Reselling digital content

April 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

Digital Flow

Image credit: Flickr user lum1neuz

In a post on A List Apart, a writer worries about the implications of a court deciding that Redigi infringes copyright by letting people resell the music they have bought from Itunes. The writer says:

In the district court’s view, any transfer that takes place via the internet creates a reproduction of the work on the receiving machine, a new physical object that is “embodied” on the buyer’s hard drive. And that constitutes an illegal copy.

The writer seems surprised by this viewpoint, but for anyone well versed in how information technology works, this is quite clear. If person A sends information to me, that doesn’t entail person A losing access to that information. A digital product, be it a song, a film or a piece of software, is nothing but information and can is in fact copied rather than sent every time a “transfer” happens.

Naturally then, if somebody who bought a digital song was allowed to re-sell it, the copyright-owner’s monopoly would be gone in a flash. A platform for reselling digital content might of course take steps to delete the content from the seller’s hard drive at the point of sale, but in the end there is no way to be completely sure that the seller’s copy is actually removed.

So it’s clear that reselling digital content would be detrimental to copyright-owners. However, rather than taking that as a sign that digital re-sale should be prohibited, it should be taken as evidence that copyright imposes some very curious restraints on what individuals are allowed to do with information. And all because the most powerful cliques of humanity want to keep enabling the business model of selling copies — in a world where anyone with a rudimentary computer can produce 1:1 copies effortlessly and at negligible cost.



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