ReDigi began in 2011 with a cute idea: there's a massive resale market for all that vinyl collecting dust in your basement bookshelf, so what about all those GBs of excess music cluttering your hard drive? Swap meets and record fairs are huge, after all. Discogs is successful, right?
What a hilariously material-born solution for a digital product. The platform would scan users' hard drives to verify that tracks were acquired legally (purchased from iTunes), then the files users wanted to sell were transferred to the cloud where they could be downloaded by buyers. Finally, the original files were deleted from the seller's system.
ReDigi argued that its business was protected by the concept of "first sale," in which consumers have the right to resell products that were purchased legally. But legal experts were quick to bet against ReDigi. Cornell Law Professor James Grimmelmann explained in a blog post for Publisher's Weekly that U.S. courts interpreted "first sale" rights as applicable to redistribution, not reproduction. When ReDigi migrated files to the cloud, it did so by copying the file, reproducing the product illegally.
Capitol Records also took issue with the company's model.
After losing a three-year copyright infringement case with the label wherein ReDigi was ordered to pay $3.5 million in damages, ReDigi Inc. filed for bankruptcy at the beginning of the month. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan ruled in favour of Capitol: only a content owner can authorize the transfer of a digital music file online.
You can probably imagine a bunch of I told you so-ing right about now. But I'm not really sure: was this an obviously terrible idea? Or was it, like, 20 years before its time? Like can't you imagine a Gibsonian near future when your kids shop for DOS games and retro WordPress themes at some digital Value Village the same way you hunted down vintage ski jackets?