The lights are on
In a ruling filed on Saturday, March 30, 2013, U.S. District Court judge Richard Sullivan struck a blow to consumers hoping to assert ownership rights over their digital purchases. Weighing in on the case of Capitol Records and digital music reseller ReDigi, Sullivan stated that digital purchases can only be resold with permission from the license holder. ReDigi was by all accounts careful in its business practices. Their service only permits listing of files acquired from iTunes or other ReDigi users. Music acquired illegally or ripped from compact discs is ineligible.
Whether Sullivan's ruling will stand on appeal is unknown, especially since it seems to directly violate the United States Supreme Court's stand last month in the case of Kirtsaeng v. Wiley & Sons. In that case, the Court cited the First Sale Doctrine, which grants a legal buyer the right to sell or otherwise dispose an equal number of copies as were legally purchased.
Additionally, the European courts ruled that, "An author of software cannot oppose the resale of his 'used' licences
allowing the use of his programs downloaded from the internet."
The discrepancy in interpretations is focused on the concept of the single, purchased copy. ReDigi's service deletes the file from the user's computer and places it in storage with the company. Judge Sullivan noted that the original copy is not being sold. Rather, a new copy is created, which is then made available for purchase by other ReDigi users. Other than selling the storage medium on which the file is located, there is no way to sell the specific version that was legally obtained in the original sale.
This conflict will ultimately need to be resolved in the courts, as the two United States rulings are at odds. Given the move toward digital purchases and the opposing interests of publisher and consumer, the question of ownership is becoming more pressing. Of course, even if there is a solution, getting platform holders to comply is another matter entirely. Just ask Valve (as PCGamesN did).
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