First Sale Doctrine

In recent days, the First Sale Doctrine has come under attack by the music recording industry and musicians. The First Sale Doctrine was enacted during a time when many forms of art were produced in tangible forms. As such, people were able to simply lend a copy of a CD or book and expect to get it back. With digital copies of art, however, a friend can simply keep a copy of a song as his or her own. Another person has no incentive to go purchase his or her own copy of a piece of artwork with digital copies everywhere.

The First Sale Doctrine grants ownership rights to the first person who purchases a book, CD, or painting. One also has rights for other forms of artwork, such as posters and recordings. The First Sale Doctrine allows a person to lend out these items to a friend without any legal hassles. There are many entities that fully depend on the First Sale Doctrine. For example, libraries make use of the doctrine every single time a book is lent out to a patron. Without this doctrine, librarians would not be able to lend out books without some sort of legal repercussion.

Now, technology has posed many great challenges to this doctrine. The recording industry has taken out a full-fledged effort to revise this Act and get rid of it entirely. The Act has created hassles for musicians who want to profit from their music, rather than distribute it to large groups of people for free. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act has revised portions of the doctrine, however, recording artists are still not happy with the doctrine.

To be safe, one should refrain from sharing copies of digital work online. The recording industry has held a few individuals responsible for distributing music online. The legal fees that one must pay can be enormous.


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