redigi thinks so, even when you’re talking about digital music files. It’s getting sued to pieces in US courts for hosting second-hand MP3 files on its site.
I’ve got a job lot of CDs at home, collecting dust and doing nothing in particular for my eardrums since I burned them to MP3s years ago. If I wanted to sell these second-hand CDs at a car-boot sale, I wouldn’t expect EMI to come knocking on my door with a court summons.
Yet that’s exactly what’s happening in the States with Redigi, ‘the world’s first pre-owned digital marketplace’. EMI is suing Redigi to the tune of $150,000 for every EMI song that Redigi has successfully sold since its launch in 2011.
Digital renters, not owners
When you download a legally-purchased music file, you’re effectively paying for a licence to use it, rather than paying for its ownership. This means that you don’t have the same rights to share or sell digital music as you do with physical CDs.
Redigi founder John Ossenmacher thinks there needs to be a major shift in how ownership of digital products is thought of:
The digital rights of citizens are being fought for. It’s a principle of commerce: when you buy it, you own it. For those that would like to see it changed to “when you buy it, we still own it”, we say their position is a losing one.
The case, yet to be settled, could set a precedent for consumer rights to treat digital purchases in the same way as physical ones. Redigi is looking to expand into Europe, where the recent European Court of Justice has recently ruled that you should be allowed to resell software licenses.
The Redigi approach seems pretty fair to me. It uses software that checks if your music files have been purchased legally. It then erases these files from your own machine while it uploads them to its own second-hand marketplace. Easy as that.
Clearing out my old CD collection is still on my to-do list. One day, I’d like the same rights with my purchased MP3 collection.