November 11, 2008

When you “buy” a digital work, what are you getting exactly?

Original Post from April 18th 2008.

Well, this Gizmodo article :Why Your Books Are No Longer Yours really started a good debate!

It's basically a (terminology) complaint about on-line eBook stores such as Sony Connect/eLibrary and Amazon Kindle Store for saying you are "buying" or "purchasing" an eBook, when in fact you are getting a non-transferrable (that's my wording) license to an electronic version of the work.

Beyond a fairly silly terminology debate lies the deeper question, which some law students have waded into:

"Four students at Columbia Law School's Science and Technology Law Review looked at the p
articular issue of reselling and copying e-books downloaded to Amazon's Kindle or the Sony Reader, and came up with answers to a fundamental question: Are you buying a crippled license to intellectual property when you download, or are you buying an honest-to-God book?"

If you ignore the first few (typical) imbecilic comments you can see the debate and issues that people are struggling with in eBooks.

  • if I have multiple devices (same or different) can I transfer content between them?
  • can I transfer by eBooks to a new device when I upgrade?
  • if HW fails or crashes, can I retain/recover a copy?
  • can I loan or borrow eBook content?
  • can I resell it when I'm done, like a paper book?

I don't think the characterization of it as a "rental" is very accurate, as it never expires, or the price doesn't depend on how long you keep it - but issues remain and that's the interesting part of the debate.

FYI, some work on DRM that could address some of these issues has been done in HP Labs, but not completed or brought into products yet.

No comments: