Are You Confused by the Buy Button?

This week, I sat on a panel at Harvard University as part of on-going series of roundtable discussions hosted by the USPTO about a variety of copyright issues in the digital age.  The topic of our conversation was whether or not first sale doctrine ought to be expanded in the digital age.  In case you don’t speak lawyer, first sale doctrine has its roots in the 1908 case Bobbs-Merrill v. Strauss, and in simple terms, it set the precedent that allows you to resell a physical copy of a work protected by copyright.  In the original case, the publisher of a novel wished to exert control over the price of copies being sold by the retailer.  The court found that once the publisher received its initial compensation (i.e. wholesale price) for the books, that it no longer had a copyright interest in the copies sold and, therefore, the retailer had the right to dispose of the goods as it saw fit.  Ever since this decision, you and I have been free buy and sell in a secondary market of used books, record albums, DVDs, etc., and that’s been a good thing for all of us and has never harmed the primary market for these works.

Presently, first sale does not apply to content that we obtain strictly via download (e.g. a song from iTunes), although there are certain interests — some altruistic and others opportunistic — who argue that the doctrine ought to be expanded to include these types of files.  There are several topics related to the larger question of expansion, but one that came up in discussion at the panel, I thought was worth writing about here; and that is whether or not most consumers realize that clicking the “Buy” button for digital downloads of music or filmed entertainment doesn’t quite mean what they think it means.  When you click “Buy” and download that new album, what you’re actually paying for is a limited license that gives you the right to store and play those files on a limited number of devices.  Admittedly, this is a little different from our usual notion of “buying” something, and some members of the panel discussion asked whether or not any entity has a responsibility to educate the consumer or perhaps change these buttons to reflect the real nature of the transaction.

Maybe.  But here’s the thing…

When we bought CDs, or record albums before that, we bought limited licenses then, too, but we didn’t really think about it in those terms because the limit of the license was tied to the inherent limitation of the physical objects on which the music was recorded.  In other words, buy an LP of TRex’s The Slider and unless you start mass producing bootleg dubs, you’re pretty well limited to listening to the record, giving it to someone, or selling it in a secondary market transaction like a yard sale or eBay.  Moreover, even if you made bootleg dubs using older tech like cassette tapes, these would be inferior in quality to the vinyl original.  But in a digital file paradigm like we have now, a copy is a clone and not inferior to the source file, and so the rights holder had to come up with a new structure for offering the customer a similar kind of limited license while still providing flexibility.  I don’t think consumers have ever been confused that the retail price of an album did not pay for a license to broadcast or redistribute the music in some other form.  In that sense, nothing has changed except a licensing structure that coincides with the absence of physical media in these new transactions.

I would argue that flexibility is greater than it ever was (e.g. you can download one song at a time), the purchase price is remarkably cheap, and that we consumers seem to generally like the idea of having music, movies, books, and TV shows at our disposal without the need to install more shelves in our homes.  For $1.29 I can listen to a song anywhere in the home or office, on my phone while cycling, in the car, or even copy it legally onto a CD to make a mix for a party.  And even if we only factor for inflation, that $1.29 in pre-Internet dollars is about $2.35, so we’re getting a pretty good deal in terms of access and pricing compared to the days of content distributed solely on physical media.

Tech-utopians like to wave a banner that says “New Tech! New Models!” with regard to content consumption in the digital age, but this restructured licensing relationship between consumer and producer is a new model that maintains the correct relationship between consumer and producer. We’re buying the rights to enjoy and use the works, not the rights to redistribute those works; and given the nature of the technology, one limitation has to include proscribing resale, partly because there is no such thing as a used digital file.  One of the trade-offs we make for better convenience and flexibility with prices as low as they already are, is that we forego the option to sell these files in a secondary market that would actually threaten the primary market.  And because this is consistent with where consumer trends are going anyway, the question of educating folks about the “Buy” button may be moot.

iTunes for music makes a good example for discussion, but even that model is already being supplanted by on-demand streaming services like Spotify.  Digital downloads are quickly becoming an obsolete notion as consumers, especially younger ones, demonstrate that their interest in “owning” works is dwindling in favor of streaming services supported either by advertising or subscriptions.  Netflix for films is looking bright, and we see new services like Oyster, calling itself “Netflix for books.”  Industry and policy efforts should be focused on getting the economics right for these models because the natural progression is for the consumer to use the web as a big jukebox.  We just have a few kinks to work out with regard to whose feeding quarters into the machine.

The trend we’re likely to see continue will be a bifurcation of consumer consumption in that we’ll stream the lion’s share of what we watch, read, and listen to, but we might simultaneously rekindle or maintain an interest in high-quality physical media for keeping the things we really love on our shelves.  I don’t think, for instance, that it’s just a hipster thing to rediscover vinyl for music. Maybe one of them will want to pay a premium for my copy of The Slider, assuming I’m willing to sell it.

Photo by Moppet
Photo by Moppet

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:  Just as an exercise with regard to the economics of digital resale for the consumer, consider the following:   Imagine you consume on the high end of average and that you’ve legally paid for 100 songs a year from iTunes since it launched in 2003.  Now you have about 1,100 downloaded songs and you want to shed as many as half of thse, which is a high estimate for music you wanted to buy in the first place.  At an average 29 cents per track from a reselling middle-man like a ReDigi, you’d get back about $160 if you sold all 550 tracks.  That’s about $14.50 per year since the day you started buying digital downloads, and that recovery is roughly on par with selling that copy of Fifty Shades of Grey at the next yard sale. Now, was it really about getting a quarter for the used book, or did you just want stuff out of the house?

This entry was posted in Copyright, Digital Culture, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Are You Confused by the Buy Button?

  1. Anonymous says:

    David–
    “Ever since this decision, you and I have been free buy and sell in a secondary market of used books, record albums, DVDs, etc., and that’s been a good thing for all of us and has never harmed the primary market for these works.”

    And yet this has not stopped complaints by some primary sellers of those works that the used market has indeed harmed them. In particular, I remember complaints about used CDs in the 90s from Garth Brooks, from the Songwriters Guild of America, and from ASCAP. And I remember complaints from authors when Amazon started carrying and advertising cheap used books. If their claims are false, as that fact and your flat statement above must mean, then doesn’t this suggest that we should at least be cautious about accepting claims of harm now?

    “Presently, first sale does not apply to content that we obtain strictly via download”

    Sure it does; nothing in the statute says otherwise. Parties who download might contract not to engage in resale, and pretty commonly they don’t comply with the statute by selling lawfully made used copies, as defined in the law, but the law does allow for it and does apply.

    “When you click “Buy” and download that new album, what you’re actually paying for is a limited license that gives you the right to store and play those files on a limited number of devices.”

    Except for the times when what you’re actually paying for is a license to download a work and thus create a new, lawfully made copy of it, which is then otherwise as unrestricted as any copy you might have bought in a store. There is not as much uniformity as you imagine.

    “When we bought CDs, or record albums before that, we bought limited licenses then, too, but we didn’t really think about it in those terms because the limit of the license was tied to the inherent limitation of the physical objects on which the music was recorded.”

    I call bullshit.

    When you buy a CD in a normal transaction in a normal bricks and mortar record store, you are simply buying it. There is no relevant license.

    A good rule of thumb is that you can only grant a license if you have a right to a remedy in the absence of the license. So for example, I cannot give you a license to make copies of “Radio Radio” because I don’t have any rights in it that could afford me a remedy if you made copies sans my license. Likewise, I cannot give you a license to make copies of Thomas Macaulay’s speeches, because they’re in the public domain, and so again I have no rights which would provide me a remedy if you made copies without my license.

    So what exactly is being licensed when you buy a CD?

    It’s not the right to privately perform it, because the copyright on the CD doesn’t include such a right. No right, no remedy, no license. It’s not the right to resell it used, for the same reason. It’s not the right to make fair uses of it, again for the same reason. It’s not the right to use it as a frisbee, a coaster, or to dangle it from your rear-view mirror, because the seller doesn’t retain any personal property interests in the physical disc itself.

    So what are the terms of this limited license which you assert the existence of?

    “At an average 29 cents per track from a reselling middle-man like a ReDigi, you’d get back about $160 if you sold all 550 tracks. That’s about $14.50 per year since the day you started buying digital downloads, and that recovery is roughly on par with selling that copy of Fifty Shades of Grey at the next yard sale. Now, was it really about getting a quarter for the used book, or did you just want stuff out of the house?”

    I’m sure that any business would be pleased as punch to wring out as little as an extra penny from their customers. There’s something around over 25 billion credit card transactions annually in the US. If the card company tacked on an extra penny fee per transaction, it might be very little to you, but it’s a cool $250 million for them. They’d raise hell if they were compelled to give their customers the penny; why should it be any different when it’s us who are the victims of this modern day clipping and sweating?

    • David Newhoff says:

      I’m out the door, Anonymous, but I have to respond to the idea that consumers are victims in these transactions at all because that’s absurd. Free stuff is available — legally through models that might fail or illegally through pirate sites. Immediately above that is insanely cheap. But then there’s nothing that inspires parsimony more than offering somebody a bargain.

    • James_J says:

      Anonymous wrote: (bunch of gobbledegook)

      I call BS on your counterargument, anon

      On EVERY CD I’ve ever bought, right down by the copyright date, it says “ALL RIGHTS RESERVED”

      … have you ever [legally] bought media, anonymous?

      • M says:

        It’s more like a shorthand for “all rights reserved [by copyright law]”. Controlling the secondary market is not usually a right permitted by copyright law.

    • David Newhoff says:

      Anonymous, as you might imagine, I occasionally vet things I say of a legal nature with other IP professionals, who would disagree with your interpretation of my use of the term license here. From a layman’s (i.e. consumer’s) point of view, we effectively bought a limited right to use of music when we bought physical media, and the limitation was largely protected by the physical nature of that medium. And of course the boilerplate statement on every copy makes clear that certain uses are proscribed. All I’m really saying, or trying to say in common tongue, is that we’ve transformed that physical limited “license” to a license that is more explicit and is also partly protected by physical (software) limitations. Most importantly, call it what you will, the consumer has greater flexibility than before, greater convenience than before, and lower prices than before if you remotely factor for inflation. And if all that comes at the price of not “reselling” these files, I don’t think that’s at all unreasonable.

      Regardless of the fact that big companies turn pennies into millions of dollars, you’re essentially saying that you paid a buck in 2004 for song you once enjoyed, but now you no longer want to hear it and believe it’s reasonable to get 30% of that dollar back that you spent ten years ago. Damn.

  2. Anonymous says:

    James_J–
    “On EVERY CD I’ve ever bought, right down by the copyright date, it says ‘ALL RIGHTS RESERVED'”

    Sure. That’s not a license, however.

    First, here’s what that actually is:

    Until the late 19th century, copyright was pretty much a strictly national affair; an author could get a copyright from a country only for works created in that country or which he was a citizen of. (Dickens, for example, didn’t care for the US essentially encouraging the piracy of British authors’ works. We invited him to get US copyrights by becoming an American citizen, but he didn’t find this to be to his liking, apparently)

    Anyway, the Berne Convention was established in Europe in the 1880s to allow for national treatment (which is fine) and minimum standards (which is not). National treatment means that foreign authors (in this case, who are in some way associated with Berne Convention party nations, e.g. by being a citizen of a Berne party, or by creating the work in a Berne party) are treated the same as domestic authors. The copyrights are still national in nature, but the eligibility has opened up.

    The US was invited to ratify Berne back then, and we sent an observer, but wisely, we didn’t bother with it. However, we apparently felt that it was worth setting up a counterpoint to Berne that was more to our liking, so about 25 years later, the US helped to establish the Buenos Aires Convention, which was popular with the US and most of Latin America.

    Article 3 of the Buenos Aires Convention states:

    “The acknowledgement of a copyright obtained in one State, in conformity with its laws, shall produce its effects of full right, in all the other States, without the necessity of complying with any other formality, provided always there shall appear in the work a statement that indicates the reservation of the property right.”

    Which is to say, if an author who obtains a copyright in one Buenos Aires party nation wants it recognized by the others, he must include a notice such as ‘All Rights Reserved,’ ‘Todos los derechos reservados,’ or ‘Todos os direitos reservados.’

    By 2000, the last of the Buenos Aires parties had also signed onto Berne, which does not require such a statement in order for copyrights to be recognized by the other Berne parties. So while the Buenos Aires Convention remains in force, it’s not particularly important anymore.

    Still, though, it’s become a habit to throw in the magic words, even though people generally don’t understand why they’re doing it. It doesn’t hurt to put it in, but it doesn’t hurt to leave it out. The legal profession is fairly conservative, so I expect it’ll hang around for a while; The language of law in England was once French, and even though that’s been on the decline since the 14th century, we still have traces of it! (E.g. in property law, you might own land in fee simple, or as a life estate pur autre vie)

    Now that you know the back story, here’s the other reason that that’s not a license:

    Because ‘All rights reserved’ is the EXACT OPPOSITE of a license. A license is by definition, permission, granted by someone in in a position to do so, conferring a right to do something, which in the absence of that permission, would be illegal.

    If you own a house, you implicitly license members of the public to cross your land (which otherwise would be a trespass) in order to come up to your front door and ring the bell. If you don’t want people to do that, you can expressly prohibit them from entering your land to begin with. If you want more people to enter your land, you can send them an invitation to attend your big summer party in the back yard, expressly granting them a license to enter.

    If we looked at the words ‘All rights reserved’ through the lens of a license, rather than understanding it to be a treaty formality as discussed above, it would mean that there is NO license. All rights are reserved, and no permission is being granted to do anything at all. Which means that if you can still do lawfuly anything at all, it must be outside of the scope of the right that is not being licensed to begin with.

    Also note that your ‘All rights reserved’ license doesn’t even pass a laugh test. Yes, it’s possible to have a very short express license, and yes, you can even have implied licenses, but ‘All rights reserved’ sure as hell is no license.

    A short license would be something like ‘I grant you the right to make copies of this work.’ Notice how instead of reserving rights — which is the opposite of licensing — it grants them?

    Of course, I’d never let anything like that out the door. An acceptable copyright license, where you can confidently predict how it will work, could not be done in less than a paragraph, IMO. A proper license — and because my copyright practice is transactional, a lot of my work involves reading and writing copyright licenses — will pretty certainly run on for pages and pages. Even the various Creative Commons licenses that appear on web pages as something like “CC BY-NC-ND” is just a reference to an actual document that my printer reports would come out at a good 5 pages or so. (And that’s fairly short, IMO)

    This is why I really hate software licensing and adhesive licenses generally. It’s almost never necessary, but the practice has utterly screwed up people’s expectations and understandings of how things really work.

    • AudioNomics says:

      “Because ‘All rights reserved’ is the EXACT OPPOSITE of a license.”

      Not to speak for others, but i believe that was actually the point…

  3. M says:

    I agree David. The idea of first sale on digital content is almost ridiculous. For the exact reasons you say so in fact. How could “reselling” a file actually work? It’s absurd.

    But here is the thing. It doesn’t end there. The same ridiculous notions make digital first sale weird and seemingly untenable, extend to the whole idea of copyright itself. This world we live in is where people can make perfect copies of all content. I mean, your argument against digital first sale is one of the standard arguments against copyright. I could have replacement all your mentions of “first sale” with the word “copyright”, and it would have been publishable material on Techdirt.

    Food for thought.

  4. monkey says:

    How ar copyright laws any different from TOS or anything else which is enforced online?
    And if IP belongs to everyone, then why is Google allowed to hoard its source code?

    • John Warr says:

      I think you’ll find that IP is for of taxation that Google charges content cvreators for access to the internet.

      They have been inserting little memes in everybody’s mind. So Google’s shills can shriek there whenever they’re inclined

  5. Anonymous says:

    AudioNomics–
    “Not to speak for others, but i believe that was actually the point…”

    I don’t think so.

    Listening to the CD, i.e. private performance, is a right. If “All Rights Reserved” has any effect, then that right is being reserved by, and to the copyright holder. The normal rule of construction is that implied language is subordinate to express language. Thus, because the right to listen to the CD is reserved, it cannot implicitly, be licensed to the purchaser when they buy the CD. The result then would be that you just bought a CD which you cannot lawfully listen to.

    That’s an absurd result, it doesn’t appear to be what any party intends, and the theory of licensing which is used to arrive at that outcome — both that there is an implied right to listen to the CD which is being licensed as part of the sale transaction, and that “All Rights Reserved” has any operative effect, is apparently wrong, as it doesn’t accurately predict the outcome.

    The better solution is this: The copyright holder does not hold a right of private performance, as a quick perusal of the Copyright Act indicates. Rather, the right to privately perform the CD lies with the owner of the plastic disc. When the disc is sold, the right to listen to it passes to the new owner. “All Rights Reserved” has no effect in this case, partly because it is not intended to have any effect other than to ensure that copyrights are recognized by other Buenos Aires parties, and partly because the rights it references are copyrights, and as noted, there is no such right, in copyright, as an exclusive right of private performance.

    This appears to match up to the intentions of the parties in the ordinary sort of sales transaction seen, the result is sensible, and the theory makes accurate predictions about the outcome.

    I do think it’s kind of ironic that we even had to discuss this. Bobbs-Merrill was mentioned in the very first paragraph above. However, it doesn’t merely say that the distribution right is exhausted after the first sale, which, sadly, is all that many people take away from it. What Bobbs-Merrill actually says is that only certain, specific rights are granted to an author by means of copyright, and that despite any claims to the contrary by the copyright holder, they cannot claim that even one iota more falls within the ambit of the copyright than is provided for in the statute:

    “To add to the right of exclusive sale the authority to control all future retail sales, by a notice that such sales must be made at a fixed sum, WOULD GIVE A RIGHT NOT INCLUDED IN THE TERMS OF THE STATUTE, and, in our view, extend its operation, by construction, beyond its meaning, when interpreted with a view to ascertaining the legislative intent in its enactment.”

    (Emphasis mine)

    The right merely to listen to the CD is private performance. It is not within the statute. It cannot be claimed by the copyright holders. And since they haven’t got it, they can’t license it.

    • John Warr says:

      Gosh it doesn’t mean that all rights covered by copyright are reserved then? Well I never knew that it was a claim of droit du seigneur.

      ‘Gainst lawyers and ‘gainst tech priests, stand up now, stand up now,
      ‘Gainst lawyers and ‘gainst Tech Priests, stand up now.
      For tyrants are they both even flat against their oath,
      To grant us they are loath free meat and drink and cloth.
      Stand up now, Creators all.

    • James_J says:

      Anon, what are you even talking about?
      Of course the purchaser has the ‘right’ to listen to the CD… that wasn’t even in question.
      Maybe it’s redundant putting the ‘all rights reserved’ on the CD, (of course in any case should read ‘all APPLICABLE rights..’ )
      I see it as no different than the FBI warnings on movie DVD’s… that by ‘buying the disk’ you don’t have further rights than that disk, ie, you can make 1000 copies and sell them out of the back of your truck and claim you have the ‘right’ because you bought one CD/DVD…. by buying the disk you can’t do anything but private performance.. that’s what ‘all rights reserved’ means.

  6. Anonymous says:

    David–
    “Anonymous, as you might imagine, I occasionally vet things I say of a legal nature with other IP professionals, who would disagree with your interpretation of my use of the term license here.”

    If that’s the quality of the advice that you’re getting, I’d encourage you to seek a second opinion. Perhaps people are getting too tangled up with copyright. Try asking someone who knows from contracts and sales. Ask them if you bought a brick, from a store that sold bricks, what rights you would hold in the brick once the sale was complete. Ask them whether you held those rights as the owner of the brick, or as a licensee of the brick manufacturer.

    Because copyright does not give copyright holders an exclusive right over private performance, a copyrighted sound recording of a copyrighted musical work on a CD is no different from a brick for the purposes of this discussion.

    “From a layman’s (i.e. consumer’s) point of view, we effectively bought a limited right to use of music when we bought physical media, and the limitation was largely protected by the physical nature of that medium.”

    From a consumer’s point of view, they bought the CD, period, end of story. Ordinary consumers don’t think about licenses. I’d bet that if you asked people on the street what they bought when they go into a record store, put down cash in exchange for a plastic disc, and walked out, not one person is going to say that they bought a limited right to use music, or any such nonsense. They bought a CD is what they’re going to say.

    “And of course the boilerplate statement on every copy makes clear that certain uses are proscribed.”

    It does not. For starters, simple statements may not make clear what uses are forbidden. Further, those statements are not always truthful. Nor do they carry any relevant legal force. Nor are they always accurate in light of other circumstances. For example, a radio station employee could go to a record store, buy a CD containing a copyrighted sound recording of a piece of public domain music, which is clearly labeled as not to be publicly performed, and then the station can publicly perform it on the air, without having broken the law, breached an agreement, or trespassed against some licensed chattel.

    “Most importantly, call it what you will, the consumer has greater flexibility than before, greater convenience than before, and lower prices than before if you remotely factor for inflation.”

    Well, if the measure for success is simply greater flexibility, greater convenience, and lower prices, why not just pirate? Pirated music usually works out much better on all three of those criteria. Alternatively, why not legalize piracy? Again, it would produce better outcomes for all three points you mention. The point is, I remember when claims like that were made about Chapter 12 back in the 90’s. Both back then, and now, I don’t like it when people try to piss on my back and tell me that it’s raining.

    “Regardless of the fact that big companies turn pennies into millions of dollars, you’re essentially saying that you paid a buck in 2004 for song you once enjoyed, but now you no longer want to hear it and believe it’s reasonable to get 30% of that dollar back that you spent ten years ago. ”

    Why would ReDigi be the only means for selling used music, and why would their prices be gospel?

    I have plenty of rare books which are worth more now than they were new, even adjusting for inflation. And some of them I know to be pirated and available to people who have an interest in them, and others are in the public domain and are legitimately available cheaply or freely from numerous sources. Perhaps I have some rare tracks for which I can get a good price if only I could put them on eBay.

    More importantly, though, why should I suffer from such restraints? Selling used anything always harms the market for new anything. But it’s important to our sense of fairness and our expectations which have organically grown around our property system that the owner of a thing should have a right to dispose of it as he sees fit, including by means of resale.

    In fact, the classical, fundamental rights of property which make a thing property, and without which you cannot be said to own a thing, are the right to possess, control, and enjoy the property; to exclude others from using the property at will; and to dispose of the property as you like, such as by destroying it, selling it, renting it, etc.

    Whether they can articulate it or not, this is what people expect when they buy things. I don’t think it’ll be given up casually. You mess with it at your own risk.

    Streaming, OTOH, people are generally okay with, because it feels different from ownership, and so people do not have the same expectations of it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    James_J–
    “Of course the purchaser has the ‘right’ to listen to the CD… that wasn’t even in question.”

    Well, don’t look at me. That’s what David said in the first post: “When we bought CDs, or record albums before that, we bought limited licenses then, too, but we didn’t really think about it in those terms because the limit of the license was tied to the inherent limitation of the physical objects on which the music was recorded.”

    “by buying the disk you can’t do anything but private performance”

    Well, that’s not precisely true either. First, you can do almost anything with it. A few things are not allowed under the Copyright Act, but only if they’re actually mentioned as being part of copyright. Private performance isn’t one of those, which is why you can still do it. But neither are lots of other things. You could throw the disc around like a frisbee. Nothing in the Act about an exclusive right of disc throwing, after all. A few other laws would prohibit a few other uses, but the vast majority of possible uses remains open.

    “that’s what ‘all rights reserved’ means.”

    Well, it really is more of just a magic incantation for Buenos Aires with no inherent meaning on its own. The treaty could’ve just as easily said that any copyrighted work would enjoy protection if it bore a statement reading any of: ‘Abracadabra,’ ‘Hocus Pocus,’ ‘Abracapocus,’ ‘Pocuscadabra,’ ‘Newport News’ or ‘Walla-Walla, Washington.’

    After all, if ‘All Rights Reserved’ actually meant that all rights were reserved, and none were licensed, it would make it impossible to implicitly license works where Buenos Aires protection was sought, yet that happened all the time, and it would make it mildly annoying to even expressly license such works, and that also happened all the time. In fact, I bet if you looked around your house for a work where there really was a copyright license (software is usually a good bet), you’ll find both an express license and the ‘All Rights Reserved’ language.

    Just treat it as not meaning anything other than that the copyright holder wants protection in a few foreign countries, and I think you’ll have an easier time with it.

  8. wallow-T says:

    I’m still looking for an authoritative discussion about what happens to the ownership rights, or licenses, on MP3-type music files and e-books upon the death of the original purchaser.

    If the rights cannot be transferred to heirs, then do executors have a duty to see that digital media collections are destroyed?

    This is not an abstract question: within 10-20 years, some of us hoarders are going to kick the bucket leaving thousands of dollars of digital media “purchases” behind.

    • David Newhoff says:

      It’s a good question, but my personal view is that the inheritance issue is technological and cultural more than it is legal. Regardless of the DRM used to keep files from being authorized on an open-ended number of computers, it is unlikely that today’s digital files will even play on whatever a computer is in 20 years. In all probability, our kids will be streaming nearly everything on demand. They’ll stream a song and think “Dad used to listen to this.” That’ll be a far cry from holding a physical album that once belonged to a parent, but the loss of that relationship comes with the change in technology and user habits. Executors likely won’t need to destroy these media collections. The way the technology has evolved so far suggests they’ll simply become obsolete.

  9. Pingback: ReDigi, Fair Use, and Libraries - The Illusion of MoreThe Illusion of More

Join the discussion.