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Does selling 'used' digital music equal piracy?

A screenshot of the ReDigi website on April 8, 2013.
A screenshot of the ReDigi website on April 8, 2013.
ReDigi Screenshot

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A federal judge in New York has declared that a website that provides a secondary market for digital music is unlawfully infringing on original copyrights. The ruling is aimed at a company called in ReDigi, which in late 2011 opened a platform for people to upload and resell music files once legally purchased from retailers like iTunes.

The case was a litmus test for whether the first sale doctrine - a legal principle allowing owners of copies of books and music to freely resell them - would apply to digital media. The judge ruled that in this case, an illegal reproduction was still taking place. ReDigi claims that their software does not make a copy of a digital file, and that the original uploaded file becomes unavailable to the seller once the transaction is made.

Will digital resale companies find a way past this ruling? Does reselling digital music infringe on copyrights?

Alex Sayf Cummings, assistant professor in Georgia State University’s department of history and author of his soon-to-be released book “Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the remaking of American copyright in the Twentieth Century”