Apple Now Pursuing a Patent on Selling Used Content
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  • March 8, 2013
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applelogo_oldIt seems Amazon isn’t the only one interested in helping you sell your used digital files; the US Patent Office released new documents today that show that Apple filed for a similar patent in 2012.

This patent describes a process that is different from the patent Amazon received last month, but from the outside the general appearance is the same. Patent ’0616 describes a process that would enable users to transfer content license from one person to another.

The transfer could be temporary (a loan) or permanent (a sale) and the entire process would be controlled by Apple.  There is also a provision for the copyright holder to be paid when the transfer occurs.

All in all there’s not much to differentiate Apple’s process from Amazon’s, though the former does appear to be more distributed while the latter relies on a centralized marketplace. Apple has also described a couple interesting quirks in how the buyer and seller might meet as well as how a buyer might be able to see the history of past owners.

I think there’s really not all that much in the way of news in the patent itself, but the fact Apple filed for the patent is itself interesting.

There’s a growing realization among the content stores that selling digital content isn’t all its cracked up to be. Sure, you can sell a copy of a song to each person, but what do you do when the market is saturated? You might as well go home. Or you could look for a way to create a new market. And that’s what these patents are trying to do.

But as interesting as today’s news might be, I can’t help but shake my head at the disconnect between reality and the market. These patents are based on the assumption of treating an infinite resource like it is finite.  There’s no practical limit to the number of times a digital work can be copied, and yet copyright holders are using DRM to negate that simple fact.

It’s craziness.

No, I am not advocating piracy nor do I have a better solution. But I do think it would be more productive to find a new business model which accepts the reality of digital content rather than stick with one that continues to ignore it.

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