A Legal Blog by Aaron | Sanders, PLLC


The Aftermarket Holy Grail: Using Software Copyrights to Control Replacement Parts

Intellectual Property and Personal Property: Two Great Tastes That Might Not Taste Great Together

When everything runs on software, then everything will be subject to copyright protection, and you might not like the consequences. Let’s take cars, for example. In the old days, if your car needed a new distributor cap, you’d go down the neighborhood auto supply shop, and you would have several different manufacturers competing for your money, which keeps the price for replacement parts low. One of the manufacturers might be “authorized” by the car manufacturer and appropriately branded. And that one might command a somewhat higher price because of that association and the sense that it will somehow work better with your car. That premium is the result of branding—and trademark law—and years of hard work building up the brand.

The Right to Distribute Distributors

Slap a little computer module on the distributor cap, and the car manufacturer has a lot more control over who can manufacture replacement distributor caps. That’s because the computer module requires software, and software is made up of characters, and that makes it a literary work that is subject to copyright protection. It doesn’t matter if the only characters involved are 0 and…

Plug and play! (But where does the software come from?)

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ReDigi: A Digital Secondary Market (Part 15 of Our Online Music Services Series)

Can ReDigi Take Advantage of the First Sale Doctrine?

When I first contemplated this Online Music Services Series, I decided not to discuss Apple’s iTunes Store service or similar services because (1) they weren’t new, and (2) the relevant law was pretty boring. While it’s true that the U.S. Supreme Court recently let stand a lower-court ruling that downloading songs from iTunes-like services does not constitute a “public performance,” hardly anyone was surprised by the result.* When you download a song from iTunes, Apple is making a copy of the song file and sending it to you–it’s your own copy, which you can play whenever you want. This is different from streaming services in which multiple users receive the streams of music derived from the same “single master” but which they don’t get to keep.

* ASCAP sued because, although its case was a long-shot, the amount of money at stake made it worth the effort. ASCAP is charged with collecting royalties for public performances on behalf of songwriters, so if downloads were public performances… 

ReDigi and the Creation of a Digital Secondary Market

But, then along comes ReDigi, a twist on the iTunes Store model that (1) is brand new,…

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