What Is Your Digital Music Library Worth? The Pending ReDigi Case
ReDigi, "The Pre-Owned Digital Marketplace" is being sued buy EMI for copyright infringement. In its claim against ReDigi, EMI is asking for $150,000 for each song from the EMI catalog that they claim ReDigi re-sold illegally. At the heart of this case lies a very important question whose answer will turn your downloaded digital music library into an asset similar to your record or CD collection or it will turn it into a worthless bunch of bits in terms of resale value. This begs the question—why do record labels expect consumers to pay ownership rates for something we do not have ownership rights to?
The ReDigi business model is fairly straight-forward—their software supposedly verifies that your music was in fact downloaded legally from the iTunes Store and it also removes any copy of a song you sell through their service from your computer thus eliminating the possibility of selling something you still own. I'm not sure how ReDigi can avoid the very simple work-around of someone copying their entire music library to an external hard drive and then removing that drive from the equation during the ReDigi resale process and then connecting it back up once they're done. But I am on ReDigig's side in theory and the main reason is for those consumer's who have been paying for their downloads, they've been paying ownership rates and the record labels have let people assume they own the songs they buy right up until the time and opportunity arose when they could re-sell them.
What's more, in the case of iTunes, music buyers have been encouraged to make copies of songs for their iPhones/iPods implying ownership rights and this suited everyone just fine as long as money flowed in one direction, from consumers to Apple and the record labels. Now, when consumers would like to resell some of the music they no longer want and get a small return on their original purchase, EMI is crying foul.
From a BBC article:
"Most lawful users of music and books have hundreds of dollars of lawfully obtained things on their computers and right now the value of that is zero dollars," said ReDigi's chief executive John Ossenmacher.While I do not buy music, or any other form of art for that matter, with resale value in mind, the outcome of the ReDigi case will set a precedent with potentially far-reaching impact. For one, if I do not own the music I've purchased via download, what happens to my music library when I die? Will the record labels come after my heirs for copyright infringement if they listen to my music? Sounds pretty silly when you look at it that way but ownership rights are exactly what is being argued in this case. And if it turns out we've been renting our music downloads without an option to buy, I'd expect the record labels to re-price downloads accordingly (but I would not recommend holding our collective music-buying breath).
"ReDigi takes zero dollars and we create billions of dollars in wealth overnight."
The EMI v. ReDigi case is due to be heard in district court in Manhattan, New York, beginning this Friday, October 12th.