When I was working on the article about used music in a world without physical media I got to thinking about the legalities of it all. Is it legal to sell downloaded music? If the music doesn't have any DRM I am free to use it how I chose, right? I sought to answers these questions by digging a little into some of our favorite high resolution download sites like iTrax, HDtracks, Linn Records, Naxos, and MusicGiants. Read more for the interesting details.
When I began downloading content without Digital Rights Management I assumed I was free to use it as I pleased I thought I owned the music free and clear. I've always stayed far away from the subscription models that require a current subscription to listen to the music already downloaded. Or, so I thought. I'm certainly no legal expert in this area, but I took a shot at reading the Terms and Conditions of the aforementioned download sites to see if my assumptions were correct.
I began with the new high resolution DRM-fee site HDtracks
. After parsing through the usual lengthy legalese I copied what I thought was pertinent to this article.
"b. Security. You understand that the Digital Store, and Products purchased through the Digital Store, do not utilize any digital rights management or DRM.* As such, you, the consumer, hereby agree to adhere to the laws of the protecting copyrighted intellectual property and shall refrain from illegally copying, selling or otherwise exploiting the Products in any manner.* Violations of US Copyright Law may result in civil and/or criminal liability."
Link to full T&C
HDtracks appears to have a pretty reasonable policy. To me this paragraph simply says to follow the copyright law already established. What I can't glean from this is whether or not selling the music is prohibited. The paragraph says "illegally selling." Does that mean there is such a concept as legal selling? Not sure, but I'm going to guess there is no such this as legally selling digital downloads. (By the way when people refer to music as digital downloads isn't the word digital a little redundant?) I thought all DRM-free sites would have a similar policy. I guess I was wrong.
Next up is Linn Records
"You may not sell or offer to sell the downloads, including but not limited to, posting any downloads for auction, on any Internet auction site. All downloads are sublicensed to you and not sold, notwithstanding the use of the terms "sell," "purchase," "order," or "buy" on the site or in these Terms and Conditions. The delivery of a download does not transfer to you any commercial or promotional use rights in the Product."
Link to full T&C
Linn appears to remove all ambiguity in its Terms and Conditions. That is cool with me, but what the T&C say is not very cool with me. If I'm reading this correctly I don't even own the $30 album I downloaded from them! I just sublicensed it from Linn and I'm supposed to disregard the terms "sell," "purchase," "order," and "buy." Love the music and the quality of their downloads, but the T&C are a little archaic. Will I still "purchase" music from Linn? Most likely I will, but I will think about the fact that I really don't own what I paid for.
These two sites have no published Terms and Conditions surrounding the music downloaded from their sites. I've purchased from them, but I must admit I didn't read anything I clicked through on the way to downloading my new music. Thus, I have no idea whether I own the music or I am renting it etc...
Link to iTrax General T&C
Last up is MusicGiants
MusicGiants appears to have nothing other than the standard terms that say to obey the licensor's copyrights. But, MusicGiants continually refers to everything they do as a service. Sure, they don't own any of the copyrights and are just a content provider. This does make the term service appropriate. However the term service in the context of music downloads can be a little scary. As the following paragraphs from their Terms suggest, my apprehension may be warranted.
Link to full Terms
d. You acknowledge that some aspects of the Service, Products, and administering of the Usage Rules entails the ongoing involvement of MusicGiants. Accordingly, in the event that MusicGiants changes any part of the Service or discontinues the Service, which MusicGiants may do at its election, at any time, with or without notice to you, you acknowledge that you may no longer be able to use Products to the same extent as prior to such change or discontinuation, and that MusicGiants shall have no liability to you in such case.
b. Termination of the Service. MusicGiants reserves the right to modify, suspend, or discontinue the Service (or any part or content thereof) at any time with or without notice to you, and MusicGiants will not be liable to you or to any third party should it exercise such rights.
This is a little scary as I previously mentioned. Fortunately MusicGiants has been around for a while and the people there are first class. I will certainly continue to purchase music from MG without worrying about these two paragraphs. Just to be clear, my opinion here has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that MusicGiants has been very generous in providing Computer Audiophile readers with free music. It is pretty obvious I would have no credibility if I ignored the MG Terms or sugar coated them in anyway.
I am pretty certain if we all read the Terms and Conditions from most companies we do business with we would be apprehensive at first. In reality we all agree to Terms much worse than these everyday and we probably don't even know it. Anyone have a credit card (hint, hint)?