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To Own or to License?

July 13, 2012 11:00 am

So , there are two blog posts this week that really have me thinking. One is from Andy Woodsworth over at Agnostic, Maybe and the other is from In the Library with the Lead Pipe by Brett Bonfield.  Go read them, I’ll wait here.

Ready? Great. What I’ve been thinking about is the concept of ownership and how it’s being degraded.  All of that music you got from iTunes? Not really yours. The books on your Kindle? Nope. In fact, your Kindle itself isn’t really yours. You can’t take it apart, or load some fun Linux software on it, or do anything other than what they say you can. Or at least, that’s what you said when you clicked “agree.”

Our libraries exist, in part, as a place to gain access to the information we don’t need every day, comes in a format we can’t afford, or don’t want to read ourselves but think others should have a chance to look at. Essentially, the community clubs together to buy this stuff and then loans it to anyone that wants it. But with the erosion of true ownership, we have opened the door for media companies to place limits on what we can do with all that stuff we’ve bought.

Because we haven’t bought it. We’ve paid a fee to use it for an indeterminate amount of time.

And the real owners are inconsistent with what that amount of time is because they can change the license whenever they want.

And we just click “agree” without even reading what we’re agreeing to.

Remember that day when Amazon pulled all of the copies of 1984 back in 2009? Technically, they could do that at any time, with any book. They say they won’t, but they could.

So that’s what I think about when I hear that Wal-Mart is willing to upload all your DVDs into the cloud (for a fee). It’s a brand new, exciting service that takes something you own and makes it into something you’ve licensed. Ingenius.


Emily Thompson is the host of EdReach’s show LiTTech, a show for the innovative librarian. LiTTech highlights the innovative news, gadgets, and resources for the literary educator. You can follow her on Twitter @librarianofdoom.

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