back to article Have everything. Own nothing. Learn the difference

The nutshell of the story is this: ReDigi has a bright idea about creating a resale market for iTunes-licensed songs; the RIAA objects and has sent the cease-and-desist; and world+dog is supposed to rise up Occupy-style against another outrage by big content. Spare me. To follow the logic of sympathy for ReDigi, I’m asked to …


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  1. Mark 65

    Not strictly correct

    "It sums up the relationship between you and the bytes you rent from Apple: you don’t own them. The songs on your i-whatever aren’t property."

    Most music from Apple is now free from DRM, explain exactly how I'm renting rather than owning? How are they going to deny me access?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The presence or abscence of DRM is irrelevant. If you are leasing the rights, you are leasing the rights. They may not be able to stop you copying the songs (as if even DRM can do that, really!) but that has nothing to do with your ownership of the content.

      1. Mark 65

        DRM is relevant to the point of "how are they going to stop me from using it". Well, how are they?

    2. a_been

      DRM isn't the point

      The music companies don't sell you music, they sell you a license to listen to music. When you buy a CD, you buy 2 things, a license and a piece of plastic. When you buy a song from iTunes you are buying a license and you can be sure that license says it's non-transferable. The DRM was their because the music companies didn't trust their customers to keep to the license and you have just shown they were right.

    3. ysth

      DRM or not is orthogonal to license vs. own.

    4. David Ward 1

      It's still a crime, even if you can't be caught..

      Does not being able to be caught stop it being a crime? Same principle..

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Submitting to "byte renting" and other make-believe fantasy toll booths!

    "The songs on your i-whatever aren’t property."

    Exactly. They aren't.

    Because I can copy the hell out of them and no-one will miss anything (except the power-supplying company that provided the energy to do the copying; for this said company can bill me).

    "License" you say? Did it come with my torrent file? Amazing.

    A "valuable patent" you say? Hell, half of the asteroid belt belongs to me (of course, I don't have a state and a collective delusion to back that claim up, so it's an uphill battle to prove that).

    Not that I won't pay for good content, on the contrary. But spare me the "licensed IP" cant.

  3. Paul Crawford Silver badge


    "Permission isn’t property. A license isn’t property."

    So why do companies claim intellectual *property* is so important?

    Really, if I pay for something, and later decide I don't want/need it anymore, why can't I re-sell it? It works fine for physical goods such as books and CD/DVDs, so why not for digital purchases?

    I know the practical issues of copy vs original, but in *principle* why can't I resell something I paid for *irrespective* of what those who originally sold it might want?

    1. Semihere

      Re: IP?

      Precisely. The media cartel want to apply the principles of 'property' onto digital files which allows them to accuse people of 'stealing', yet it doesn't want you to have full property rights and thus introduces licenses to use, which practically turns that property into merely a 'service'. So how exactly do you steal a service? You can be an unlicensed USER of a service, but you can't STEAL it.

      They can't have it both ways.

    2. The BigYin

      It's simple

      It's a "property" when in favour of the company and you are a piece of dirty scum who should be pursued to the maximum extent of the law and equated with those who would commit rape and murder.

      It's demote to a "right" as soon as you try to exercise any action you would normally do with a property. You are a piece of dirty scum who should be pursued to the maximum extent of the law and equated with those who would commit rape and murder.

      And this is why the whole IP thing is screwed up.

  4. ph0b0s

    Consumers are mugs

    If the logic put forward in this article is right. That you own nothing that you have paid for on I-tunes, then it goes to show what mugs consumers are. They have quite happily gone from buying physical media, which could be legally resold, to buying a cloud copy for about the same price that you have no rights to anything with but listen to on an approved device.

    I disagree with part of the logic though. A licence is a possession that has value and should be able to be resold. Obviously the industry would not want this to be the case, so that there is no used market for music any more as we move further into digital distribution. A licence is only valid for the first purchaser, so further purchasers who would have had to have brought used, now have to buy new. All for the same price as those old style physical copies. That's progress for you....

    1. a_been

      A license is a contract not a possesion

      Apart from that your totally right. As an aside the music companies did try to argue that you couldn't resale tapes or CD's in the UK. I can't remember the logic, or lack of logic, they used but IIRC that was when it was determined that when buying a tape/CD, you actually bought 2 things, the media and a license tied to the media. So if you sold the CD the license transfered with the CD. Interestingly you could make a backup copy of the CD but if you then sold the CD you were supposed to destroy the backup.

    2. Johnny Bluejeans
      Thumb Up

      I agree

      It is patently absurd that moving forward no one will be able to resell digital goods, as more and more content moves to digital distribution.

      Also, the author's logic is flawed. When you purchase a CD, you do not "own" the content anymore than when you purchase a digital copy and the RIAA will be very quick to remind you of that.

      "So what did I buy?", you ask them.

      You bought a license to listen to the music on the CD exclusively for yourself. You cannot copy the content or play it for an audience. So, then, what are you selling when you take the CD to trade in? You are selling your rights as a license holder.

      How is this non-replicateable on a digital format?

      "Well, you could just keep a copy of the file and sell the original."

      How is that different from selling used CDs?

    3. James Micallef Silver badge

      The reason there's a market for used stuff is that people are ready to buy stuff with some wear and tear if they pay less for it than they would for a brand new item. A physical CD gets wear and tear, but a digital file does not (at most it's the underlying media that gets worn but the digital file can be copied to newer media as and when wanted). Media companies know very well that with a second-hand market in place, consumers will be able to buy "2nd hand" files that are really exactly the same quality as the "brand new" one that they are offering.

      While I agree with the notion that anything I buy is mine and I should have the right to sell it on, I can see the point of view of the media companies. Because what will happen in practice is that many people will find a way to buy a file, make a copy and sell on hundreds or thousands of "second hand" copies. Clearly they have no faith that technology can keep track of all the files and copies made. Even if the majority of people don't try to game the system, enough people will to either tank the media companies' profits or else make it more expensive for them to operate.

      One last thing for 'stick it to the man' filesharers - Have you noticed how little quality music and film are getting produced lately? Just lame 'x-factor' pop and super 3D mega-blockbuster rehashes of last year's blockbuster? Well, that's because studios aren't taking any more risks, if they can't do good DVD business they lose money on small films. With formulaic films they at least know it won't completely tank and they can sell some cheap-tat tie-in toys for the kids to go with it

  5. Gerrit Hoekstra

    I can sell a Windows license on!

    I don't need it any more because the Penguin of Light has shown me the path to true enlightenment. I can now sell it on to some other poor sap. So why can one not sell the license to listen to songs on to a third party when one's musical tastes move on?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Can tou really? Only within Microsoft's terms (not for all their versions)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was going to write a reasonable debate about ownership and IP

    But I can't be bothered so sufficient to say.....

    Piracy makes you a thief. Because that's what you all are rogues and thieves. Much in line with Pedo's and Terrorists. So enjoy your ill gotten gains while you can, we are inventing laws and we are coming for you, your children and your children's children.

    You will all burn in hell for the lives you have wrecked.


  7. Pinjata

    To be property or not

    So will the mafiaa go to court and claim that IP isn't property? They have all along claimed that IP should be considered property in all previous file sharing trails. This will be interesting...

  8. Coofer Cat

    "And what’s ReDigi got out of all of this?"

    They're going to get decisions made on whether bytes are property or rented. They may be picking a fight, but when it's over, we'll all know who's who and what our rights are.

    In that sense, they may not get much out of it, but the rest of us will.

  9. John G Imrie

    ReDigi wanted attention and a sympathetic mood.

    And you gave it to them.

    I'd never heard of ReDigi until I read this article.

  10. David Haworth

    if it looks like a duck

    is there not some similarity to this case?

    lets face it, itunes does say "buy song", not "licence song". surely a CD is licenced to me as much as sold, but I can resell that. why should I not be able to resell an itunes song or an app from the app store I no-longer want?

    The big reason will be that the vendor doesn't want a second-hand market messing with their first hand market and hasn't implemented the technology to sell or give away one's purchases. but I think the law would support it.

  11. Eponymous Cowherd

    Its all about value for money

    You don't "own" the contents of a CD, DVD, Blu-Ray, book, etc, But you do own the physical object that contains the copyright material. An object I can lend, sell on or give away as I wish, transferring the rights to the contents along with it.

    If I buy DRM protected digital contentI can do none of those things.

    Therefore, IMHO, digital content has a lot lower intrinsic value than the same content delivered on a physical medium. and should be sold a a much lower price.

    But they aren't. They are often sold at prices *above* their CD / DVD / Blu-Ray / paper bound equivalents. People just see that as a rip-off, and that is why they turn to the "pirates".

  12. ysth


    I don't see the paradox. Perhaps you meant irony?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If it ain't property then pirates can't be stealing it.

  14. Dave 125


    "Really, if I pay for something, and later decide I don't want/need it anymore, why can't I re-sell it?"

    Because it's a licence, which legally is a different thing from physical goods. Licences are subject to licencing laws. If you qualify and pay for a gun licence, then sell your gun and don't need the licence any more, you can't sell that gun licence on. Neither can you sell your driving licence (which you paid for) when you stop driving; in both cases, the licence is granted not just for the payment but for qualifying conditions (such as having passed a driving test). A music licence is no different. A pub that is licenced to broadcast music cannot sell that license on if they change their business practices, even if they had to pay for it.

    Of course, you *can* renegotiate the terms of a licence so that it is resellable later, and refuse to enter into it unless the other party agrees. Good luck with that.

    Even when you buy a CD it's not as clear cut as you think. You own and have complete freedom with the plastic disk. You *don't* own the music that is represented by the bit-patterns etched into the surface. So you can sell the disk, and the music goes with it. But you can't sell the music without the disk; that breaks copyright laws.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Though topic, I can understand both sides of the argument and not sure who to side with.

    Second hand physical products almost always have some degradation, be it the CD is not pristine or the label/box is slightly damaged. So there's justification to buy new.

    Second hand digital are perfect bit-by-bit copies with no difference at all. So why not buy second hand? There's no justification to buy new.

    Maybe the trick to please both camps wolud be to allow legal digital copy resale, but only if the content was artificially degraded in some way. I know, it sounds a bit silly.

  16. The BigYin

    I will agree

    Which is why using services like Amazon Kindle, iTunes etc is stupid. You are paying near-full-whack to "rent", not "own". If you understand and accept that, then fine - it's your choice.

    Me? I'll keep buying my books/CDs/DVDs/etc thankyouverymuch

    1. Eponymous Cowherd

      Kindle book prices.

      The Kindle is a mixed blessing as far as prices are concerned. There are plenty of books for reasonable prices. The excellent Space Captain Smith books can be had for £3.60 (compared to the £6.39 paperback price). This is a reasonable price for an eBook,, IMHO. Bought all three, and exceedingly funny they are too (Sort of cross between Red Dwarf and Carry on up the Khyber).

      There are also plenty of free classics available.

      On the other hand, there are also plenty of rip-off prices. eBooks more expensive than the hardback edition. The Jobs Biography, for example. Hardback £10. Kindle edition £12.99.

      The key here is the line "This price was set by the publisher" in the Amazon description. This is because a loophole in the law allows publishers to effectively re-implement the outlawed "net book agreement" on eBooks and can tell Amazon the price they must charge.

      There is no way I'm going to fork out £13 on something that has no residual value and can't even be given away or leant to friends. It is also unsurprising that it is usually these overpriced eBooks that appear at vastly reduced prices (£12.99 less, in this case) from alternative sources.

  17. Sean Baggaley 1

    @ph0b0s (and others):

    The issue here is "copyright". This has nothing to do with iTunes and digital distribution, which haven't really changed matters all that much. People were merrily taping radio programmes as far back as the '60s—initially on reel-to-reel AMPEX jobs, but, later, with cassettes.

    The copyright (i.e. Intellectual Property) owner owns the original data and grants an exclusive license to a publisher to produce thousands of copies in the form of vinyl 12" mix LPs and CDs, or to distribute copies directly in digital formats.

    Note my use of "copies" there. There's a reason why it's called "copyright". The clue's in the name.

    YOU, on the other hand, do NOT have a full license to perform those copying procedures yourself. iTunes licensing does permit copying of digital tracks in limited quantities—usually just for personal uses. You certainly don't have permission to make unlimited copies via BitTorrent. You do not have an unlimited *right* to make so many copies, for you do not own the copyright.

    And no, downloading a track via BitTorrent to begin with doesn't absolve you from that track's IP encumbrances either. Handling stolen property is still illegal, and it matters not one whit whether you were aware of its stolen status or not. The onus is on YOU to ensure what you are buying is legitimate. Hence the term "Caveat Emptor".

    I don't know what the fuck they taught / teach you people in school these days, but none of the above should be news to anybody. Nor is it even particularly difficult to grasp.

    If you sincerely believe "information wants to be free", know this: Your opinions are just your personal religion. They don't trump anyone else's, nor do you get to demand that your opinions are deserving of "respect" just... because.

    Those poor buggers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are deserving of respect.

    Your desire to get something for nothing is most emphatically not.

    1. ph0b0s

      Missed the point

      Since I was named in your post, I thought I would reply.

      You spend all of your post talking about illegal copying and copyright, which is all fine, but completely misses the point of the article and my post. The article was about attempts to create a second hand market for digital music, in this case of the Itunes variety. This has nothing to do with piracy.

      As far as I am aware, nowhere in my post did I say anything about copying things illegally. My post was solely about the idea of digital media not being as good as physical media in the respect of being able to sell it on, not copy it. Please take your anti-piracy rants elsewhere if you have nothing to say on the actual subject being discussed...

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      @Sean Baggaley 1

      You are quite right about making copies for sale or other distribution, and I think (hope?) most of El Reg's readers accept that when you pay for a CD or similar, you get a disk and a license for what is on the disk and it is only fair that creators get some reward for said license.

      You omitted the point that you *HAVE* to make a copy of that data en route to the D/A converter to actually use it...

      But pedantic arguments aside, my point is that with a CD you can re-sell it and transfer the license on the same terms (i.e. for own use, not public performance, etc). Why can't I do that in principle for the license for digital content?

      I know (before you point it out) that it is hard with non-DRM media to ensure honesty in the transfer of the licensed content, but why can't I do it with DRM-infested stuff where they can see the *transfer* of license?

    3. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Down

      Clarification needed

      ***"And no, downloading a track via BitTorrent to begin with doesn't absolve you from that track's IP encumbrances either. Handling stolen property is still illegal, and it matters not one whit whether you were aware of its stolen status or not."****

      Not sure if that qualifies as strawman or chewbacca.

      Yes, handling stolen property *is* illegal, but downloading *isn't* handling stolen property (nor is the original unauthorised copying classified as theft). It is copyright infringement, a *civil* offence, unless the original media was protected in some way, in which case the circumvention of copy protection is a criminal offence in many countries (DMCA ECD, etc).

      I'm sure the Taliban appreciate your support, BTW.

  18. calumg
    Thumb Up

    A change in the law is needed

    The content industry wants it both ways. On the one hand they market things like "own it now on Blu-ray", and "you wouldn't steal a car", which clearly infuses the idea into consumers that they indeed own the thing that they just paid £20 for.

    Then in the small print, they actually impose a load of restrictions. No wonder consumers are confused!

    ReDigi wants to change this, and are banking on a change in the law. Obviously without that, their business model is going nowhere.

    I actually think it's pretty reasonable that people should be able to re-sell digital assets, and I think a letter to my MP is needed. Consumers need more protection.

  19. 2cent

    RIAA should wake up

    ReDigi has obviously created the money machine that the RIAA backers should have come up with in the first place.

    They are so bent on making their point that they haven't woken up to joining up with ReDigi and getting on with the business they're supposed to be in.

    ReDigi is the right technology at the right time, but the wrong place.

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