Tuesday, April 2, 2013

You Can Resell An Album, But Not A Digital Album

It is Spring, whether the weather agrees or not and many use this time of year to clean out the house and sell old goods they no longer want.  For many, deals can be found in neighborhood garage and yard sales.  Some folks donate these items to "Gently Used" sales for fundraising purposes.  One could find used books, albums, and more for sale by owner.  So as the world has gone digital, we may find ourselves with digital books and music that we no longer desire and wish to purge from our system.

Unfortunately, the world of reselling goods in the physical form may not apply to those in the digital world.  "A federal judge in New York has dealt a blow to the nascent business of reselling digital goods like music and e-books, ruling that a small company’s secondary market for digital music infringes on the copyrights controlled by record companies."  Certainly, there is a physical difference in used real goods from digital ones.  Read a book and the pages get bent or torn, the cover bent or ripped.  Listen to an album and the record gets scratched or mishandled.  The notion of "used"  is something that has lost its pristine condition and is no longer untouched and perfect.  But digital copies can hardly be called used.  Usage of these items don't diminish the quality from one read or listen to another.  They remain in "perfect" condition.  And it seems that in that sense, they compete directly with original condition sales. 

"In addition to record companies, book authors have spoken out against the idea of a digital secondary market, saying that the presence of a 'used' but perfect digital copy of a book would cause prices to crash."  As the resell market is no different than the primary market, a direct competition does indeed exist.  The pricing model would be challenged as users would no doubt offer a reduced price to get back some value given the time they originally spent with the digital item.  The other fear is that while a physical item can be tracked and change hands, it is much more difficult to track that a digital copy resold does not continue to be held by the first buyer, and sold again and again and again.  And that is possibly the even bigger threat to the pricing model for the copyright owner. 

That the resale model is news reflect not only the digital world but still remains an issue in the physical space, too.  "The decision came less than two weeks after the Supreme Court upheld the first sale doctrine in the case of Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, about a student who was importing and selling textbooks that he had bought at a lower price overseas."  And in NYC, the Yankees are fighting StubHub for reselling tickets to their baseball games at lower prices. 

Digital reselling is a new phenomenon.  In a world where "digital sharing" may be ok, digital reselling may be a no-no. 

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