September 3, 2003 11:31 AM   Subscribe

"This is an experiment in property rights in the digital age, something that's gotten surprisingly little attention." An intrepid netizen is auctionioning a song he bought from the iTunes Music Store on eBay. The license doesn't seem to explicitly cover (much less prohibit) this action. As more and more things become digital, what do we do with things we no longer want that have "value" but no physical substance?
posted by mkultra (37 comments total)
He's on ethically solid ground if he denies himself access to the song after he sells, and his ways discussed of doing that could work. Legally, I have no idea, and would bet there's at least a case against him.

But I think the bigger question is: why would anyone buy this tune on eBay for over the price they can purchase it on the iTunes store?
posted by namespan at 11:45 AM on September 3, 2003

why would anyone buy this tune on eBay for over the price they can purchase it on the iTunes store?

Windows users can't get it yet, can they?
posted by weston at 11:46 AM on September 3, 2003

No, there's nothing on Windows that will play the .m4p format until iTunes for Windows gets released.

Also, I'm not sure how you could "divorce" a single song from your account.

namespan- vanity and novelty. It's certainly not because the song's any good...
posted by mkultra at 11:53 AM on September 3, 2003

Wow. If this succeeds I'm going to sell all my software serial numbers / licenses sans discs right away.
posted by scarabic at 11:54 AM on September 3, 2003

It's an intellectual exercise. The triviality of the cost makes it an ideal candidate. I doubt he cares any more about what he gets for it than the person who buys it will likely care about owning it.
posted by cairnish at 11:56 AM on September 3, 2003

Windows users can't get it yet, can they?

well, they could probably buy a hard copy of the soundtrack to Master of Disguise for 99 cents.

the only reason the bidding is $16.50 and rising is the novelty. i'd be surprised if eBay lets this auction live, but i can't think of any legal reasons why he can't sell the song (unless it's spelled out in the iTunes license agreement).
posted by mrgrimm at 11:59 AM on September 3, 2003

it's gone.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:02 PM on September 3, 2003

How much can companies dictate whether or not you can sell the goods you buy? For instance, Sony puts the phrase "no unauthorised resale" on all European PlayStation games... does that really make the whole second-hand market illegal? Or are they just posturing, like a bunch of retarted hover-flies?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:02 PM on September 3, 2003

Windows users can't get it yet, can they?

Neither can Canadians.
posted by timeistight at 12:04 PM on September 3, 2003

sorry. false alarm. ebay server outage.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:12 PM on September 3, 2003

Or just convert it to MP3.


I could go on forever, but really, the easiest is the WinAmp plugin.
posted by linux at 12:14 PM on September 3, 2003

Windows can't play MP4??...All you need is a codec.

Except, we are talking about .m4p. These are currently unplayable without Apple proprietary software that is thus far only available for the Macintosh.
posted by jester69 at 12:28 PM on September 3, 2003

linux: it's M4P, not MP4. M4P = Protected AAC Audio File, in Apple's terms. The audio stream data is encrypted (and that's from one of your links, too).
posted by teradome at 12:29 PM on September 3, 2003

Jinx! Boy, we Metas sure love to correct other people. :)
posted by teradome at 12:31 PM on September 3, 2003

Wow, it's already passed the $20.00 mark.
For a $0.99 song.
That may or may not be transferrable.
In a transaction that may or may not be legal.
And it's not even a good song.

Anyone else want to be separated from their money? I got a bridge lyin' around here somewhere...
posted by me3dia at 12:40 PM on September 3, 2003

The correct term is "mefiosi", please.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:51 PM on September 3, 2003

I see it up to $350 with 69 bids. Which is just crazy.
I wonder how soon the iTunes policies will be changed.
posted by rhapsodie at 1:42 PM on September 3, 2003

Um, perhaps someone can explain to me why the auction is now at $350 for a song the guy paid $.99 for?

I understand its an exercise but why would someone pay 350x its value? The legality of selling an iTunes song on eBay will be interesting to watch play out. I'm sure the RIAA is revving up their corps of lawyers right now to see what angle they can ream the guy with.
posted by fenriq at 1:45 PM on September 3, 2003

fenriq-- Because no one's going to buy it, duh.

And I saw someone 'buy' a fanny pack on eBay for $750,000. You get the idea.
posted by xmutex at 1:49 PM on September 3, 2003

fenriq, the winner will very likely have the opportunity to participate in a very high profile test case, as they attempt to legally assert their rights. If you were interested in pursuing this in order to call attention to DRM issues, $350 would be among the least of your expenses.

Either that or it's Apple trying to head the whole thing off on the cheap by buying it back.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:52 PM on September 3, 2003

On second thought, that'd be the worst thing they could do...
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:53 PM on September 3, 2003

File sharing is like a viral epidemic in which each attempt by the music industry to infect the market with crippling proprietary rights and limits is met with a ferocious assault of technological antibodies produced by the immune system of collective music fandom. It will be fascinating to see how the two learn to coexist (as all successful organisms so Darwinianly do).
posted by divrsional at 1:56 PM on September 3, 2003

Actually, the correct term is "loosen up."
This public service message has been brought to you by (you - 14484) and the letter Q.
posted by teradome at 2:46 PM on September 3, 2003

How would selling this song work? You have to authorize the computer on which the song resides through iTMS. I think that has to be done through the purchasing account. Wouldn't the seller also have to surrender his account, which is backed up by his credit card #? If he cancels the account to protect his cc#, wouldn't that leave the sold song in limbo?

If he doesn't cancel the account and passes the info to the buyer to properly utilize the song, what prevents the buyer from charging, say, $350 worth of songs to iTMS?

The seller stated that he will not convert the song to another format since that would cloud the issue, so he has to pass along the account with the song. If he does that, is there a significant difference (as far as digital property rights) between what he's doing and a parent opening an account for their child?
posted by joaquim at 3:06 PM on September 3, 2003

From the seller's personal web site:
2. I've read the iTunes agreements and found nothing denying transferability. This isn't any more a commercial venture than selling CDs at the local music store, I'm not incorporated or even DBA. Furthermore, in case anyone thinks this is a cheap way to make a buck I will be donating all proceeds to the EFF.

So that could explain why people are willing to bid. If someone had been meaning to donate to the EFF anyways, this is an interesting way of doing so.
posted by duckstab at 3:40 PM on September 3, 2003

I get that it likely won't be purchased, that's pretty straightforward and I guess its like a nigh profile band wagon jumping now.

By the way, it was up to $780 a little while ago. I can't imagine what it'll hit before eBay pulls it.

What if the guy pulls if off and actually can legally sell songs he bought from iTunes? That'd be a nice little profit margin. Shame it'll only work once though.
posted by fenriq at 3:58 PM on September 3, 2003

Oh it's come down. earlier on it was at $20100. But i guess people have retracted.
posted by carfilhiot at 4:20 PM on September 3, 2003

ps. all profits go to EFF.
posted by carfilhiot at 4:25 PM on September 3, 2003

yeah, very exciting. except he is violating eBay guidelines.
posted by caseymcg at 4:25 PM on September 3, 2003

US $3,550.00
posted by feelinglistless at 4:39 PM on September 3, 2003

Those guidelines only talk about deliverability -- he could burn the m4p to CD and mail the CD to the winning bidder, correct?
posted by CommaTheWaterseller at 4:41 PM on September 3, 2003

Skallas: There is no digital first sale.
posted by subgenius at 4:48 PM on September 3, 2003

i suppose so, comma, but then it would appear identical to burning a copy of a song ripped off one's one CD and selling it, which, as you are aware, the copyright owners view as infringement. in any event, he would have to make a copy, which (except where fair use) is infringement. i don't see why purchasing it online as opposed to in a tower records affects one's rights to copy
posted by caseymcg at 4:51 PM on September 3, 2003

$14k, nice.

I don't like iTunes though; why should I pay for a mere 128kbps audio file I can't play using my favourite player, and which if I could, would limit and track my use of it through rights-limiting and uncontrolable technology which may or may not work in my next OS.

Happiness begins at 160-400kbps, but only if you use MusePack; real bliss only starts at the 900kbps mark with FLAC. So, why should I find a use-limited 128kbps AAC acceptable when even the most advanced lossy audio format can't maintain transparency at that bitrate?

Not that I could use it in the UK in the first place. So much for a free market.

Sorry, music industry; Must Try Harder.
posted by Freaky at 2:20 AM on September 4, 2003

Subgenius, he would be allowed to sell it on e-bay if he intended to transfer the item via CD through the post., instead of via the internet.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:00 AM on September 4, 2003

Blue Stone, that wouldn't be covered by first sale because he'd have to copy the song to a CD. First sale is a limitation on the copyright holder's right to prevent transfer of a copyrighted work, not the copyright holder's right to prevent duplication.

In any case, you can always contract away the first sale right, which is probably what would happen in whatever licenses exist between the record companies and Apple, and beween Appled and the consumer.
posted by subgenius at 12:41 PM on September 4, 2003

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