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Amazon's patent paves the way for sales of 'used' entertainment files

Selling books, CDs and DVDs on the Internet? That's yesterday's news.

The secondary market for media items (think California-based eBay) was in trouble once people moved away from physical books, movies and music, because, of course the digital files that replaced those items could not be easily transferred and so could not be resold as easily.

But now, Amazon has obtained a patent that might make it a big player in the secondary market for digital version of those entertainment files.

Essentially, Amazon's patent covers a means by which one consumer of digital content can transfer a file, such as a Kindle book, to another user. That means will make it easier for Amazon to develop a market for "used" digital entertainment files.

That sounds simple, but entertainment companies are leery. Recently, several major record labels sued a company called ReDigi, which had promoted itself as a means by which iTunes users could sell their songs to other users. Even though ReDigi said it had a means to verify that the files being transferred were purchased from iTunes, the record companies were worried this technology would result in a thriving black market for pirated material.

This patent touches on the first sale doctrine, the idea that once a consumer purchases a copyrighted item, he or she can do whatever he or she likes with that individual item, but does not have any control over the copyright. Although the first sale doctrine is well-established, courts have had difficulty adapting it to the 21st century Internet era.

Source: Washington Post, "Amazon patents resale marketplace for used e-books, songs and other digital goods," Caitlin Dewey, Feb. 6, 2013

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