I spotted a little article today on the Guardian’s website, which in my eyes should have more coverage.
Basically Bruce Willis is reportedly suing Apple over the right to ‘own’ his digital music collection. It looks as if he was in the middle of making his Will, and discovered that he does not and has never owned his extensive digital music collection bought on iTunes and thus cannot pass it on to his children. Considering that Willis has spent thousands of dollars on music strewn across “many iPods” – this is a big fallout.
I’m not entirely sure why this isn’t common knowledge, but it slightly shocks me (well more than slightly) why more people aren’t aware that when you buy music from the iTunes store, you never ‘own’ the file so to speak – but have merely subscribed to replaying it over and over again. You’re buying the rights for ‘life-use’, a one-time-payment membership, not ownership. It’s like an even worse version of Spotify.
Think about it – when you buy an mp3, an app, a film, a Kindle book / ebook, whatever, what is it that you’re actually buying? It’s not ‘nothing’ so to speak, its a data file, a collection of methods and objects sure – but it isn’t a tangible thing which comes under the qualifier of being owned, its not a physical hand-me-down. The whole point of the legal purchase revolution is based on restriction, not just on Apple’s part – (their files haven’t been DRM-free for that long), but restriction from the record companies who ultimately control the music rights even more.
And in a sense the senseless stupidity of copyright hasn’t changed; you’ve never owned the creative work within the physicality of books, tapes, CDs, DVDs, game cartridges, etc. You own the physical thing of reproduction of course, but not the story rights, or music rights, or film rights or video-game rights – (i.e its illegal to share or sell its contents). Since the macro physicality has been taken away and converted into a flexible data storage – that flexibility of use becomes, ironically restrictive. In a sense, this purifies the issue at hand – the music file has become ‘pure ownership’ for someone else other than you. You literally own ‘nothing’.
This is why the problem cannot be solved by ‘burning’ the music onto a CDR – the copyright is rotten to the core, irrespective of the medium at hand. And the legal digital music file is only the core.
This is wider issue than just music or other forms of entertainment of course – as more and more rentier forms of entertainment are converted computationally and sold under these restrictive terms and conditions, the bigger impact of the fallout will be. Same goes for cloud computing too, which operates under the same logic. If the downfall of legal purchasing is anything to go by, it’ll be due to these astonishing levels of restriction, which exploits the sanguine nature of human finitude. The fact that it takes contemplating your own death to realise that the functionality of a cloud based economy takes away more rights and leaves a more ‘pure’ object of restriction is astonishing. Its as if ownership itself is purged.