Back in early-February we learned of an Amazon patent that would allow for the re-sale of digital goods. Specifically, the Amazon patent filing was calling for an “electronic marketplace for used digital objects.” Of course, those objects could be anything from audio and video to ebooks and maybe even apps. The key here, it now looks like this idea has gotten some additional support. Not necessarily direct support for Amazon, however support for the idea as a whole.

Basically, what we have is a similar patent filing. This latest comes from a company that we suspect some of the die-hard Android users may not particularly like. But again, the idea of being able to resell ebooks is appealing and therefor, we have some details on this patent. That company, if you hadn’t guessed, is Apple. The Apple patent was published on the USPTO website on March 7 and it talks of “managing access to a digital content item (such as an ebook, music, movie, software application) to be transferred from one user to another.”

Further details in the filing talk about how the person doing the transfer will then be “prevented from accessing the digital content item after the transfer occurs.” Sort of sounds like what would happen if you were to re-sell an actual paper book, DVD or audio CD. You would have it, sell it and then no longer have physical access to it. The Apple filing also makes it clear that this process could be used to give away, or to sell. The filing notes that the “transferee may pay to obtain access to the digital content item.” While we are not necessarily convinced that this last part needs to happen, the patent also takes into consideration that a “portion of the proceeds of the “resale” may be paid to the creator or publisher.”

The last past about the portion of the proceeds going to the creator or publisher sits funny in that they will not get anything when someone sells the non-digital equivelant. Basically, we are going by the thought that digital and non-digital should remain on equal grounds. The other side of this is that it may actually be easier to control the resale of digital items and actually restrict use once the sale has been made. After all, it is fairly easy to purchase an audio CD or DVD, make a digital copy for yourself and then sell the physical copy. With digital items, that could actually be controlled. Either way, it seems like this still has some time before we see companies such as Amazon or Apple open a digital resale store, however it is interesting to see another company come forward with a similar patent.

[via New York Times]


  1. So if I produced a product, say a painting, and sold it to a client. Then the client proceeds to sell it to another person, I should be paid for it again?

    If we apply this to any tangible goods / industry at all, like wine, antique, cars, houses, art, vitamins, xbox, pc, laptop, etc — we all see the problem with this setup.

    Why is it suddenly ok for non-tangible goods to behave differently?

  2. Be careful people, what you define in this: because pretty soon, with advance of 3D printers, even tangible goods will suddenly “inherit” this economic property.

    For if I can “copyright” a chair that can be “3D printed into real goods” and restrict the sale of that chair’s “digital content”. I now have absolute ownership of the “chair” that “I created”. In such a world, when you buy such a chair from me, you’re “licensing” the chair’s DRM from me to “print 1 chair”.

    I’ve never believed in absolute claim in DRM. There needs to be a balance between public good (and public domain) and private good.

    I do not pay to use Pythagoras’ theorem every time I use it (such an approach destroys innovation). Nor can I simply “mint my own currency” by just claiming DRMs forever and wait for it to mint money for me with no effort on my part (such a system destroys economies).

    The modern “DRM” system has now broken both of these balances.

    This will accelerate the collapse of our current economic system. We must either end up with Star Trek’s “non-monetary” economic system quickly, or society collapses.

  3. Insert pending DRM argument here. We all know, while nice in theory (save for the having to cut profit with the original seller again) it’s going to added to the slew of DRM arguments already pile up high for us to piss and moan about. Sometimes, I rather just listen to the radio or my out-of-date cd collection.


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