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Space for Rent: Selling digital products means knowing when to give up the ghost

Tweet of the Day: About my fiction: the weird and wonderful world of Hedron


Possession might be nine tenths of the law, but it is not ten out of ten.   Every first year law students are taught that ownership is like having a bundle of sticks with each stick representing a set of rights over an object, such as the right to use, sell, rent, lease or destroy. In practical terms it means that he who holds the most sticks can do the most with their property.

But what happens when the object exists yet it is ethereal?

How can you posses a line of code?

Or a thought?

Didn’t seem to be a problem as long as their was an exchange of a physical format, such as a book, cassette or disc. Companies tried to impose limits on what owners of digital media could do with their products but failed beyond some common sense legislation barring the sale of pirated copies.

But what if there is no physical copy?

With digital distribution, corporations now claim that ownership is never transferred since no physical copy is bought or sold. They retain possession of the goods in question and with it majority of the rights. Instead what modern consumer receives is a “permission” to use the product as the manufacturer sees fit. That seems to be the real impetus behind the new digital restriction schemes in the latest generation of game consoles. Other digital distributors like Amazon have tried to do the same, with a variety of results.

The irony, and there is always a bit of irony involved, is that many of these corporations are not actual content creators, but distributors who bought the product from their creators and now claim that they are the sole right holders. In other words, they bought a ethereal product but treat it as if they are possessing a physical one when it comes to the creators of such works (and demand draconian measures to enforce those rights) and yet treat the consumers as mere renters of their product.

In essence the middle man is hacking away at the pillars of their own business and the complains when both creators and consumers protests, sue or migrate away from them.

It seems that the key to a good faith sale is knowing when to give up the ghost.

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