Don’t Bury Your Digital Music!

One of the questions we get here at Murfie over and over again runs along the lines of:

What happens to my music when I die?

We get the question so often that we’ve set up two FAQ items to clarify the situation for our members (and prospective members):

On average, each of our members own and store 120 compact discs at Murfie. If they purchased them all new, each such average-sized collection represents an investment of as much as $2,000. In fact, in the United States alone, consumers have purchased around 15 billion compact discs at a cost (in today’s dollars) of about a quarter-trillion dollars. WOW! Some of our biggest members have as much as $50,000 or more invested in their CD collections!

So it’s not surprising that people think of their music collections as “assets” that they may want to hand down to their family, friends, or favorite charities. News outlets such as CNet and TIME Magazine have even addressed these “digital asset” inheritance issues. At Murfie, our members own their music, and it’s their business what happens to it after they’re gone.

Shopkeep of the Week

2013_0403_featuredshop_wildwoodMike has been rockin’ the Murfie marketplace since May 2012. He’s sent in six kits all the way from sunny Georgia to lil’ ol’ Wisconsin, adding over 1700 discs to our warehouse.

Murfie: How did you originally learn about Murfie?
Mike: Truthfully, I don’t remember. I am a CD seller and have sold tens of thousands over the internet, so I was looking for an outlet for those that I get that are missing artwork.

Murfie: When did you purchase your first CD? What was it?
Mike: My first CD was the Eagles Greatest Hits Volume 1, and it was probably 10+ years ago.

Murfie: How many CDs do you own (or did you own at your peak)?
Mike: I currently own several thousand CDs, but that is because I am a seller. My personal collection is all digital so there are no CDs.

Murfie: How tall are you?
Mike: 5’10”. How tall are you?

Murfie: Tell us about your musical tastes.
Mike: Mostly classic rock and blues.

Murfie: What can folks expect to find in your store (if different than the above)?
Mike: Everything.

Murfie: If you could meet any musician or band in person, who would it be and why?
Mike: Freddie Mercury, because I believe he was greatly talented.

Murfie: What is your favorite album at the moment?
Mike: I truly don’t have a favorite. I usually just shuffle the songs in my collection.

Murfie: What do you plan to do with the millions of dollars you’re making from your Murfie shop?
Mike: Buy more music, of course.

Murfie: Which Beatle was your favorite?
Mike: Paul

Check out Mike’s shop on Murfie!

Shopkeep of the Week is a weekly feature that focuses on our most interesting Murfie shopkeepers. These are music lovers like you who have sold hundreds of pre-loved CDs on Murfie and have hundreds more at the ready to please your ears! If you’d like your Murfie Shop to be featured, or if you’d like to nominate a shop to be featured, please e-mail us at and let us know.

Phonorecords: A Matter Where Matter Still Matters


Judge Sullivan’s decision in the recent Capitol Records versus ReDigi ruling allows for what we all know is perfectly legal; exchange and personal uses of original physical media, like the original commercial CDs that Murfie stores for an owner, providing access only to the owner.

Beyond that, the ruling was a bit of a letdown. In this modern era of digital audio delivered across high speed networks, we all wanted a profound decision about the future of ownership of our media.  We wanted a ruling that clearly let us know whether our iTunes downloads were albums we really owned versus data we’ve merely licensed. Instead, the case came down to the copying of… phonorecords. Phonorecords?

As defined by copyright law, phonorecords are the “material objects” in which the music is fixed. When the law was created in 1976, this meant vinyl records, eight-track tapes, and cassettes. The various music formats which followed over the years were also very clearly material objects. In the ReDigi case, the judge takes the definition of phonorecord to an entirely new level that now includes the physical section of magnetic bits stored on our harddrives in the case of iTunes downloads. By contrast, an album that is sold or accessed on Murfie’s platform simply is a CD phonorecord, stored for its owner’s convenience in Murfie’s disc vault.

And, this is where ReDigi ran into trouble. The instant that original, licensed download of Thriller was saved on our harddrive, that tiny section of bits on our physical drive became the material object associated with that phonorecord. Short of teleportation, it didn’t matter how fancy ReDigi’s system of transferring data was because, in the end, ownership of the concrete physical thing wasn’t conveyed to the buyer. The judge ruled that the laws of physics made it impossible to transfer a phonorecord (i.e. a material object) across a network in a manner that didn’t involve making a copy.

Extending the definition of a phonorecord to account for bits on a drive leaves open some interesting questions. The judge ruled that the first sale doctrine “still protects a lawful owner’s sale of her ‘particular’ phonorecord, be it a computer hard disk, iPod, or other memory device onto which the file was originally downloaded.” This seems to imply that we’re able to sell a harddrive containing a bundle of original mp3 downloads. But what about those mp3s that were transferred over to this harddrive when we upgraded it to a larger size? Or, even those files that were copied over to a new directory (file system specifics aside)?

In tying the case back to elements of copyright in place long before the rise of digital audio, the judge took a conservative approach and declined an opportunity to chart a path for first sale in the digital realm. He cited as much in his decision: “Congress has the constitutional authority and the institutional ability to accommodate fully the varied permutations of competing interests that are inevitably implicated by such new technology.”

In other words, congress needs to update our laws if the original copy of your iTunes download on your harddrive is going to be considered something more than a phonorecord that’s stuck with you (or whomever has your computer). So, for those of us waiting around for a digital first sale doctrine, it could be a while.

In the meantime, Murfie already provides a path forward for music ownership in a digital world. We’ll continue to maximize the value of your music within time-tested laws, but we also applaud any work entrepreneurs, legislators, and courts do to modernize those laws to reflect how our systems for transacting, storing, and accessing music, books, and movies that we own actually work. These advances are good for all parties and can hardly fail to lead to many new opportunities for creators, the various supporting media businesses, and fans alike.

Please drop in and check us out.

Last updated: 04/02/2013 at 4:22pm; a draft was posted by mistake

Popularity Contest: Murfie Downloads or Streaming?

Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not trying to imply that one is objectively better than the other. I’m humbly venturing to gather intel (mind you, informal intel) on music delivery preferences and whether downloading OR streaming is more “popular” as a playback choice on Murfie.

Now, your exact preference is probably a result of many factors (specific to your lifestyle). Here at Murfie, we’d sure lurve if you shared some of those reasons in the comments section. But first, do the easy part — take the poll, please!

Now I ain’t saying you’re a gold digger…

Are you a Gold Digger yet? Er, wait, that’s not right. I mixed up my gold references. Let me rephrase. Are you a Murfie Gold Member yet?

The Murfie Gold Membership program is one of our most attractive features.

You ask


I say

A Gold Membership gives you free rips & downloads of all CD purchases & trades for a year. A whole dang year!

A flat fee of $24 gives you 12 months of membership. In addition to free downloads of all CDs you purchase or trade for on Murfie, you also get free rips and downloads of up to 25 additional CDs per month from your Murfie collection (which includes CDs you mail us). Too good to be true? Nah, it’s as good as gold.

To set up a Gold Membership, just visit this page:

The bookshelf is dead! Long live the bookshelf!

This post belongs to Murfie Musings–a series where folks at Murfie and our guests take the time to share what Murfie is up to as well as explore issues that matter to media ecology.

I have a fascination with the ways in which people create and experience media, and the financial transactions that support these value creating activities. Lately, I spend a lot of time staring at bookshelves full of books, CDs, magazines, DVDs. I call this stuff “flatmedia” – not only because it’s basically two-dimensional, but also because my experience of it is flat relative to what I’ve come to expect from digital versions on networked devices from web browser to iPod to Android to Kindle.

This is not a niche concern – most of the owned media in the world, by an enormous margin, is flatmedia that someone purchased at some point and currently owns. Virtually all of the accrued equity in media in the world exists in flatmedia form. It’s a collective repository of our culture on shelves in homes, libraries, archives, and used book and record shops. These copies we own, plus the unique rights we have to use them as we see fit, are the very reasons why we have any say over how we experience major parts of our often copyrighted culture.

But right now, we’re on a course to give all of that up. Our flatmedia infrastructure is slowly dying, many if not most new and used book shops and record stores will close as they can’t offer the new digital services folks want. As the ecology of flatmedia is displaced, but not replaced, the world of digital media is growing. In that world, the music and book buyer has no strong legal ownership rights to the digital copy of the product they buy, if they even have a copy, and their experiences and flexibility are vendor-controlled. Often, this control is used to subject them to marketing or other manipulation. This is fine for many folks, but many are not happy with the trend, and it drives otherwise lawful people into quasi-legal and illegal niches to get legitimate needs met.

I feel that liberty of experience and the use of one’s personal property and tools is an intrinsic good. Copyright and other legal and cultural norms surrounding flatmedia give us a lot of liberty with personal copies, and this mostly happened because it creates value for the rights holder and copy owner alike. Today we have this liberty in a million little ways. One such easily accomplished liberty is that I can loan a book to Julie, who can then allow her mom to read part of it, and then give it back to me. I don’t need an account or permission or a feature to do that. I can also put some of her CDs in my car legally. Books and movies that I don’t want anymore are material property with real value, and that property can be sold or traded at used shops or online. I can get some money for new CDs while making used ones available to people who could not or would not buy full-price music.

That’s part of why, starting with CDs, Murfie seeks to upgrade our members’ flatmedia from their bookshelf to the digital world and protect both their existing rights and their material property. We’re the friendly platform for media owners with an approach that respects artists’ rights and needs and offers them services and direct access to our marketplace. We want artists to sell lots of new music on Murfie. We also respect the rights and needs of those who support and facilitate artists, like labels, publishers, distributors, and in fact new and used retail stores. These groups are not obsolete – they have all sorts of value-creating power and we’re happy to partner with them. Murfie will list and sell every new title we can find in CD format, and we’ll continue reaching out to labels to find other ways to work together.

While we do this, we’ll always respect and protect the rights, needs and desires of our members. Ultimately, it’s the music listeners, the movie watchers and the book readers who provide the revenue that makes the creative ecology tick, and Murfie’s here to help.

Suggested Reading

Murfie Musings–a new series of thoughtful posts about Murfie

Murfie seeks to be the friendly media ownership platform. In these posts we talk about what it means to us to respect the stakeholders in the media ecology, and how Murfie is doing it. We discuss our thinking, implementation, and plans for rights holders and collection owners alike to sell new and used media backed by material objects you can hold in your hand. We talk about how and where we seek to improve digital access by owners and partners via the services and APIs we provide. We’ll provide information about our design and how it performs to discourage infringing and illegal use cases, and we’ll want to hear everyone’s concerns. We want to bring attention to the evolution of copyright and its impact on people within creative industries: musicians, producers and writers, to name a few. We’ll talk about where we would like to see the law and market go to increase healthy cooperation and competition among vendors, increase prosperity and exposure for professional creators, and foster both great consumer experiences and broadened opportunity to create and contribute for everyone.