Secondhand MP3 Site On Shaky Ground
Bopaboo, which bills itself as a legal marketplace for the resale of MP3s, recently launched in private beta. The site has only drawn media attention in the last week, after an article appeared in The Guardian.
CEO Alex Meshkin says his plan is that registered users will sell their MP3s for between 25 cents and 99 cents, with the site getting a 20% cut. He also says people will only be allowed to sell the same track one time. Users must then spend whatever revenue they glean at Bopaboo.com, where Meshkin hopes to sell "new" MP3s via licensing agreements with the labels.
Meshkin says he intends to meet with some record labels in New York later this week in hopes of forging licensing agreements. He's optimistic that the record labels will approve of this concept because it would bring in some additional revenue.
Realistically, however, it's hard to imagine that the RIAA will see the site as a plus -- or that courts will view the site and its users as anything other than copyright scofflaws.
For one thing, any users who upload tracks to the site for the purposes of selling the MP3s will themselves be on shaky legal ground. Those users likely would have obtained the tracks either from a digital music store, a CD, or on a peer-to-peer network. If from a peer-to-peer network, there's no question the users could face copyright infringement liability.
But even if users legally purchased the tracks from a Web site, or obtained them by ripping a CD, they're still on shaky ground. Digital download stores typically have user agreements that restrict people's ability to transfer MP3s. Similarly, while few people would argue it's unlawful to make digital copies of legally purchased CDs for personal use, selling those digital tracks is another story.
Additionally, the RIAA has gone after Web sites in far murkier circumstances than this. The organization years ago shut down MP3.com simply for letting users store digital copies of their own music. There, a federal judge in New York ruled that the company wasn't allowed to copy CDs it doesn't own, even though it only did so to enable consumers' fair use of the tracks.