If you purchase a copy of music in physical form—like a CD or vinyl record—you own your copy even though you do not own the underlying songs. Although the law reserves to the copyright owner the right to make more copies, she cannot stop you from selling your copy or giving it away. This rule is called the right of first sale, and it enables all secondhand sales of copyrighted material, from the smallest used bookstore to eBay and Amazon Marketplace. The right of first sale began as judge-made law in the early 20th century, and today is part of the copyright statute at 17 U.S.C. § 109(a). In technical terms, Section 109(a) creates an exception for the owners of legal copies to the copyright owner’s exclusive right to distribute her work, although not to her exclusive right to reproduce her work.
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