ATG Article of the Week: Imagining a Swap Meet for E-Books and Music

Imagining a Swap Meet for E-Books and Music is a New York Times piece by David Streitfeld that points out how “severely limited” your ownership rights are when you buy an ebook.  He notes that you can’t resell it or give it away as you can a print book. In fact, he claims that you are only renting an ebook when you click on the “Buy Now” button.

However, it appears that both Amazon and Apple are riding into the breach.  Mr. Streitfeld recounts how Amazon has received a patent to set up a marketplace where digital items can be exchanged and that Apple was right behind them by applying for its own patent a couple of weeks ago.

But even more telling, Mr. Streitfeld reports the fact that a New York court is deciding a suit that claims that an internet start-up called ReDigi that “created a way for people to buy and sell iTunes songs is breaking copyright law.”  He goes on to say that “A victory for the company would mean that consumers would not need either Apple’s or Amazon’s exchange to resell their digital items. Electronic bazaars would spring up instantly.”   if that happens it could add fuel to a growing adversarial relationship as authors and publishers fear what such exchanges would do to prices while libraries and librarians welcome an open marketplace that might at last allow them to purchase the ebooks they want.

How this all shakes out is a big concern to all of us and bears close watching.  Mr. Streitfeld’s article offers a good introduction as he describes what Amazon’s exchange might look like and digs further in to the drama surrounding the ReDigi lawsuit.

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