Owning Digital Content

Owning Digital ContentOver the past couple of days a new topic has been rocketing upwards in the tech scene. No, it’s not about Apple vs. Samsung or the latest drop in Facebook shares. This time, it’s about an issue that is likely going to have an impact on all of us: Who owns your digital library?

Well, the natural answer is of course “Me. I bought it.”. Wrong, Apple’s and Amazon’s terms of service only grant you “nontransferable” rights to use content on up to five devices. And while this does not really affect you during your lifetime it gets tricky the moment you are pushing up the daisies. As you don’t own the content in your account you cannot give it away, either. In an analog world it was your spouse or your children who came into the joy of your rare LP or book collection. Not so in the digital age. Your heirs won’t get access to the songs, albums, movies or books in your library.

Though it is a legal gray area and no one can really keep you from passing on your DRM free songs to your children on hard disks or CDs, it becomes a problem with DRM protected content like ebooks or etextbooks by all means. This might also be part of the reason why students and parents are still not keen on replacing their physical textbooks with digital ones. It seems that the benefit of re-selling your used textbook and earning some money back still outweighs the potential savings of buying the slightly cheaper digital version.


So, what are the alternatives?

First of all, there is the possibility that the backlash of more and more blogs writing about the issue will force Apple and Amazon to adjust their terms. There was even a rumor by the infamous Daily Mail that Bruce Willis planned to sue Apple over his digital library. And of course there are lawyers working on the case, as well. Lawyers like David Goldman who plans to launch a software called DapTrust next month. This software aims to help estate planners to create a legal trust for their clients’ online accounts that hold music, e-books and movies.

Another alternative is Open Educational Resources (OER). Over the past years OER textbooks and other content has seen rapid growth with more and more renowned writers and content creators joining in. In July, Creative Commons and the U.S. Department of Education announced the winners of a competition titled “Why Open Education Matters”. I embedded the winning video below to give an overview and you can watch the other ones over on the Creative Commons website.

So, did you know that you don’t own the music, movies and books that you buy on Amazon and Apple every week? Do you care? And do you think OER will be a viable alternative or even replacement for content in the classroom?


Image courtesy of Flickr, Robert Couse-Baker
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