To have and have not?
September 2, 2010 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Help me find articles/books/etc. discussing the current shift from physical ownership to rental/licensing models.

All of the recent articles about ebook readers and Apple's rental-only AppleTV announcement yesterday have me thinking about the shift from owning analog goods, to licensing digital ones.

Looking for any intelligent articles, posts, books, video, etc., that discuss this change and possible repercussions. Especially looking for items with a cultural, philosophical, business/marketing, or psych/soc perspective.

Things that will help answer: What will it mean in the long term? Why do I (and others) feel resistant to the change? Should we feel that way? Has this all happened before?

One to get you started: The End of Ownership Culture
posted by nuffsaid to Society & Culture (1 answer total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
the shift from owning analog goods, to licensing digital ones.

You've got some loose definitions there that you need to nail down. For starters, you've (for the past couple hundred years, anyway) almost always had a license rather than ownership. When you buy a printed book, all you own outright is the book qua book (i.e., the physical paper and ink). In terms of the copyrighted work itself what you receive is a transferable, non-exclusive implied license to that one physical embodiment. This implied license is fairly restrictive: no copies, no derivative works, no public performances, etc, except those which are allowed by fair use, which is a pretty narrow doctrine.

Second, explicit licenses aren't an inherently bad thing. True, they can be (and often are) narrower than the implied license, but they can also be broader. Witness Creative Commons, the GPL, etc but also commercial public performance licenses. Explicit licenses also give certainty. With iTunes, for example, you know you're fully within your rights to put copies of a given TV show on X computers. You don't have to worry about whether it's a qualified fair use.

Finally, I'm not sure that the Apple TV marks a particular watershed moment. Consider regular broadcast and cable television. Absent a time-shifting mechanism, television is (and traditionally has been) presented with even less ownership and end-user control than an iTunes rental. To my mind, services like Hulu and iTunes are actually a step up from normal broadcast. One offers free time-shifting but retains ads, the other offers paid time-shifting but removes the ads. Arguably a DVR is the best of both worlds, but DVRs require either a significant capital investment (e.g., Tivo or homebrew) or signing on to a contract (e.g., a cable set-top box). So Hulu, iTunes, and the like fill a different niche.
posted by jedicus at 1:16 PM on September 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

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