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Amazon patents digital resale market

Too cheap? Too often? No sale

If Apple ever wants loan-or-onsell capabilities in iTunes, it will probably find itself discussing patents with Jeff Bezos.

That chat is one possible outcome that may flow from this newly-minted Amazon patent:

“A secondary market which allows users to effectively and permissibly transfer “used” digital objects to others while maintaining scarcity is therefore desired.” [Emphasis added]

That "maintaining scarcity" is a delicious phrase: Amazon wants to defeat the infinite copyability of bits and bytes in the face of all experience.

What Amazon seems to have in mind is this: that as people move to the cloud (which is part of its business model after all), they’ll quit storing stuff on local devices. Unlike the world of CDs or books, a digital secondary market involves passing around bits and ensuring the deletion of the originals – and if both reside on the same servers, the process would be greatly simplified ... and vastly more manageable – which is actually the real point of the patent. If your ancient copy of Dickens' Oliver Twist has, like this author’s, nine names on the title page, that’s lost income for Amazon and/or the publisher.

And if Amazon has written the software to “grandfather” your digital content’s license (as it has in the Kindle world), then what’s more natural than to patent the business process?

While a legal secondary market probably is desirable, The Register wonders if this patent is desirable. Geekwire wonders if the patent might impact ReDigi. To Vulture South, the move also looks like it has Apple in its sights, since iTunes doesn’t yet support loan or resale. ®

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