The End of Ownership

245 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2020 Last revised: 14 Nov 2020

See all articles by Aaron Perzanowski

Aaron Perzanowski

University of Michigan Law School

Jason Schultz

New York University School of Law

Abstract

If you buy a book at the bookstore, you own it. You can take it home, scribble in the margins, put in on the shelf, lend it to a friend, sell it at a garage sale. But is the same thing true for the ebooks or other digital goods you buy? Retailers and copyright holders argue that you don't own those purchases, you merely license them. That means your ebook vendor can delete the book from your device without warning or explanation—as Amazon deleted Orwell's 1984 from the Kindles of surprised readers several years ago. These readers thought they owned their copies of 1984. Until, it turned out, they didn't. In The End of Ownership, Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz explore how notions of ownership have shifted in the digital marketplace, and make an argument for the benefits of personal property.

Of course, ebooks, cloud storage, streaming, and other digital goods offer users convenience and flexibility. But, Perzanowski and Schultz warn, consumers should be aware of the tradeoffs involving user constraints, permanence, and privacy. The rights of private property are clear, but few people manage to read their end user agreements. Perzanowski and Schultz argue that introducing aspects of private property and ownership into the digital marketplace would offer both legal and economic benefits. But, most important, it would affirm our sense of self-direction and autonomy. If we own our purchases, we are free to make whatever lawful use of them we please. Technology need not constrain our freedom; it can also empower us.

Keywords: copyright, first sale, exhaustion, ownership, property

Suggested Citation

Perzanowski, Aaron and Schultz, Jason, The End of Ownership. MIT Press, 2016, Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2020-24, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3573549

Aaron Perzanowski (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

United States

Jason Schultz

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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