Monday, March 18, 2013

Used MP3 Files For Sale?

If you don't learn something new everyday, you are in a coma.

Earlier this month Mary Minow, an attorney, consultant, and a former librarian who teaches digital copyright told an audience of librarians about, a company that buys and sells used MP3s (standard audio files).

She paused to let that sink in for a minute.

Before anyone could ask she continued, "Yes, they are being sued," but if their business operation is held up in court they plan to start dealing in "used" eBooks next. (She had us at "used MP3s.")

ReDigi is attempting to cover their legal bases by 1) supporting the original artists with 20% of the proceeds and 2) working through iTunes to verify that MP3 files were legally acquired. (Of course, there are many other ways to store music files.) A judge hearing the case reportedly said, "This is a fascinating issue, [which] raises a lot of technological and statutory issues." No kidding.

Image from
Remember Napster? Now technology is more sophisticated. Since the the demise of the peer-to-peer music sharing phenomenon, digital copyright laws have been debated, changed, and tested in the courts. Creative delivery systems and pricing models continue to force digital rights management (DRM) efforts to play catch up.

Minow later participated in a Q&A panel discussion during which one of the presenters quipped, "You only know something is fair use when the judge tells you it's fair use after being sued." And yet, we librarians are being warned that authors, artists, and publishers are in fact taking their cases to court more than ever. In such an environment, it is tempting to go to extremes. Either to hire legal counsel specializing in digital copyright on retainer or simply throw up our hands and plead ignorance. Instead, the Darling Library has published a copyright subject guide for faculty including the basics and the HIU copyright policy. The core of that policy states,
"Copyright compliance at HIU is a distributed responsibility and those wanting to use copyright protected works should consult the Copyright LibGuide for information on obtaining copyright permissions."

The bottom line is that copyright compliance is everyone's job.

Anyone want to buy a used MP3? Or swampland in Florida?

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Robin Hartman is Director of Library Services at Hope International University. She is curious about how the organization and communication of information shapes society and is committed to equipping students to impact the world for Christ.

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