Week 10: Ownership

This weeks blog question brought to mind issues with ownership and movies. Similar to the thrill of purchasing a physical book, I would get excited when I went to Blockbuster and browsed their clearance DVD collection on Friday nights. I would spend more time deciding on which movies to buy then I did watching them. After a few years, I have quite a large collection of DVDs that I can take with me anywhere I go and that I can use across devices. With the introduction of online movie purchasing options through iTunes and similar services, I purchase or rent my movies through these services instead of the physical DVD.

Although the online shopping experience makes purchasing movies easier and doesn’t require me to leave my house, it has its draw backs. The main one being that I have experienced issues with not having access to content  across devices. With a DVD, you can play in through your DVD player or laptop by simply inserting the disk. As long as you have the physical disk, you will have access to the content (assuming the disk is in good condition). With movies purchased through iTunes, you need to be signed into you iTunes account on the device and should have access to all of your purchases. However, I have previously purchased a movie on a laptop and when I tried to view it though iTunes on Apple TV, the movie was not present in my iTunes account on my AppleTv.

Recall thing this experience made me really consider the concept of ownership in a world where everything is online or in the cloud and we no longer need to purchase physical objects. It brings to mind questions about how we can own something that we do not physically have or see and whether we can really consider this a true concept of ownership. Considering the way in which we purchase movies online, are we being granted ownership or access to the movie? I think it is the latter, but I would love to hear what you think.

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Fleeting Files

Books don’t present a lot of ownership issues to me. This may be because I own a lot of them. These days, I only buy books that have some design or production elements that interests me on top of the content (apartment living has changed my personal collection development policy). In terms of eBooks, they only come from the library.

Music, however…

Music ownership and I have a troubled history. I first encountered issues with digital ownership when my hard disk failed and my computer was wiped clean during my undergrad. I had lost all of my iTunes music and there was no way to recover it. Most of the music was bought on iTunes, but there were also albums that I had transferred to my computer from friends’ CDs. I emailed Apple frantically and they explained that even though I paid for the music, it was only licensed for one download. This seemed completely unreasonable to me. They took pity on me and gave me a second copy of my downloads (although if the prices had changed, I didn’t get those particular albums). It does seem that their policies have changed:

As an accommodation to you, subsequent to acquiring Eligible Content, you may download certain of such previously-acquired Eligible Content onto any Associated Device. Some Eligible Content that you previously acquired may not be available for subsequent download at any given time, and Apple shall have no liability to you in such event. As you may not be able to subsequently download certain previously-acquired Eligible Content, once you download an item of Eligible Content, it is your responsibility not to lose, destroy, or damage it, and you may want to back it up.

Association of Associated Devices is subject to the following terms:

(i) You may auto-download Eligible Content or download previously-acquired Eligible Content from an Account on up to 10 Associated Devices, provided no more than 5 are iTunes-authorized computers.

(ii) An Associated Device can be associated with only one Account at any given time.

(iii) You may switch an Associated Device to a different Account only once every 90 days.

(iv) You may download previously-acquired free content onto an unlimited number of devices while it is free on the App and Book Services, but on no more than 5 iTunes-authorized computers.

The above terms (i) to (iv) do not apply to App Store Products.

Some pieces of Eligible Content may be large or may initiate the ongoing delivery of content based on usage and resource constraints, and significant data charges may result from delivery of such Eligible Content over a data connection.

Source: iTunes Terms and Conditions

The anxiety of digital ownership is fascinating. You can have 5 enabled devices, you can burn songs onto playlists 7 times, you can change your account only every 3 months… The limits of digital ownership don’t comply with our overarching ideas of ownership (I acquired this thing, I can now use this thing).

I don’t buy digital content anymore. This isn’t necessarily because of the iTunes fiasco. I just now live on two ends of the spectrum when it comes to music. On one end, I have Spotify, which allows me to listen to most everything (and, increasingly, this includes Yugoslavian New Wave music). On the other end is:

(That is, by the way, its first breathe!)

I’ve been collecting records for years and finally invested in a record player. This still wasn’t about a desire to own music or have some control over how I share it (I didn’t get a record player with a USB). The records, for me, are about the sound quality and the social aspect of gathering around to listen to music. My conceptions of ownership really depend on how I consume and use the texts.