Sorry, Amazon: Court frowns on resale of ‘used’ digital music

redigiA federal judge’s ruling in favor of Capitol Records in a suit against the ReDigi digital music service could have implications for Amazon.com and other companies that have been eying the market for “used” digital goods.

Siding with the record label’s copyright claims, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan found, in essence, that transferring ownership and posession of a digital music file isn’t the same as reselling a CD, casette tape or a physical record back in the day.

“Because the reproduction right is necessarily implicated when a copyrighted work is embodied in a new material object, and because digital music files must be embodied in a new material object following their transfer over the Internet, the Court determines that the embodiment of a digital music file on a new hard disk is a reproduction within the meaning of the Copyright Act,” he wrote in the March 30 order, granting Capitol’s motion for summary judgment.

Amazon recently won a patent on the “secondary market for digital objects” — a system for users to sell, trade and loan digital objects including audio files, eBooks, movies, apps, and pretty much anything else. The Seattle company is already implementing the approach in its feature for lending Kindle books, but it hasn’t yet rolled out the feature for digital music.

ReDigi is still in operation. The judge ordered the company and Capitol to submit a joint letter by April 12 outlining next steps. We’ve asked the company for comment on the ruling.