Selling out

August 8, 2014
 by Paul McGowan

Should you be allowed to sell your music collection?

I have a friend who wants to sell me his music collection for a good price. It includes both physical media as well as downloadable.

On the physical media, mostly CDs I don’t think there’s much debate. A physical CD was purchased from the label, the artist received what little money artists get and it’s no longer their property. It’s his to sell and mine to purchase.

The downloads are perhaps more difficult. Copies or an original? And what is an ‘original’ download? A ‘new’ copy legitimately sold by a download vendor is still a copy, different from a physical media such as a CD or LP.

Legally there is what’s known as the First Sale Doctrine that worked just fine for physical media, but falls apart in the digital world of transferring bits over wires. Some companies, such as Amazon, sell you a license for each bit of music you download. This means you paid for it but own only the right to play it not to sell it, despite the fact it is your property. Sort of.

The whole notion boils down to this: copyright protection has always been to protect the content creator, as it should. But sometimes I think all the lawyers in the world forget the actual consumer of music, as they shouldn’t.

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18 comments on “Selling out”

  1. Good point, Paul.
    Since even the major record companies are not sure yet how the current legislation covers (or doesn’t cover) downloads, it’ll probably be a while before there’s an answer. Until that time, I can buy any CD I want from, although I live in Japan, but I won’t be able to purchase the same CD as a download from acousticsounds, hdtracks, etc.
    As far as your friend is concerned, if he’s a good friend he’ll sell you the CD’s and give you the copies of the downloads as a freebie. If there’s no law, we make our own law!

  2. You state that “copyright protection has always been to protect the content creator” and also talk about the “money artists get”.  But the fact is that the “ownership” side of much of the music industry is held by corporations who have bought (or stolen) the rights from the original creators.  And what about “Music Mixes”?  The individual songs may be owned by millionaire publishing outfits but the selection of songs, and their ordering in a themed collection in any mix CD or tape is the artistic creation of the compiler.  And what about Folk Music?  Do we still have to pay the “owners” of various songs to play them around the campfire?  I sure hope not.

    1. Terry;
      After yesterday’s discussion on phase, I set out to educate myself on this topic. Clearly they mean different things but are used interchangeably. Here is an explanation I extracted from a text;

      “Polarity is not Phase
      This is still a confusing topic, perhaps because people are too timid to say polarity when they mean it. The polarity of a loudspeaker refers to whether the driver moves outward or inward with positive-going signal, and can be corrected by a simple wire reversal. Remember that phase means relative time; phase shift is actually a time delay. The so-called phase switches on consoles are actually polarity switches, they have no effect on the time of the signal! Sometimes this is referred to as absolute phase, but I recommend avoiding the use of the term phase when you really mean polarity. If two loudspeakers are working together, their polarity must be the same. If they are separated by space, or if a crossover is involved, there may be a phase difference between them, measured in time or degrees (at a specific frequency).”

      So the switch on your preamp may change polarity only unless it involves other components to alter phase between speakers.

      1. Yes, I am starting to understand that.  What really blows my mind is Paul’s absolute reluctance to discuss this.  After all it is one of the features of his GCP-200, PerfectWave DAC, and DirectStream superdo-it-all unit.  This does not change the fact that some people listen to music not in Absolute Phase.  Reviews are written, and fates are sealed potentially by someone listening to music that is not in Absolute Phase.  Do you see where I am going with this?  I question the entire industry about not addressing this issue, and I think Paul does not want to go there.  As I have said before, this is the industry’s dirty little secret. 

        Most of the time Paul is quick on the trigger to discuss an issue.  On this one he pressed the mute button and wants the whole damn thing to go away.  Don’t you find this odd?

        BTW–You and Soundmind have told me more about this than Paul. Thanks to both of you.

        1. “As I have said before, this is the industry’s dirty little secret.”Terry, I don’t think it’s a dirty secret at all, it’s been well known and understood that before a certain time, probably in the 1980s absolute phase was not taken into consideration by recording engineers as being important. Once it was, I think virtually all recording studios conformed to this standard. The switch is probably most useful for older recordings even when re-released as CDs. Now if you want to know one of the industry’s real dirty little secrets, there’s the matter of why many, even most recording studios use or at least have on hand a pair of Yamaha NS10s for monitors when so many people have judged it to be one horrible little speaker. One answer may have to do with phase distortion in the bass region. This article explains it and why as the NS 10 is an acoustic suspension speaker and other small studio monitors are ported, the phase distortion of the ported designs is horrible while the NS10 is exemplary even though its FR stinks. Here’s an interesting observation from that article: “Misunderstanding also tends to breed misinformation, which is often disseminated by well-meaning amateurs: those whose knowledge of a subject is sketchy are always prey to the intuitively plausible but utterly wrong explanation for one phenomenon or another. The hi-fi sector is well known for enthusiastically buying into the plausible (and often the implausible) as opposed to the factually correct. But we serious audio practitioners shouldn’t start feeling smug, because the pro sector is not by any means squeaky clean on that front, especially where monitors are concerned. Occam’s Razor, the principle beloved of physicists, which says that the most likely correct explanation for any phenomenon is probably the simplest one, never seems to have reached the audio business!”

      2. Years ago, I was listening to a pipe organ recording that had very strong low frequency signals that made my bass drivers experience very high excursions; you’ve possibly seen this effect. The bass of each speaker consisted of two 15” drivers that were mounted as dipoles; all speakers were wired in correct polarity. (One weakness of bass dipoles is they don’t have the pressure loading of a box to protect the drivers from over-excursion.) Wishing to experience the very deep and powerful bass that I knew the recording contained, I turned the volume up. I didn’t hear very much deep bass so I turned it up some more. At about that time there was a loud rat-a-tat-tat sound from the bass drivers as the voice coils banged against their stops, virtually destroying the drivers. To shorten this story – I discovered that placement of the microphones caused some of the lowest, strong frequencies to be recorded about 180 degrees out of phase between the two channels; this was explained as a natural recording phenomenon by the recording engineer. As you already know, when speakers in close proximity present bass near 180 degrees out of phase, you don’t hear much bass. When I didn’t hear much of the low frequencies I expected, I kept turning up the volume (like an idiot) until I caused the bass drivers to destroy themselves. – Here, I’ve merely tried to further distinguish between polarity and phase.

  3. Paul, assuming your friend is keeping his own copy of the CD rip and original download, this is a pretty straighforward question. Selling a CD you have ripped amounts to theft of the content. By knowingly participating in the scheme, you become accessory to the crime (felony or misdemeanour). If the CD has not been ripped, reselling it is of course perfectly legal (used CDs are listed on Amazon all day long). Selling a download (unless you delete your own copy) same story. Think of it as loading a copy of Microsoft office on your PC and reselling the original discs – very clear cut. ONLY time this is arguably legal is in case of an estate sale. Original owner dies, can the content be resold legally as part of the estate. This has been a matter of legal debate.

  4. It strikes me that we should all be fairly well schooled in what is legal, illegal and subject to the interpretation of the court. Another consideration, however, is what we find to be fair and ethical. In college, I purchased primarily used LPs. They we a fraction of the cost of new ones, I was on a budget and there was a very reputable used album store in town. The owner would try hard not so sell albums that were heavily damaged or worn and was generous if you weren’t happy with the quality of a purchase. The low cost came, in part, from the fact that a portion of the lifespan of the media was gone. Naturally this wan’t the case with CDs even though the same store eventually sold used CDs as well. The owner would *always* refund on an unplayable CD. While the price of the used CDs was not as heavily discounted as the LP, it still was much cheaper than a new CD. In this case, there was no significant “lifespan” issue. The music was as good as new. This leads me to ask why it was cheaper. At least one reason is that the original owner extracted some value from the CD and, as a result, was happy to sell it at a discount versus what they paid (e.g. lower perceived value by the original buyer).I occasionally buy music that I never listen to after the first few times. It’s increasingly rare, however and I often (usually) come back months or years later and find value in it. I don’t know if I could reasonably place a value on “used” downloaded music personally but I would certainly have no ethical issue selling my downloaded music using the principles outlined above (assuming it were ruled legal at some future point)

  5. Anything that is his unconditionally his he can sell. Anything that is not  unconditionally his he should not sell. He can give them to you as a gift if he so desires. Even those sites which allow free downloads do not do it for free. They make their money in other ways. Nothing’s for free. so why short change the poor performer? Regards.

    1. When you buy music (and most other content), you don’t own it. You own the right to enjoy someone’s artistic creation for personal use, or share it for non commercial purposes in private setting. If you owned it, you could legally buy one copy of a CD, rip it and sell 44/16 flacs online. Other than scale of operation, there is no difference between this illegal practice and ripping a CD and then selling the original copy, or even giving the original copy it away. 

      1. I am not sure I agree, but then the difference is all semantics. Here’s the problem I have with this. Today, word of mouth is the most powerful medium we have to spread the word. To suggest it’s improper or even illegal for me to make a copy and share it with my kids or friends, even some of my customers doesn’t make any sense. Because the doing of that will eventually help the artist. I can’t tell you the number of fans I have help create for certain artists, my kids have done the same. We build audience for them; paying audiences.

        I think the Oliver, in his comment below, sums it up well. Do unto others. Great advice. You just can’t legislate that.

        1. There is always nuance and most importantly “intent”. If you give away a copy with the intent to introduce someone to an artist you think they may like there is no personal gain motive. If you rip a CD and then sell the original on EBay, you’re stealing content. 

  6. So, how does all this apply if someone wishes to GIVE the media (physical or otherwise)to another party, and not sell?   Still illegal, amounting to theft?  OK,  then is it illegal to invite friends over to listen, or watch movies??   They after all, are getting the content, while you hold the copy…thus the industry can still cry about losing sales to this form of theft..  which seems to be their main case.  Its long been known and accepted that you cannot, say, buy a movie, and then charge money to show it to other people, say, in your backyard on a projector.  But of course, its fine if you get 10 friends over to watch for free.  They go home, you still own the movie, and they have seen it.  Most will likely not buy it then, unless it was just that great or important of a movie, I reckon.  BUT, to make 10 copies and give them to your friends, while you keep the original, IS illegal, and Im not seeing a real difference between the two actions.Yes, I am saying, that if my friend wants a copy of a deceased artist’s album that I own, and the only people reaping profit from this production are suits in rooms in cities not even related to the family of the artist, or not even born when the recording was made, you sure as heck can bet I have no problem at all giving my friend whatever they ask for.  Judge me if you like.The industry cried about dual-well tape decks, and VCRs when they hit the market.. and by all measures, continued to prosper in spite of such sales-killing devices.  The Church tried to prevent the proliferation of the printing press too.  Oddly, seems they survived as well.  Home cooking is killing the restaurant industry.  No one hardly buys watches anymore, thank you cell phones.  Where have all the typewriters gone?  Free market means not legislating the survival of industries who can lobby to ensure profit.  A computer is a device with one purpose: to process and transfer data.  (ok, maybe that’s two).  Technology will ALWAYS define the direction of the market. Once the (entertainment, specifically) industry realizes that their prosperity is dependent on THEM giving us a product WE WANT and WILL BUY, they wont waste time and legislation on secondary, minor fringe issues.  Our government is NOT their marketing branch. This topic will go away once they adapt.  Or fail to, either way.  

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