Selling “used” digital music and other music licensing issues

iphone headphones

A recent piece in the Bloomberg Businessweek brings up some interesting issues regarding (re)selling a digital copy of music.  Some folks understand that when you sell your hard-copy (e.g. CD) then technically you also sell the “license” that allows you to listen to that music.  In other words, it’s not legal to make a copy of the CD, and then sell the CD while retaining your copy for personal usage any more than it is legal to download a digital copy without paying (or being given permission by the copyright holder) for it.  The personal usage “license” is bound with the ownership of the physical CD.

Of course there are plenty of folks who make copies for themselves–in some cases, just to protect the quality of the original from continuous usage (e.g. CD copy for your car), in other cases just to have a portable version for a compatible playback system (e.g. most cars aren’t quipped to play vinyl).  Whether or not making a copy is legal is something that’s been debated for some time (see this thread for some of the issues and cases involved).

Selling a digital file that you purchased is part of the focus of the piece.  Ideally, when you sell your copy of the music (whether a hard copy format like cassette or CD or digital mp3) you’ve given up your right to listen to any copy of the file you might have made.  That’s part of what the Vivendi case against ReDigi issue is about.

The interesting point mentioned in passing is that Stock photo services have become a relatively lucrative [digital] business while providing a wide variety of licenses for various usages.

These services may not give the users enough credit. Stock photo services have profitably operated for years, offering different resolutions, sizes, and license arrangements for each digital photo or video. The licenses aren’t that difficult to understand. If we are going to have this license hell, there should be different options available—a license to listen, a license to share, a license to send 100 copies out to anyone you choose, and so forth.

Of course there are various licensing business offering some of these variety of services that are much more sensitive to the consumer needs than the traditional PROs, but it remains to be seen if a model for services will ever be standardized.


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