Content ownership is of particular concern when looking at the transition between traditional forms of publications in comparison to newer digitised formats. The key issue that I would like to focus on is just what rights do those in the possession of content have?
The potential concerns over content ownership were illustrated when Amazon discovered that a distributer on its website had sold copies of a publication without having the legal right to do so (Naughton, 2009). Amazon acted swiftly removing all traces of the publication from its website as well as removing any traces of the publication from the e-readers of subscribers and refunding them.
As this example demonstrates, it seems that as e-readers make way for several benefits for consumers, they also entail certain restrictions that can be placed upon them by distributors. This occurrence obviously raises significant questions as to the rights of consumers when it comes to digital publications, which have not been relevant in the past.
Traditional print publishing has meant that content is solely in the possession of the purchaser for them to do with it, what they like, assuming that doesn’t breach potential copyright laws. With the sudden rise of e-readers it seems that the access of publications has been made easier, yet those who hold the rights to publish and distribute have increased power to control content once in the hands of the consumer.
It poses the question as to whether or not platforms such as Amazon should reserve the right to alter or even delete content that is paid for by its customers. It is easy to say that they should not, but perhaps this is the price consumers will pay for cheaper and convenient access to content via e-readers.
It is important to remember the potential benefits that come with e-books. For some e-reader publications, particularly those of an academic nature, publishers can continually alter and update content to reflect current knowledge in a particular field. As highlighted by Naughton (2010), what we traditionally considered a book is now being completely transformed.
E-books are also enabling online social communities to share content and comment on publications amongst fellow readers. This new technology known as ‘social books’ (Wotham, 2010) could also raise questions over content ownership as users are enabled to share sections of publications to other users online who access the content for free. This of course could be a positive for publishers who are getting free endorsements from readers.
So it seems e-books have led to new freedoms for readers, yet at the same time have created restrictions to their use of content. It would seem that in a digitised world where content is not ‘tangible’ like a printed book, the rights of consumers are difficult to define.