Apple Patents a System for Second-Hand iTunes Sales

Although the general understanding with digital goods is that you can't resell them, Apple and other tech firms don't necessarily agree.

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Although the general understanding with digital goods is that you can’t resell them, Apple and other tech firms don’t necessarily agree.

On Thursday, Apple patented a system for buying and selling digital movies, music, books and software. The system would prevent the original owner from accessing the content after selling it, and could allow the original creator or publisher to receive a cut of the resale price.

As PaidContent points out, Apple isn’t the first company to patent this kind of system. Just last month, Amazon won its own patent on an “electronic marketplace,” where users could buy and sell digital goods. Again, the system would remove access for the original owner once the sale goes through, and it could even prevent additional resales after a certain number of transfers.

You may be wondering why Apple and Amazon–two companies in the business of selling music, movies and books–would be interested in creating second-hand marketplaces. The main reason, I’m guessing, is lock-in. The ability to resell content could help attract and retain more users, which in turn could encourage more sales of tablets or other devices that support their digital stores. Users might also be more willing to buy movies, music and books if they know they can resell that content later.

Of course, this assumes that rights holders are willing to play ball. All signs suggest that they aren’t.

ReDigi, a company that already offers a pre-owned marketplace for digital music, is currently being sued by the music industry for copyright infringement. ReDigi argues that it’s within its legal rights because it doesn’t technically copy the original music file. Instead, it transfers the file to an online locker, and monitors users’ computers for unauthorized copies.

I’m sure Apple and Amazon are watching that case closely. But even if ReDigi prevails, it doesn’t guarantee that other companies will move forward. After all, Amazon and Apple rely on the entertainment industry for their existing digital stores, and for Internet-based services like iTunes Match and Amazon Cloud Player. Offering a second-hand market could very well jeopardize negotiations for other services.

As with so many other Apple patents, it’s best to think of this one as a possible direction for the company, not an absolute certainty. A second-hand market for digital content would be nice, but there are still a lot of obstacles in the way of major tech companies getting involved.

3 comments
flsinder
flsinder

Merely some additional info for a fine article. Apple has not "patented a system for buying and selling digital movies, music, books and software." It has filed a patent application for an invention titled "Managing Access to Digital Content Items." Apple hopes, after examination by a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, to be awarded a patent. What's being reported on is the published patent applicant. Patent applications are published, usually no earlier than 18 months after filing , for public notice. As it happens, this application is a so-called divisional application from an earlier parent patent application. The parent application is currently under "final rejection," primarily based on an earlier patent application by Sky Dayton, founder of Earthlink. This picky info is much to the side of the real issues, which the article discusses.

g0didit
g0didit

Hmmm... Seems like Apple steal my idea...

In january I send to tcook@apple.com mail with almost same idea... I got no response... and 2 months after they patent my idea... great... 

Bravo Apple, bravo...