Court Decision Needed to Make Digital Content Re-Sellable

A decision in the case of Capital Records v. could spur a market for used digital files. And, that would mean a secondary market for ebooks.

ReDigi, the self-proclaimed pre-owned digital marketplace, permits users to sell their pre-owned digital music. ReDigi holds that since consumers have a file and not a copy, the first sale doctrine applies, allowing an individual to sell her own property.

Capitol Records, a major music company, is suing ReDigi because with digital music (as with ebooks) there is no material object to be owned and consumers have simply the license to use the music.

At its core The Copy Right Act of 1976 pertains to “material objects.” This in contrast to the “right-click license,” intellectual property lawyer Glenn G. Pudelka’s term for the current understanding (especially among digital natives) that everything on the internet is free.

It’s that right-click mentality in conjunction with the first sale doctrine that lead to becoming the subject of an ongoing lawsuit. Capital Records has accused of contributing to copyright infringement.

At Understanding and Managing Copyright in the 21st century, a pre-conference workshop at Digital Book World Conference + Expo 2013, panelists speculated about the progression of future uses clauses.

In short, the consumer, the author and the publisher are all looking for rights that are, for digital content, not clearly delineated in the current law.

“Publishers are starting to realize they aren’t certain things, like app developers” said Pudelka, speaking at a pre-conference workshop at the Digital Book World Conference + Expo*. There are endless ways to develop and distribute digital content — from developing apps to reselling used digital files — that simply aren’t (or haven’t conventionally been) under the purview of publishers and don’t need to be.

Eventually subsidiary rights may be valued based more on the quality of the innovation — be it from the author, publisher, or consumer — than on the ownership of the original, material content. This is a matter for the next generation of publishers and copyright lawyers.

* For those who missed out on this workshop, Digital Book World Conference + Expo offers two more days of programming tomorrow at the main conference, including sessions on copyright. Register online here or show up at the Hilton New York Hotel to register at the location.

Image Credit: mouse and gavel image via Shutterstock.

One thought on “Court Decision Needed to Make Digital Content Re-Sellable

  1. Selena Blake

    Oh boy. What a can of worms. I guess it was only a matter of time before someone tried to offer a reselling platform. I think if Amazon were to offer something like that to kindle users, they could do it because of how they control the content. Similar to their Loan program. Authors would be assured that the book was no longer on the original purchaser’s kindle account.



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