Can you resell old MP3s?

If you’ve been getting your songs legally, there is a fair chance that you’ve spent $5,000 on music in your life. Here’s the bad news: you’ll never get that back.

Back in “the day” there were used record stores. When a hunk of vinyl cost $8, you could sell back old ones that were in good shape for $1 or $2. Not a great return on investment but in retrospect it seems better than nothing. It’s beginning to look like your investment in downloadable music is nothing but a big fat money suck, because you can’t ever resell your digital music. At least not according to a recent court decision covered by CNET. When you download that music you don’t own it; it’s just a license. Unlike physical media where you can at least say there is something there to own, the computer files are not yours, apparently, and so you have no right to resell them. Reselling them, it turns out, is actually pretty much like copying them, and you definitely don’t have the right to do that.

So then what?

Well, if it’s on your hard drive, it’s yours until you die. You can’t give it away legally, as we previously discovered. If it’s in the cloud… it could just disappear at any time.

This is the “dark side of convenience.” We’ve traded walls full of albums for a cell phone the size of a single cassette, and the price we pay for that is never getting to keep anything, at least not with the laws the way they are.

Clearly something has to change. There are too many cases where people will want to give away something they paid for, and common sense tells them they can do it. People pass away, people get divorced, and hey, people just decide that they didn’t like Lou Reed as much as they thought they did. There are plenty of reasons that someone might want to pass on a digital music collection and if they can’t do it legally they will just do it illegally. Then no one wins.