You may not have heard of ReDigi, the used digital music store that's putting some re-sale value into people's old downloads, but the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certainly has. And they're…not too pleased.
Last Thursday, the RIAA sent ReDigi a cease and desist letter (PDF, courtesy of ArsTechnica) demanding that the company "immediately cease and desist its infringing activities, including the reproduction, distribution, and streaming of [RIAA members'] sound recordings." The letter also claims that ReDigi is not protected under the "first sale doctrine," since the service does not sell "a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title," but rather copies a song, deletes the original, and then sells that copy.
Um…yeah. Well, first of all, let me explain how ReDigi works. It's basically a used record store for your digital music tracks that lets you sell legally acquired music files online. ReDigi first makes a copy of your (legally obtained) music file and uploads it to its server, and then it deletes the original copy of the file on your hard drive. You must upload your files through ReDigi's PC software so that ReDigi can both verify the legality of your tracks and ensure that the original is completely erased from your hard drive.
According to ReDigi's FAQ page, the company has "revolutionary patent pending technology that facilitates the 'verification' and 'hand off' of a digital music file from the seller to the buyer, ensuring that the file is from a legitimate source and eligible for resale on ReDigi."
ReDigi also says that its process is in complete compliance with the "first-sale doctrine," which is basically a copyright limitation that states that a purchaser may sell, lend, or give away a "particular lawfully made copy of the copyrighted work without permission once it has been obtained." The first-sale doctrine is what keeps copyright trolls and organizations such as the RIAA from going after people who give gifts, have garage sales, and donate to thrift stores.
But the RIAA, of course, disagrees. It disagrees with the notion that ReDigi is protected under the first-sale doctrine simply because ReDigi must make a copy of--or rather, download--a song from a user in order to "resell" said song. The RIAA claims this is "unlawful copying" and doesn't believe that ReDigi has the technology to guarantee that the song has been erased from the original owner's hard drive. Also, the RIAA claims ReDigi's "streaming service" (which lets users play 30-second clips of songs before they purchase them) "constitutes willful copyright infringement."
The RIAA goes on to detail all of its demands: it wants ReDigi to not only to stop all of its "illegal" processes, but also quarantine any copies of its members' songs, cease further distribution of the ReDigi software, terminate the connection between ReDigi servers and anyone who has downloaded the software, remove all references to the names and likenesses of artists signed to RIAA members, and etc, etc.
Jaclyn Inglis, a ReDigi spokesperson, told CNET on Monday that the company had yet to receive the RIAA letter, but that it's "not afraid of something like this."
Unfortunately, the law is tricky when it comes to digital files. In the real world this would be a stupid case: the RIAA wouldn't be able to go after a used record store for reselling used CDs (note I say "wouldn't be able to go after," not "wouldn't think of going after," because I'm sure the RIAA has totally thought about it). But does the first-sale doctrine protect digital files, as well?