SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)—Apple this week applied for a patent to create an online store that would let users sell their e-books, as well as movie and music files with Apple taking a bite of the sale. Amazon already had a patent for a similar idea in January.

To put this in brick and mortar terms, it’s similar to a used record store or like selling or even lending a book. That’s the rub on the digital world. It’s possible to copy a digital file (for two people to have a copy), but it’s also possible to find a way to transfer it so that I have it and the other person no longer does.

That’s an important issue that raises the question: is it possible to find a way to sell, give or lend out electronic documents? Second, it raises the issue on what kind of impact will it have on new documents. That’s the big question that worries content owners who are afraid that e-books, movies and mp3 files’ prices will be driven down close to zero.

One of the interesting things about digital content is the licensing agreement. In the old days, you would see on software packages in these agreements that you were not actually buying the product, but are getting a license to use it. The vendor can then claim that you don’t actually own the copy of Microsoft Word or whatever it is.

With digital content it’s still not clear whether you own the file or you just own the right to listen to, watch, or read it. My philosophy is, if you give it to me and you no longer have it, nobody’s been harmed. It’s not like there’s been a copy made and we both get it, so it seems fair to me.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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