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July 16, 2004
eBay Quietly Tests Facilitating Sales of Digital Downloads
Look who's auctioning: My eyes popped this morning when I saw that eBay has announced that for 180 days it will allow sellers to offer digital downloads, through a new subcategory of its music section. This is one of these ideas that, once you hear it, you wonder why it wasn't done a long time ago. You can find nearly everything else on eBay, so why not? Seems that eBay has only considered digital music verboten for fear of being stuck in the middle of an infringement suit (like that recently filed by Tiffany's). The plan now is that sellers have to warrant that they own the copyright to the recordings being offered. This is in marked contrast to the policy with respect to cds, which are clearly covered by the first sale doctrine. I wonder if this is enough. My suspicion (though I have had many,many great experiences with eBay) is that some sellers will glibly drop in the required language without much concern about whether or not they own copyright. If that happens, I'd expect eBay to pull the plug faster than you can say "Buy it now."
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