There seems to be and uproar over Amazon removing all those George Orwell books from Kindles. The company simply pushed a button and zapped all the copies that had been sold from their customers. Now people and groups are fighting for more rights for the buyer. You can read more about this in this NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/27/technology/companies/27amazon.html
I think this brings up a good question, with all the talk of copyrights, where does ownership rights begin? Multibillion dollar industries are fighting for their lives, and in the process I believe many consumer rights are being trampled. For example it’s outrageous that young kids are being fleeced for the latest ringtone at up to $9.99 a month, for something that will be removed from their phone if they stop paying. The question is, what are we buying, and what rights do we have as consumers. Should it be, what people will pay, is what is okay? You might say this is the way it is. Supply and demand, customer demand will dictate, but it’s not the right way. We’ve built a country on fairness, and at one time it was about being right with people, and not “lets see how much I can get.” Think about it, why doesn’t the water company charge 500$ a month for water. They could. You need it. You’ll pay it. I would guess cable tv and cell phones would go before you’d give up your shower and washing dishes.
No, at one time, it wasn’t a consumer culture, it was a culture of rights. Before we were all told that we drive the economy by spending, people lived by the rule that everyone should have the right to “the good life.” That good life was the middle class, and sure people were denied that good life, but the overall view was held that everyone should be able to arrive at that “level” of living. This meant people should have the right to “A car in every garage and a chicken and every pot.”
Now it’s not about how you live, but what you’ve got. There has been no outrage over the fact that 2 people have to work now to make the same living that one person could make for a family years ago. “Well what are you going to do.” So we shifted to, our kids have to have the best clothes, and we have to drive 2 cars. We aren’t living about standard of living, we are worried about having all the services and all the bling we can get our hands on.
Now with one foot in the new era and one foot in the old, we find that not only are we expected to pay more for less, but that we won’t even own what we pay for. I think I could almost live with this, if it were about art and music and creating. It’s not. It’s about money. Don’t let them fool you, the artist doesn’t get more money if they sell it on CD or on line. The company makes more, but the artist is usually done at a percentage of all sales. It’s about charging you to barrow something in the digital world that doesn’t even exist. Its quality is low (far less than that of vaccum technology of the 50s). Its live span is short, and you don’t own it. You don’t even have the right to it. You have the right to look at it for awhile if that. You can’t treat it like an electronic recording and copy it. You can’t send it to a friend. If you buy a book, you can go home and burn it if you want to. You can let a friend read it. You can even donate it to a library. With an ebook, if a company decides they no longer want you to have it, they can yank it from your reader. The same with music, and movies soon. Jump back to the 1930s and tell a guy that you’re going to take back what he just payed you for. You’d get something for free for sure then, bad words maybe, a broken nose.
Now it’s common place to think of things that we own as not ours. Where are the consumer rights in all of this? I understand the idea of people not being able to make money from my music or my writing, but where did my rights go? My right to own what I buy. The right to resell it or the right to let a friend use it? So much “protection” of rights is going on, but the only rights that are being protected are of the multibillion dollar compaies that have the money to go to congress and lobby to get a law that says they’ll charge you with 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine if you make a copy of a VHS! Try that one time. Go to work and let someone barrow your pencil. Tell them if they can use it, but if anyone else does, you’ll charge them a $2000 fine!
In the future, when tv, music, books, and almost all entertainment are online and streamed to you, what will you own? Will you have the right to anything? Will you get anything for your money or will you just barrow everything for a fee. It will be cheaper and easier for it to come to you. It will go over existing lines that were payed for by the government (you). Or it will go through the air from space, where it used government money (your money) and government research and development trillions of it (your money) to get from them to you, but you don’t have any right to it at all. If we are lucky the picutre and the sound will at least be clear, and we’ll be able to watch it one time, and you should feel great and privilaged to have seen it!