If you buy a regular old book, CD or DVD, you can turn around and loan it to a friend, or sell it again. The right to pass it along is called the “first sale” doctrine. Digital books, music and movies are a different story though. Four students at Columbia Law School’s Science and Technology Law Review looked at the particular issue of reselling and copying e-books downloaded to Amazon’s Kindle or the Sony Reader, and came up with answers to a fundamental question: Are you buying a crippled license to intellectual property when you download, or are you buying an honest-to-God book?
In the fine print that you “agree” to, Amazon and Sony say you just get a license to the e-books—you’re not paying to own ‘em, in spite of the use of the term “buy.” Digital retailers say that the first sale doctrine—which would let you hawk your old Harry Potter hardcovers on eBay—no longer applies. Your license to read the book is unlimited, though—so even if Amazon or Sony changed technologies, dropped the biz or just got mad at you, they legally couldn’t take away your purchases. Still, it’s a license you can’t sell.
In other e-news, are text book writers getting the e-shaft up their e-holes now that things are going digital? (Top item)