Start-up to help people sell unwanted MP3s

Bopaboo has an online marketplace that enables consumers to sell their unwanted music files. There is no limit to the number of songs offered, but no DRM-wrapped music is allowed.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read

This blog was updated first at 12:30 p.m. PST with some reader feedback and then at 1:40 p.m. PST to include an interview with Bopaboo's CEO.

"Stop illegally sharing, and start legally selling" is the tagline for a start-up that wants to enable music owners to sell their unwanted MP3s.

Ernesto at the blog TorrentFreak has a story about Bopaboo, which has created a digital marketplace where users operate mini download stores.

Bopaboo buyers can search for music in all the usual ways, and the site offers a seller rating to help shoppers learn a merchant's reputation. Sellers register and then are given an MP3 store, where they can upload the music they want to sell. No DRM-wrapped music is allowed, so iTunes owners like me are blocked from selling.

According to TorrentFreak, there is no limit on the number of songs that can be offered. Sellers select their own prices but, of course, must cut Bopaboo a percentage of sales.

This was an idea bound to emerge out of the craze over songs stripped of digital rights management software. People have traded DVDs, mixed tapes, and albums for decades.

Bopaboo says the site is legal, and it sounds like it should be. Don't people own their MP3s? We'll see.

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m. PT: Several of you readers have pointed out that it's going to be tough, if not impossible, to prevent people from reselling songs over and over. This sounds like a fight in the making with the music industry. I've got a few calls in, so I'll further update this post with any objections from the Recording Industry Association of America.

UPDATE: 1:40 p.m. PT: Okay, here's the juice from Bopaboo CEO Alex Meshkin, a 28-year-old who didn't go to college, doesn't know programming but once ran Toyota's Nascar team. Yes, Nascar team. He added that Bopaboo is a Washington D.C.-based company founded a year ago.

I put the most important question to him first.

Q: Why don't you think the recording industry is going to sue you into oblivion?
Meshkin: Obviously, MP3s are very easy to duplicate...It's very difficult to tell the difference between a so-called new copy and a so-called old copy...I can buy a CD and I can rip it and that behavior has basically been endorsed by the music industry. I can resell that CD on Amazon. The industry doesn't have a way to monetize physical goods being traded on the secondary market. The first-sale doctrine protects that right. In the physical world consumers have the right to resell their property and copyright owners can't do anything about that."

Okay, but there's no way that the four largest music labels are going to sit back and let you enable people to sell multiple copies of the same song. Isn't that what people will be able to do using your digital marketplace?
Meshkin: We have the technology in place to prevent you from selling a song more than one time...We take a digital fingerprint through every upload that prevents a user from uploading to our service a track more than one time. Actually we've come up with an algorithm, which is beyond what even (digital filtering company) Gracenote does with song identification.

Have you spoken to the big recording companies or the RIAA?
Talks have sped up...I will be in New York later this week for meetings. The talks so far have been positive and the labels are inclined to look at alternative business models to monetize.