License to Read

My complaints about the Kindle have mainly been based on supposition, if not just plain old whining, so thanks to Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan for the legwork: He points to a paper from Columbia Law School’s Science and Technology Law Review (linked from BoingBoing, via Slashdot) that addresses the fine line between owning an e-book and merely owning a license to it–a distinction that only further complicates the question of whether you actually possess a book you buy for the Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader. (Both devices use language that suggest you just have a license for the book, which restricts your ability to lend or copy it.)

Money quote:

“Even if a publisher calls it a license, if the transaction actually looks more like a sale, users will retain their right to resell the copy.” Score one for the home team. There’s a kicker, though: If a court ruled with you on that front, you still can’t sell reproductions of your copy, an illegal act tantamount to Xeroxing your Harry Potters. You’d have to sell the physical media where the “original” download is stored—a hard drive or the actual Kindle or Sony Reader.

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