I live in a town that has lots of second-hand stores that sell second-hand vinyl records, tapes, etc, for incredibly low prices. I recently bought the soundtrack from A Clockwork Orange for 1 dollar on a vinyl record. I believe the right holders will never see the color of this money. The CD of the same soundtrack, brand new from a store, or as a digital download, costs between 15 and 80 dollars.

It seems obvious that anyone in their right mind would buy a vinyl for 1$, rather than a 15$ copy considering the price difference. But does it break a law to do so?

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    Intuitively speaking, the rights holders got all the money they were entitled to get when the record was sold to the original consumer. They're not entitled to any cut from further sales. Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 7:59
  • So all the people in the world could just use the same record one after the other and there's no rule against that? @Philipp : I replied to your duplicate comment on the other question... Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 8:01
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    @fabriced As long as only one person at a time owns the copy: no, there is no rule against that.
    – Philipp
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 8:42
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    Based on some of the comments - then a library is illegal too.
    – user2491
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 21:14

2 Answers 2


It is legal

Because of the first sale doctrine a person may freely sell a copy that they legitimately own. Copyright preserves the owner's right to make copies - Copy-right; once they have made (or authorised) a copy then the physical embodiment of that copy (record, CD, DVD, book etc.) is personal property and can be bought and sold like any other piece of personal property. The prohibition on copying its contents remains.

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    It's not always that clear though, sine some things - like DVDs, VHS tapes and compute-programs - may include either on the package, medium and/or in the content (eg. before the movie starts or the program-license) that it may not be re-sold... sometimes with the additional notice that it can be given away for free (ie. not sold). While I certainly agree that I ought to be allowed to do what I want with my property, the Entertainment Industry doesn't always see it that way, and it can be argued that I implicitly accepted a concract agreeing to this by buying/opening/using the item. Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 9:58
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    @BaardKopperud Do you know of any specific jurisdiction where one can implicitly agree to a contract simply by buying a copyrighted work? Sounds unlikely that by buying a product you would be bound by a contract which you haven't even seen.
    – kasperd
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 11:30
  • @kasperd if it was shrink wrapped or click wrapped it would be binding in most common law jurisdictions but it would need to be visible before purchase
    – Dale M
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 11:50
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    @DaleM I have come across software with a small print on the box which literally said that you had to read the terms found inside the box before you open the box.
    – kasperd
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 14:39
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    @MicroMachine Distributors of non-physical media have likely found a way to circumvent the first sale doctrine. See e.g. scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/…
    – Brandin
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 6:59

After referring to Dale's fine answer, something about licenses and copying:

You may have purchased an item with a license that allowed certain copies to be made. If you sell the item, the license now applies to the new owner. So unless the license says that you can keep copies even after a sale (which is unlikely with an item that is sold for profit), you will have to either destroy all copies made or hand them over to the new owner. You have no right to those copies anymore.

Also, if you agreed to license terms, then the new owner will have to agree to the exact same license terms. You can't circumvent licensing conditions by doing a resale. Basically, after X used the item for some time and then sells it to Y, the result should be exactly the same as if Y had bought the item in the first place.

To those who think it is horrible that the copyright owner might not get paid: When I buy anything, I look for value for money. The "value" includes my ability to recover some money by selling the item used. If I couldn't do that, the item would be worth less to me in the first place, and I wouln't buy it for that price.

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