theodp writes“Back in Biblical times, creating abundance was considered innovative. That was then. Last Tuesday, GeekWire reports, the USPTO awarded Amazon.com a broad patent on reselling and lending ‘used’ digital goods for an invention that Amazon boasts can be used to ‘maintain scarcity’ of digital objects, including audio files, eBooks, movies, apps, and pretty much anything else.”
Claim 1 of the patent reads:
1. A system comprising: one or more processors; and computer-readable storage media encoded with instructions that, when executed on the one or more processors, instruct the one or more processors to perform acts for enabling permissible transfer of used digital objects among different users in an electronic marketplace, the acts comprising: storing a used digital object obtained from an authorized source in a first personalized data store, wherein the first personalized data store is associated with an account of a first user and is accessible by an electronic device associated with the first user, and wherein the used digital object is a digital object in which the first user has legitimately obtained access rights; determining that the used digital object is available for transfer from the first personalized data store; providing an indication that the used digital object is available for transfer from the first personalized data store; receiving a request to transfer the used digital object to a second personalized data store, wherein the second personalized data store is associated with an account of a second user and is accessible by an electronic device associated with the second user; authorizing transfer of the used digital object to the second personalized data store based on satisfaction of one or more business rules; upon authorization of the request to transfer the used digital object to the second personalized data store, transferring the used digital object from the first personalized data store to the second personalized data store; and deleting the used digital object from the first personalized data store.
The brief slashdot post above makes a good point about how the normal purpose of the market is to overcome scarcity and produce abundance, while the perverse purpose of IP law is to take the natural abundance of nonscarce goods and make it artificially scarce.
See below for related reading, in which I point out the perversity of making infinitely abundant nonscarce goods less abundant on purpose at the same time the free market is trying to help us overcome the problem of scarcity in the physical world. As I noted in The Death Throes of Pro-IP Libertarianism,
It is obscene to undermine the glorious operation of the market in producing wealth and abundance by imposing artificial scarcity on human knowledge and learning (see “IP and Artificial Scarcity“). Learning, emulation, and information are good. It is good that information can be reproduced, retained, spread, and taught and learned and communicated so easily. Granted, we cannot say that it isbad that the world of physical resources is one of scarcity — this is the way reality is, after all — but it is certainly a challenge, and it makes life a struggle. It is suicidal and foolish to try to hamper one of our most important tools — learning, emulation, knowledge — by imposing scarcity on it. Intellectual property is theft. Intellectual property is statism. Intellectual property is death. Give us intellectual freedom instead!
- “Intellectual Freedom and Learning Versus Patent and Copyright” (esp. the section “Scarcity, the Free Market, and Abundance”)
- “Goods, Scarce and Nonscarce” (with Jeff Tucker)
- “Why ‘Intellectual Property’ is not Genuine Property”
- Intellectual Nonsense: Fallacious Arguments for IP (Libertopia 2012) (transcription in comment)
- The Death Throes of Pro-IP Libertarianism