A judge has ruled that it is not legal to sell on a song purchased from iTunes or another digital music store, even if the original track is removed from the device of the person who originally purchased it.
The ruling came after Universal Music Group’s Capitol Records sued ReDigi, an online marketplace for "digital used music."
ReDigi's defence rested in the first-sale doctrine that allows Netflix and other companies to transfer ownership of DVDs.
However, US District Judge Richard Sullivan ruled that selling on digital music is illegal under the Copyright Act. He explained that there is a clear separation between digital content, like MP3s, and physical content like CDs, basing his ruling on the fact that it is: "Consistently held that the unauthorized duplication of digital music files over the Internet infringes a copyright owner’s exclusive right to reproduce."
Judge Sullivan noted that the first sale doctrine, Section 109(a): "Still protects a lawful owner’s sale of her 'particular' phonorecord, be it a computer hard disk, iPod, or other memory device onto which the file was originally downloaded."
He emphasised that while "the first sale doctrine was enacted in a world where the ease and speed of data transfer could not have been imagined," it is up to Congress, not his court, to deem the law "outmoded".
He concluded that: "ReDigi infringed both Capitol’s reproduction and distribution rights. ReDigi provided the infrastructure for its users' infringing sales and affirmatively brokered sales by connecting users who are seeking unavailable songs with potential sellers."
In addition, "ReDigi financially benefitted from every infringing sale when it collected 60% of each transaction fee."
Judge Sullivan's ruling can be read here in full.