Conflicts Arising Between Digital Music Services And Copyright Owners

Music ServicesThe free digital music service, ReDigi had some legal troubles with Capitol records lately. As an online service providing you with a platform to store your legally acquired digital files and sell them for credits to buy new music, ReDigi makes a great effort explaining its term of service and claims that it only moves digital files around, rather than making copies. Zintro experts clarify the ownership rights and legal terms concerning digital assets.

According to international technology management consultant, Bill Sequeira, the buyer does not gain ownership rights over the legally acquired digital asset, however he gains a set of rights to use the digital asset and it remains as the property of its owner, whether it is a publisher or provider.

“When rights are granted, the buyer becomes a legal user. While ReDigi has sought to bypass license variations by placing liability on individuals using ReDigi services via their Terms of Use, its platform provides the means and arguably encourages a legal user or third party to infringe at least one of the key items mentioned,” he notes. “The question hinges on whether ReDigi is an accessory to such behavior or not.”

Sequeira describes the three specific terms licenses have in general:

  1. The license is granted specifically to a user
  2. The rights that the user has for asset distribution are spelled out for duplication, playback, and even the playback platform
  3. Regulations concerning the rights to an asset are transferred legally from one user to another

“Online file distribution services probably don’t do enough to protect copyrights and the rightful owners of digital assets. These services could ask the user to enter license details, but the question is whether these platforms can do enough,” he adds. “Digital authoring platforms and authors should go further to create a standard where a license becomes intrinsic to the asset’s meta-data, as opposed to placing responsibility on platforms using the asset, such as a web site, ReDigi, or my iPad.”

As Bradley Rosen, an expert in copyrights and entertainment law indicates, provided that the seller removes the file, can’t have access to it without a repurchase and thereby doesn’t keep a copy of what is sold, the system is completely protected under Section 107 of the Copyright Laws. “An author of a novel owns the copyright in that writing, but once that writing is legally reproduced in book form and legally sold, the buyer owns that book. The buyer can’t make any copies of the book, but he can certainly sell it at a yard sale. The copyright exists in the writing, not in the physical book itself,” he explains. “Once that book is sold, it is perfectly legal for the buyer of the book to sell it under Section 107. This is the doctrine of first sale; the copyright owner doesn’t get to sell the same thing twice, he simply has the right to manufacture and distribute new copies. But once the physical product is sold, the copyright owner doesn’t get it back.” Furthermore, Rosen clarifies that any buyer has the right to sell a particular digital package, as long as the ReDigi seller can’t keep a copy of what is sold. “Under the doctrine of first sale, so long as that digital package is being sold in its entirety and no copies are being made, ReDigi is completely protected under Section 107,” he adds. “The fact that it is a sale of a digital package doesn’t mean it is in any way different from a paper package, or as you would call it, a book.”

By Idil Kan

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