“Netflix for vinyl” meets a legal stumbling block

There was much excitement about a “Netflix for vinyl” that would send music-minded subscribers a curated surprise selection of records they could listen to, then send back at their leisure for a new set of unexpected picks. No one seems to have reckoned with the part of federal law known as “section §109(b), popularly known as the Record Rental Amendment of 1984, which makes it illegal to rent records.” [Michael Nelson, Stereogum]


  • They COULD do it if they got permission from every copyright holder.

    I don’t understand the logic behind this law, though. Why is it legal to rent movies (without permission) but not sound recordings? Is it just because video rentals already existed at the time the law was passed?

  • Maybe because at the time this law was passed, there was no copy protection for records, and recordable CDs did not appear till 1990. It was also difficult and expensive to copy VHS/Betamax tapes. Think of it as a proto-DCMA law. The Betamax discision came out in 1984, and you can imagine all the hysteria by the recording industry about protecting their interests. Just my speculation, without doing a search on the history of the law.

  • The linked article is a bit misleading in referring to the prohibition of record rental as part of the First Sale Doctrine. Actually, the prohibition is an exception to the First Sale Doctrine.