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Concept of Digital Ownership Challenged In David & Goliath Court Case

Concept of Digital Ownership Challenged In David & Goliath Court Case

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At the bottom of Apple’s iTunes is a line documenting the playback duration of your entire music collection. Mine reads in days and constantly reminds me of the money invested into my music collection, of which is now utterly worthless.

This could change if a company called ReDigi has its way. The Boston-founded company aims to host a virtual store that would see the resale of pre-owned tracks. Essentially the start-up restores a sense of individual ownership and value to the intangible digital product, as if they were reselling a CD album.

However, the company is already under pressure from music producers EMI who is taking them to court for ‘clearing house for copyright infringement.’ Jason Schultz, a law professor from the University of California Berkeley School of Law, spoke to the Herald Sun and believes the case could act as a catalyst concerning the ownership of digital media, including music and movies.

“Potentially this court could decide if consumers have any rights at all over their digital music, books or movies,” Schultz said. “It could completely redefine the contours of the digital marketplace.”

ReDigi believes it offers the online equivalent of a used record store, stocking their virtual shelves with unwanted music originally purchased from Apple’s iTunes.  

Being able to sell a pre-owned track would return ownership to the consumer. Currently tracks on the site cost between 59 and 79 cents (roughly between 55 and 74 Australian cents), of which ReDigi takes a small percentage of. 

ReDigi’s CEO John Ossenmacher believes ReDigi restores individual ownership of a track. He likens its influence over the digital multimedia industry to that of eBay, who is a pioneer in the ecommerce market.

“ReDigi is to digital goods as eBay is to physical goods,” Ossenmacher said. In fact, the company’s slogan reads “The Legal Alternative.”

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EMI and its parent company Capitol Records disagree with Ossenmacher’s perspective, likening ReDigi’s operations to the online sharing company Napster, which according to the Herald Sun was shut down following litigation with record companies in 2001. The incriminating comparisons continued in the court case’s filing:

“While ReDigi touts its service as the equivalent of a used record store, ReDigi is actually a clearinghouse for copyright infringement and a business model built on widespread, unauthorised copying of sound recordings.”

EMI’s lawyer Richard Mandel placed emphasis on the ramifications the verdict will have—not only in the music industry—but upon all copyright multimedia.   

“If you essentially were saying, put it up on the internet, transmit it to anyone you want. It would be devastating. It would be open season on copyrighted works.”

Despite this, ReDigi maintain their model is beneficial to Apple’s iTunes increasing demand for legitimate copyright material, claiming “we did iTunes a huge favour by launching this service.”