The end of ownership? Rethinking digital property to favor consumers at a Yale ISP talk – Wikimedia Blog
lterrat's bookmarks 2017-01-08
"Intellectual property, including copyright, is governed by the principle of exhaustion, also called the first-sale doctrine. This principle, established in Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus in 1908, holds that copyright holders lose their ability to control further sales over their copyrighted works once they transfer the works to new owners. Bobbs-Merrill, the plaintiff and a publisher, drafted a notice in its books forbidding sales under one dollar, warning that violations of this condition would be considered copyright infringement. The defendants resold the books for less than a dollar each. In the end, the United States Supreme Court agreed with the defendants’ position and sent a clear message that copyright holders are not able to control prices or resales after the first sale of the copyrighted work. Even today, the first-sale doctrine is an important defense for consumers. In Alice’s case, copyright holders can control any use of the physical copy of the Bowie LP record until the first sale to Alice. Once Alice owns the record, she can re-sell it, donate it, etc.
But according to Perzanowski, the notion of property has changed: in the past, copies used to be valuable because they were scarce and difficult to produce. In the internet era, the paradigm has shifted. Because everything disseminates quickly and at almost no cost, copies have lost value. This is why buying in the digital world is a different experience. If Alice wants to buy an e-book on Amazon or an album on iTunes, she is not actually buying the “copy” of such e-book or album, but instead is licensing them. According to Perzanowski, these licensing schemes are undermining consumers’ rights that once were protected by ownership. Generally, the license terms of digital products will include the prohibition against transfer and sublicensing, among other restrictions. Thus, the notion of a copy of a work is disappearing, because in these licensing schemes, rights that are obvious in a physical object like resale, rental, or donation rights are neglected. Furthermore, these restrictions are authorized by law, specifically the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which includes provisions on Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies that limits the consumer’s ability to use the product. If Alice buys an e-book, DRM technologies and legal provisions may limit her ability to print and copy-paste, and may impose time-limited access to her book."