Does the right of First Sale apply to the digital age? In an attempt to answer this question, George Hotelling, an iTunes Music Store (iTMS) user, posted a song for sale on eBay with a starting bid of only one US cent. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the auction was bid up to at least US$16,600 before being removed by eBay. Some people apparently took this as a joke, but Hotelling was quite serious, and was trying to delete all bids that werenit serious.
Unlike most eBay auctions for souls and "Ghosts in Jars," Hotelling wasnit looking to make a quick buck off of the sale. In fact, he was pledging to donate all profits from the sale to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He also claims to not be trying to get attention himself from the auction, but to draw attention to the issue of property rights in the digital age.
While such an important issue wonit be decided by a simple eBay auction, it would have been interesting to see how it would go, had eBay not pulled the auction. A note from eBay posted on Hotellingis web log claims that the auction violated eBayis Downloadable Media Policy despite Hotellingis repeated efforts to get the auction to follow eBay policy. He is currently trying to convince eBay to reinstate the auction.Would Appleis legendary pack of lawyers have ripped this guy to shreds? Would it have gone without a hitch, netting the EFF a large donation, possibly making a statement at the same time? Unless eBay decides to allow the auction to continue, we may never know. At least not yet.