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Does the "access" or "service" model that has replaced the "ownership" model in the business practice of companies such as Kindle/Amazon take fairly into account the interests and/or rights of the consumers?

Publié le 13/03/2022

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« Indicative Essay Question: Does the "access" or "service" model that has replaced the "ownership" model in the business practice of companies such as Kindle/Amazon take fairly into account the interests and/or rights of the consumers? Case Study: In George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984, the Ministry of Truth, at the behest of Big Brother, destroyed documents by casting them into the memory hole, a massive network of tubes leading to an incinerator.

Amazon, the world’s largest bookseller, sells 1984–along with millions of other titles–both in print and in its Kindle ebook store.

Assuming they had a chance to read the book first, Kindle users were no doubt struck by the irony of Amazon’s decision to remotely delete their purchased copies of 1984 in response to a dispute with a publisher.

[Brad Stone, “Amazon Erases Orwell Books from Kindle,” New York Times, July 17, 2009, 18amazon.html.] These customers went to bed one night thinking they owned a copy of Orwell’s cautionary tale and woke up the next morning to find their book had been confiscated.

In its place, they received a refund and an object lesson in the risks of digital reading.

In the world of printed books, this scenario would be unthinkable.

Your local bookseller cannot creep into your home in the middle of the night and reclaim the contents of your bookshelf.

But Amazon exercises a very different kind of practical power over your digital library.

Your Kindle runs software written by Amazon, and it features a persistent network connection. That means Amazon can send it instructions–to delete a book or even replace it with a new version–without any intervention from you.

But it’s not just the technology that sets analog and digital books apart.

The legal terrain looks very different as well.

If you bought a printed copy of this book, it became your personal property.

Like your favorite pair of shoes, or your toothbrush, you own it.

Ownership of this book means you can do lots of things with it.

You can keep it forever; you can read it as many times as you like; you can lend it to a friend; you can resell it or give it away; you can leave it to a loved one in your will.

We don’t encourage it, but you can even burn it if you feel like it.

Because of the demands of copyright law, you generally cannot make copies of this book without permission.

But otherwise, if you own it, it is yours to do with as you choose.

This may seem obvious; the same basic rules of personal property have applied to books and other movable property for hundreds of years. And you might expect digital books to work much the same as their printed counterparts. They contain the same text and are often sold by the very same retailers for comparable prices.

… But according to publishers and retailers, ebooks play by a 1 distinct sets of rules. For print, we rely on the familiar rules of personal property.

But do you actually own your ebooks? Most readers have probably never paused to ask this question.

After all, you clicked the “Buy Now” button and paid the price demanded by your favorite ebook retailer. Why wouldn’t you own the thing you bought? Despite the common sense appeal of that view, digital retailers insist that ownership depends on the terms of an end user license agreement (“EULA”)–that incomprehensible slew of legalese you reflexively click “I agree” to dismiss.

Those terms–negotiated by lawyers working for retailers and publishers–. »


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