Oct 19, 2016

Chris Hoofnagle and e-Commerce’s “Dirty Little Secret”

From the Los Angeles Times

Consumer deception? That 'Buy Now' button on Amazon or iTunes may not mean you own what you paid for

By Michael Hiltzik

The dirty little secret of the digital marketplace long has been that buyers of e-books, MP3 songs and movie downloads aren’t really acquiring anything that resembles traditional ownership.

How secret is this? According to a study scheduled to be published shortly by two law professors at Case Western Reserve University and UC Berkeley, it’s very secret. The vast majority of buyers on such digital marketplaces as Amazon or Apple’s iTunes Store, they say, have no understanding of how limited their ownership rights are, even when they’re paying full price for something the sellers imply they will own.

“The multibillion-dollar digital media marketplace is built, in part, on a lie,” Aaron Perzanowski of Case Western Reserve asserts in a recent piece at Slate.com. (He’s co-author of the study with Berkeley’s Chris Jay Hoofnagle.) “Companies like Apple and Amazon entice their customers to ‘buy now’ and ‘own it in HD.’ But consumers don’t own anything at all, at least according to the license agreements that accompany those sales.”

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Adjunct professor Chris Hoofnagle
Adjunct professor Chris Hoofnagle

Last updated:

November 17, 2016