There is a saying in England that possession is nine tenths of the law. Today where we live surrounded by consumerism, ownership has become a very important concept. Whether we like it or not, society almost defines us by what we own. Against this backdrop, it seems bizarre that these days, ownership of many things has become a good deal more ephemeral.
My first experience of gainful employment was a paper round. I worked 7 days a week lugging around a paper bag that, at the outset of my round at least, weighed almost as much as I did. The worst day was Sunday where newspapers ballooned to 6 or 7 times the size thanks to all the supplements that came for free. The first thing I did when I got paid was head down to town where I foolishly blew my first week’s wages on some records.
My mum was less than impressed with my new acquisitions. She wanted to know what I was going to do for the rest of the week with no money. To me, the answer was obvious, listen to Dire Straits and Bananarama. I had no money the week before when I didn’t have a paper round, so I didn’t appreciate why it was so bad to have no money this week.
I feel sorry for the poor sod who has inherited my paper round today. Not only are the newspapers twice as big as they were, but when he foolishly blows his wages on music, the chances are that he won’t even own the titles he chooses. He will hand over his hard earned wages to some dot com or another in exchange for a license. OK, so that license will allow him to listen to his music. It won’t, however, allow him to lend his music to his friends. He won’t be able to sell it on, nor will he be able to leave it to his kids. In short, he never owns anything.
I have a number of books, but I have even more in electronic format. Most of these titles are protected by digital rights management software. Because I am a big fan of one particular publisher, more of my titles come from that company than any other. A few years ago, that company decided to exit from the electronic publishing industry, taking all their titles with it.
Suddenly, all my eBooks disappeared. Without apology or refund, the company rescinded my access to those titles I know and love. I checked the license terms and they were quite within their rights to do so. If you are going to put a button labelled “buy now” next to some kind of electronic product or another, then give me what you are advertising. Otherwise, the wording should be changed to “license now temporarily with limited rights”.
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