If I buy a physical book from a bookshop I can lend it to someone else. And, when I’m finished with it, I can sell it.
If I buy an e-book from, for example, the Amazon Kindle store, I can’t (in the UK, currently) lend it. I can’t sell it.
The same is true of most digital formats.
That’s something that bothers me: how come I don’t own a digital copy in the same way as a physical copy?
Well, thankfully, that may soon change. A recent EU ruling about computer programs could have far-reaching consequences:
The first sale in the EU of a copy of a computer program by the copyright holder or with his consent exhausts the right of distribution of that copy in the EU. A rightholder who has marketed a copy in the territory of a Member State of the EU thus loses the right to rely on his monopoly of exploitation in order to oppose the resale of that copy… The principle of exhaustion of the distribution right applies not only where the copyright holder markets copies of his software on a material medium (CD-ROM or DVD) but also where he distributes them by means of downloads from his website.
So a publisher’s distribution rights end when they sell a computer program or game for the first time.
The Court observes in particular that limiting the application of the principle of the exhaustion of the distribution right solely to copies of computer programs that are sold on a material medium would allow the copyright holder to control the resale of copies downloaded from the internet and to demand further remuneration on the occasion of each new sale, even though the first sale of the copy had already enabled the rightholder to obtain appropriate remuneration. Such a restriction of the resale of copies of computer programs downloaded from the internet would go beyond what is necessary to safeguard the specific subject-matter of the intellectual property concerned.
In other words, publishers can’t expect to make a profit every time a new person plays a game (or reads a book).
Hurray for common sense prevailing!
Image CC BY-NC-SA …-Wink-…