business

File sharing rules part of broader trend

Steve Rosenbush

The crackdown on file-sharing is part of a larger effort to limit the power of the individual in the digital era. My book shelf at home is filled with a number of volumes that have been in the family for decades, handed down from one generation to the next. There's no question that those books belong to us. Having purchased the book 30 or 40 or 50 years ago, the family was free to read and reread it, load it to friends, or give it away if someone choosed to do so. Individuals may not have that freedom in the future. Sony has designed a digital "e-book reader" called the Librie that gives us a glimpse of how the idea of ownership is changing. Sony's manual says "the Librie is designed to accept content solely from Timebook Town, an electronic publishing company formed to distribute content for this device. Content downloaded from Timebook Town can be used on the device for 60 days; after that time, it is deactivited." The implications are chilling: individual consumers are transformed from owners into permanent renters who pay over and over again to read books or listen to music.

Now I doubt that Sony's Librie will become the standard book reader of the future, any more than its minidisc has become the standard format for audio. But it's a good indication of how the market will evolve.

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