Apple filed a patent application Thursday to create a marketplace for used digital goods. The description is similar to the idea behind the patent that Amazon won approval for in February. Unlike Amazon’s patent, however, Apple’s possible system outlines the ways in which publishers could profit from the resale of digital goods. (Note: Apple applies for patents on lots of things, and applying for one doesn’t necessarily mean the company will do anything with it.)
Apple’s patent application describes a system that would allow users to transfer access to digital content — “such as an ebook, music, movie, software application” — to others:
“The transferor is prevented from accessing the digital content item after the transfer occurs. The entity that sold the digital content item to the transferor enforces the access rights to the digital content item by storing data that establishes which user currently has access to the digital content item. After the change in access rights, only the transferee is allowed access to the digital content item. As part of the change in access rights, the transferee may pay to obtain access to the digital content item. A portion of the proceeds of the ‘resale’ may be paid to the creator or publisher of the digital content item and/or the entity that originally sold the digital content item to the original owner.”
The application also describes many possible aspects of a marketplace for used digital goods — including how publishers might get paid:
As we noted last month, users’ rights to resell digital content is a contentious issue under current U.S. copyright law. This year, a court will rule on whether startup ReDigi, which allows users to resell digital music, is legal. Last year, the European Court of Justice ruled that users have the right to resell downloaded software.
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