RIAA Bans The Reselling Of iPods With Preloaded Music
February 10, 2006

Although it may seem like a feasible idea, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) says that reselling an iPod or MP3 player with music already preloaded on it is illegal.

"Selling an iPod preloaded with music is no different than selling a DVD onto which you have burned your entire music collection," the RIAA said in a statement to MTV.com. "Either act is a clear violation of U.S. copyright law. The RIAA is monitoring this means of infringement. In short: seller beware." Many people have been selling their used iPods online with thousands of songs preloaded on them.

Andrew Bridges, a lawyer for eBay that specializes in copyright and trademark law, told MTV.com, "It really depends on individual circumstances. I'm not sure the law is settled. If I'm a college student and I want to supplement my income by buying 100 iPods and selling them at a significant premium, that's probably not going to fly. But if I've had my iPod Shuffle for two years and I'm tired of it and I go out and buy a 60 gig video iPod and want to sell my old Shuffle, but don't want to purge the music first, that's probably legal."

Bridges said that he is not aware of a legal case that deals with this issue, but the law does not have strict guidelines in this instance. "Normally, only a copyright holder has the right to distribute copies of a work," said Bridges. "There is a very clear provision in the statue that says if you are in possession of a copy that has been lawfully made, you can distribute that copy without violating the copyright holder's copyright. That seems to suggest that there shouldn't be a case against a casual user disposing of copies they made for personal use when one is getting rid of one's own iPod."

On the other hand, RIAA President Cary Sherman disagrees. "Both cases Andrew cites are different types of infringement, it's just that the damages are higher for someone engaged in it for commercial benefit versus someone who isn't," he told MTV.com. "Unlawful reproduction or distribution is infringement. There is no fair use when someone is getting a complete copy of a work, especially a creative work and especially when it could have an adverse impact on the marketplace for selling or licensing that work."

A seller who had video iPods on the eBay market preloaded with over 6000 songs has already been contacted by the RIAA. Moreover, the RIAA is reaching a system of agreement with eBay where people who try to sell loaded iPods will get a warning.

The RIAA also addressed the issue of brand new iPods being sold with preloaded content on them, like Boston's TvMyPod which sells video iPods preloaded with DVD content the customer has purchased. TvMyPod's owner, Vijay Raghavan, said that his business is not breaking the Millennium Copyright Act because the customer gets the original and the copy and the DVDs do not get decrypted in order to load them onto the iPod.

Sherman said that the RIAA's hands are tied in this case. He said that technically they are not allowed to do without a license, but there is no such license that exists.

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Mark Adams
San Francisco

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