Over at PW Andrew Albanese is asking the wrong question about used ebooks. He looks at ReDigi’s ongoing appeals of the copyright infringement suit it “lost” in 2013 and asks whether:
Should there be a legal market for reselling “used” digital files, like the secondary market that currently exists for books or CDs in the analog world? That’s the heart of the question now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, after a lively hearing on Tuesday in the case of Capitol Records vs. ReDigi.
The appeal hearing comes more than four years after district court judge Richard Sullivan effectively shut down ReDigi, an upstart online service that enabled consumers to resell their legally purchased iTunes files. Users could upload their files to ReDigi; ReDigi’s technology then removed the files from the seller’s device, and transferred them to a buyer’s device, keeping a 60% cut of the sale price.
The problem with asking whether there should there be a legal market for reselling “used” digital files is that it already exists. This ruling won’t reopen the door to such a market because that door never closed.
ReDigi has probably fallen off most people’s radars, so let me give you a quick recap.
ReDigi is a failed startup that launched in 2011 with the idea that it could host a marketplace for reselling digital music. Music labels sued in 2012, and “won” the case in 2013. I am using quotes here because the ruling left loopholes that allowed ReDigi to continue operating.
I explained it in detail in 2013, but the tl;dr version is that the ruling said that you can’t resell the digital file, but you can sell the medium it is sitting on. So it was entirely legal for ReDigi to structure its business so it was technically reselling individual copies sitting on its servers.
ReDigi then got a patent on their business model in early 2014, thus cementing their hold on the idea.
So no, there’s no need to worry about the sale of used digital content “becoming” legal – it already is.
What everyone should be hoping for is that the appeals court will look at the loophole, realize how ridiculous it is, and decide to close it.
Really, though, this is not a huge issue. The biggest roadblock in the way of a used ebook market in the US is that ebook tech is so dysfunctional that it effectively makes it impossible to launch an ebook market that worked like ReDigi’s.
Be very happy about that.
image by weiss_paarz_photos