Should Digital Collections Be Worth Something?

Most people don’t care whether they own music downloads or not.

Of the more than 8 million people that are estimated to buy a Kindle this year, only a small fraction of them understand that the ebooks bought on the device are licensed – not owned – which means they can’t lend or sell their titles. By agreeing to Amazon’s terms of service, which they didn’t read, they’ve accepted these conditions. Soon, single ebook lending may be allowed on the Kindle, but users won’t be allowed to buy used ebooks.

The “first sale” doctrine indicates that consumers can sell their physical books, give them to a library, or do just about anything else. This legal principle covers CDs, DVDs, and videogames too. It enables the used marketplace and retailers like eBay and Amazon to exist and sell used titles. In the digital age, this concept is under fire. It’s no longer clear that consumers should be granted the same rights when they buy digital downloads.

You own an iPod and Kindle, but not the songs or books on them.

“In the context of a downloaded book or music file, the Copyright Office suggests that first sale rights could be limited to the medium used to make the copy,” Seth Greenstein writes. “In other words, to resell your digital downloads, you must also sell your hard drive, ebook reader, or iPod.” However, he notes, even those rights may be forfeited by “clicking” agree to the terms of service that Amazon and iTunes put forth.

This amounts to 10 billion music downloads – that nobody owns.

As far back as 2006, the RIAA said in a statement to MTV that, “Selling an iPod preloaded with music is no different than selling a DVD onto which you have burned your entire music collection.  Either act is a clear violation of U.S. copyright law. The RIAA is monitoring this means of infringement.” To which they conclude, “In short: seller beware.”

So, fans can’t resell music downloads on eBay or Amazon – it’s not allowed. Nor can they try to sell an iPod that’s full of songs that you bought. That’s illegal. Thus, digital collections are worth nothing. And as I suggested, most people don’t care about this.

Should we care? Should digital collections be worth something? As someone that recently purchased an iPod and Kindle, this question has renewed interest to me. 

What’s your take?

Leadership Principles

1. Know Who You Are: Wear one hat

2. Know Why You’re Here: Do it because it’s right, not because it’s right for your resume’

3. Think Independently: The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom.

4. Build Trust: Care, Like you really mean it

5. Listen For The Truth: The walls talk

6. Be Accountable: Only the truth sounds like the truth

7. Take Action: Think like a person of action, and act like a person of thought

Howard Behar, former President of Starbucks.