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Consumers Don’t Own What They “Buy” on the Internet

In this digital economy companies want you to own nothing—only own a “license” for a product--which means they could take it back at any time they choose and they have.

Amazon, Apple, and other digital retailers have us hooked to their respective ecosystems. We rely on them to get our ebooks, music, and videos. However, Kyle K. Courtney cautions readers in his recent article for Politico that they should think twice when clicking that “Buy Now” button. He argues that in this digital economy companies want you to own nothing — only have a “license” for a product — which means they could take it away from you any time they choose (and they have).

In 2012, Amazon erased the contents of a woman’s Kindle and her account was closed with no explanation or warning. Even after she reached out to Amazon for the cause, the company retained their right to “to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion.”

In another incident in 2009, Amazon deleted copies of Animal Farm and 1984from users’ Kindles. It’s one thing to close an account, but to remotely delete content from a device the user paid for is a dangerous notion as paperbacks begin to become novel and e-readers the new norm. It makes book burning seem quaint compared to the power these media empires have on content.

The truth is we do not own our content like we did physical books, movies, and music anymore if we buy them from digital stores with a DRM lock.

“This disconnect strikes even the most technically savvy consumer, and invariably we realize the true frustration of our state of non-ownership. ‘Didn’t I click a ‘Buy’ button when I purchased this?’ we ask.”

Courtney says if we read the license agreement we agreed to when we clicked “Buy,” we would understand that our consumer rights become void, waiving them because we don’t know or understand what it means. Even seeing those items in “Purchases” and my “Library” seem to cloud things, insinuating these things are permanent. But, in truth, consumers can no longer share, sell, duplicate, or give away these items—they can’t even port them over to another device (if the company doesn’t see fit to allow it). This makes all of us renters of our own content, according to Courtney, and it’s easy to forget when these companies rarely exercise their right to strip users of the content they were leased.

The “Buy” button is a farce that tricks consumers into thinking they own their content. So what are we going to do about it? Courtney asks a poignant question, would consumers still buy if a button read “Lease” or “Rent” content? What do you think? Being in a consumer-driven economy, it only seems right to vote with our dollar.

Read more at Politico

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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