Thursday, October 18, 2012

Post 9: Media and Archiving

Who owns our digital downloads?

We all have downloaded digital media whether in the form of music, books, movies, or magazines; sometimes its free and sometimes we have to pay for it. Yet regardless of the channel or the price, you technically do not own it. You are instead acquiring a license that lets you use it.  

Earlier last month there was news that Bruce Willis was going to sue Apple for the right to hand down his downloaded music to his daughters (He didn’t end up suing). Here is one tech journalist's take on the situation.

In this digital age, do you think people should own their downloads? Should they be allowed to use them as they see best, resell them (think Itunes at a garage sale!), or bequeath them? What do you think?


Amber Knutson said...

A great part about buying physical copies of books and movies is that the product can be given, resold, or stored for years. For instance, I purchase books to someday adorn a library and eventually give them to my future children. The idea of spending massive amounts of money on books and other media and not purchasing those rights makes me feel like the content that I'm purchasing on my kindle and ipad should be much cheaper than it is. When books first started arriving online they were incredibly cheap. I once spent $.05 for an entire novel! I figured that the rights for that book were not my own and, for the price, I was completely ok with it.
Since most ebooks and digital books are now the same price as their physical counterparts, I believe that I should have the same rights as their physical counterparts.
The whole thing just makes me think that these companies are only out for money.
My thought is this: does the portability and convenience of an ebook/digital media make up for the fact that you don't purchase the same rights as a physical product.

Raeann Ritland said...

I agree with Amber...for the most part. Purchasing a digital version at the full price of the physical should logically entitle a person to the same rights as buying a physical version; however, I can also see where the companies are coming from. When you lend a book (or CD or whatever) or pass it on to people, they return it to you or keep it for themselves. If they keep it, the rights are then transferred to them, and they can lend it out, too. But again, it's a single copy of the item that changes hands and is returned in its original form. It's not copied as it is when you send something digitally. I think the lending capabilities with digital copies are where the issue comes into play. If a digital copy solely belonged to the purchaser, it would be more similar to a hard copy. But it’s not. The buyer has the ability to save it, copy it, send it to multiple people, and essentially give free copies to whomever he/she desires. Granted, you could do the same thing with a hard copy, but the convenience of doing so is not worth it, so (I think) it doesn’t happen often. With a digital file, it’s so simple and tempting (and can be difficult to trace). That said, it would make more sense to me to do what Amber said she once did: purchase the license for a digital copy at a reduced price. But then again, the profit margin in doing so is so little, that I can again see where companies want money. Making money is their business, and they’re going to want to be as successful as possible. So, “good” business people they are, they’re going to get as much money for a product as possible. I think there are few out there who wouldn’t do the same, despite the negative reputation it would bring. Also, if a buyer chooses to purchase something digitally, s/he has to abide by the rules set forth. And who makes the rules? Not the buyers, and they shouldn’t; it’s not their product. Do I think all of this is morally correct? Not necessarily. But it seems most logical to me.

Sicong Zhao said...

I think the problem here could be solved through “technical” way. Each and every product, no matter physical ones or virtual ones, has two components, which are software—the content of certain product, and the hardware—the physical platform through which the content is contained. From this point of view, things don’t change so much as you may own a book, but you don’t actually “own” the content inside it as you must reference from it if you want to put it inside one of your works. So basically, the only variable is the hardware part, as for the type of platform.
Accordingly, the content can be reserved both virtually and physically. The reason why people prefer to store them physically is the virtuality of the internet content always gives people a sense of insecurity that they don’t actually “own” it. But as a matter of fact, we have never “own” any content of any kind of media.
However, the compatibility of operation system nowadays is relatively low. Companies like Microsoft and Apple are competing hard with each other, with the low compatibility of their respective operation systems. More clearly to say, a book will always be readable no matter how you read it, but an online product may not be accessible if you change your computer, which is the very reason why people perceive as they don’t “own” any online information.
Hopefully, one day all of the operation systems as well as software could be unified in one universal platform, through which all the online application and product are accessible. That’s what I mean by “technical” solution.

Aimee Burch said...

I tend to agree with Amber and Raeann on this. I mean, I really enjoy downloading books, music, and the like. But at the same time, those prices have started to increase. Does anyone remember the days in which every song on iTunes was $.99? Now, if it's a top song, it's about $1.25. I kind of miss that. I get that the aim is to get more money for the record companies and artists. But it's stil somewhat painful to hand my information over for this kind of thing. When I do, it is very easy to go overboard and lose track of the money spent.
Basically, I understand the trend and why things are this way. I just wish it were easier.

Rebecca Peterson said...

I guess I didn't know that I don't "own" my Kindle books - never thought about it! I'm now feeling a little negative about my constant companion. Another reason to continue to buy printed books. I think I'll "rent" the lightweight stuff but make sure I buy hard copies of classics and more important texts, especially after reading Bill's post. My Kindle updated itself last week - I felt just a little violated because I really think of it as a magic book and not a computer linked via WiFi to Amazon. On another note...some good news for us in education: a couple of recent lawsuits have given schools the right to post book excerpts and video (even full-length movies) on password protected learning platforms under the fair use principle--something publishers have stridently fought. We equated the practice with showing a film in a class, except the class happens to be online. So far, the courts agree!

Anonymous said...

The case of Bruce Willis provides us a glimpse of whether legislation or regulation is needed to protect individual’s rights online. The Internet, like many other technologies, brings us tremendous benefits along with the side effects. One of the major side effects is that fast changing technologies make it difficult to apply protection online for individuals. The Internet not just creates new ways for people to communicate, handle business and share information; it also provides a fast and efficient way for business to pursue financial interests. Compare with the traditional trading method, the way we buy books and tracks online is so different and complex that the vast majority of us don’t really understand the premise and the consequences of online trading. Not to mention the online terms and conditions of shopping that many of us don’t read, which could sell our souls or rights of owning the products completely.

I tend to believe that consumers are more vulnerable online than consuming in store. First, you have to use credit card every time. Dr. Bugeja mentioned once in class that transaction through credit card makes consumer more traceable: the data of your shopping habits and preferences could be collected and then sold to marketing firms for financial interest. Second, you must agree with the online terms and conditions regardless it is based on seller’s interest. The third one, you always need to spend extra money to buy that particular medium in order to reach the content you want. The most dreadful part is you are not allowed transferring the digital media to your family after paying significant amount of money. The definition of consumer rights may need to be redefined in order to comply with the development of information technology.

Sarah Wiley said...

Thanks for a great yesterday! I hope it provided some food for thought. After class Mary and I continued talked a bit more about individual ownership of property on the web. In the case of Gnip selling access to a "firehose" of Tweets, it is a little unsettling to think that a corporation is making money off of your information.

I looked a little fruther into transferring digital media and found this " To illustrate, industry giants Amazon and Apple only grant customers "nontransferable" rights to the purchased content, with the former stating, "You do not acquire ownership rights in the software or music content" in its terms of use and the latter only allowing digital content to be accessed by the account holder on its own devices." So, it is not like a physical book because you cannot legally sell it, give it away, or copy it. While I may not own the content of a book, I can resell a book; I can give it away; I can leave it for my grandkids. In our current legal environment I can do none of these things with digital media. We are the first generation that will have a substantial amount of our lives in digital form (banking, shopping, academics, medical records, personal correspondence, digital media) so we too will be the ones at the end of our days [no? too morbid?] to have to figure out how we will pass on all those things to our loved one. It will be interesting to watch in the coming years how this body of law towards digital rights grows.

Amber Knutson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amber Knutson said...

(Why doesn't this place let you EDIT your comments?)

Because the concept of digital media is still new and being ferreted out, I think - just as Sarah explained - that we're going to see a lot of potential lawsuits and discussion about this topic in the future - probably the near future. This very much, corresponds to the day's lesson about digital archiving and archiving the internet - another form of digital media. What rights do I have in regards to my facebook account, my twitter account, this blog post, and so forth? Who owns what and where lines are drawn are both topics that haven't been parsed out and will, appropriately, be a great concern in the future. I think at that time, what rights we do or do not have in regards to digital movies and books will be addressed and conversed about at a national - possibly multinational - level. But, for now, I'll say this in response to Raeann's comment: writers are generally not making bank on their works. Publishing houses and distribution companies are. It doesn't matter the medium, whether digital or physical, writers are getting hosed and publishing houses are asking ridiculous pricing for any types of rights.
When Mary wrote about online consumers getting the short end of the stick when it comes to purchasing, I definitely agree with her. ESPECIALLY when it comes to the "terms and conditions" we all have to agree with before completing any purchase or even, at times, simply going to a website. But, again, I think that when, at the national level, we start conversing about this, everything will be a bit more concrete and understandable. Hopefully, the consumers gain a bit more leeway.