The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy
A defence of permanence, for sanity.
Information from the publisher
An argument for retaining the notion of personal property in the products we “buy” in the digital marketplace.
If you buy a book at the bookstore, you own it. You can take it home, scribble in the margins, put in on the shelf, lend it to a friend, sell it at a garage sale. But is the same thing true for the ebooks or other digital goods you buy? Retailers and copyright holders argue that you don't own those purchases, you merely license them. That means your ebook vendor can delete the book from your device without warning or explanation – as Amazon deleted Orwell's 1984 from the Kindles of surprised readers several years ago. These readers thought they owned their copies of 1984. Until, it turned out, they didn't. In The End of Ownership, Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz explore how notions of ownership have shifted in the digital marketplace, and make an argument for the benefits of personal property.
Of course, ebooks, cloud storage, streaming, and other digital goods offer users convenience and flexibility. But, Perzanowski and Schultz warn, consumers should be aware of the tradeoffs involving user constraints, permanence, and privacy. The rights of private property are clear, but few people manage to read their end user agreements. Perzanowski and Schultz argue that introducing aspects of private property and ownership into the digital marketplace would offer both legal and economic benefits. But, most important, it would affirm our sense of self-direction and autonomy. If we own our purchases, we are free to make whatever lawful use of them we please. Technology need not constrain our freedom; it can also empower us.
"Perzanowski and Schultz start off by providing a fine summary and analysis of both how clouds and content streaming work and the implications in terms of ownership and rights...As the book shows quite beautifully... there is a perverse incentive for many of those involved to keep the whole story as obscure and unfathomable as possible. This analysis – detailed and impressive – shows how the combination of law and technology works against the users." - Times Higher Education
"The End of Ownership presents the confusing world of the digital consumer in wonderfully accessible prose, replacing hideous jargon with the simplest of analogies, from thieving bookshops to the goblins from Harry Potter. It will answer the questions you have regarding digital ownership, and it's inevitable that more than a few of them have never even crossed your mind. In an increasingly complex world, plagued by unreadable (certainly unread) terms and conditions, it is more than a little refreshing to have something explained in good, plain English." - E & T: Engineering & Technology
"The 'end of ownership' might sound like hyperbole, but this important book explains that we are at risk of losing many benefits of ownership in the digital age. Digital works, whether software or sound recordings, are regulated by licenses and by copyright law in ways that conventional products have not been. All is not lost, however, as the authors explain how we can reclaim ownership as a fundamental norm of our society and extend it to our music, our software, our devices, and the Internet of Things." - Pamela Samuelson, Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law