Apple Now Pursuing a Patent on Selling Used Content

applelogo_oldIt seems Amazon isn't the only one interested in helping you sell your used digital files; the US Patent Office released new documents today that show that Apple filed for a similar patent in 2012.This patent describes a process that is different from the patent Amazon received last month, but from the outside the general appearance is the same. Patent '0616 describes a process that would enable users to transfer content license from one person to another.

The transfer could be temporary (a loan) or permanent (a sale) and the entire process would be controlled by Apple.  There is also a provision for the copyright holder to be paid when the transfer occurs.

All in all there's not much to differentiate Apple's process from Amazon's, though the former does appear to be more distributed while the latter relies on a centralized marketplace. Apple has also described a couple interesting quirks in how the buyer and seller might meet as well as how a buyer might be able to see the history of past owners.

I think there's really not all that much in the way of news in the patent itself, but the fact Apple filed for the patent is itself interesting.

There's a growing realization among the content stores that selling digital content isn't all its cracked up to be. Sure, you can sell a copy of a song to each person, but what do you do when the market is saturated? You might as well go home. Or you could look for a way to create a new market. And that's what these patents are trying to do.

But as interesting as today's news might be, I can't help but shake my head at the disconnect between reality and the market. These patents are based on the assumption of treating an infinite resource like it is finite.  There's no practical limit to the number of times a digital work can be copied, and yet copyright holders are using DRM to negate that simple fact.

It's craziness.

No, I am not advocating piracy nor do I have a better solution. But I do think it would be more productive to find a new business model which accepts the reality of digital content rather than stick with one that continues to ignore it.

About Nate Hoffelder (11598 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

3 Comments on Apple Now Pursuing a Patent on Selling Used Content

  1. Gosh, I miss the first sale doctrine. It made so much legal and practical sense!

  2. I really can’t help thinking that such patents are absurd, and the entire concept of used digital content is ludicrous. Someone needs to come up with a model that supports the ability of artists to make a living by creating things, without turning the world into a slave camp supporting corporate greed at their expense… Or is that idealistic thinking on my part…?

  3. Alright, how about this for a patent…

    The ebook is digitally degraded as it enters the secondary market. If you buy the ebook from the publisher (first sale) the text appears as it would in the hard cover. If you then transfer ownership of the book to someone else, a few characters in the text will be missing when they try to read it and photos/illustrations could be blurred slightly or color tinted. It’s still enough to read and understand, but it’s a slightly degraded experience. Sell this book again, and a bit more degradation occurs, and so on.

    Some might think getting a $10 ebook that’s missing a few characters on a page for a couple of bucks is OK (just as they would when buying a used hard cover), but others (especially those that want to keep the book forever in their library) would still have impetus for buying the pristine first sale copy.

    What do you think?

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