Apple: Reselling iTunes songs ‘impractical’

An Apple Computer executive on Monday downplayed recent questions over the download resale policy of the company’s iTunes Music Store, saying technical if not legal barriers would largely prevent such transfers from taking place.

“Apple’s position is that it is impractical, though perhaps within someone’s rights, to sell music purchased online,” Peter Lowe, Apple’s director of marketing for applications and services, told CNET in an interview.

Lowe’s comments came after eBay last week pulled an auction seeking to sell an iTunes download, saying the attempted sale violated the site’s listings policies.

Web developer George Hotelling had put the song up for auction Tuesday evening, hoping to highlight the question of whether Internet customers can resell songs they’ve purchased in digital form.

Under the “First Sale” doctrine, the owner of a lawful copy of a work is allowed to sell it without the permission of the copyright owner. But legal interpretations of the doctrine, most recently from the U.S. Copyright Office, have found that the doctrine does not apply to digital goods, according to online copyright experts.

Apple’s store has been a hit with consumers, who have snapped up 10 million iTunes songs since the store launched on April 28, according to the company.

Although iTunes tracks come with copy restrictions, Hotelling said he believed he could successfully transfer the file to a third party. One extreme solution would be to hand over his account information and password to the buyer, although he said he would rather not have to resort to that method.

Apple’s Lowe left unaddressed the question of whether a transfer would violate iTunes’ terms-of-service contract, focusing instead on technical and other barriers to such a sale.

“They would have to somehow give their account info to the person they were selling to in order to get their Mac authorized to play the music being sold,” he said.

Lowe also said that with songs selling for 99 cents apiece, reselling music could be financially impractical.

“Economically, I don’t believe there is going to be much of a market for resold music…We just don’t see it as that much of an issue,” he said.

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