A patent is not a statement of intent. It’s just an idea that a corporation has developed and would like to get paid for. Nonetheless, a patent clearly shows what a company has been thinking about. And Amazon has just filed a patent that would let you sell your MP3s used on the Internet.
We’ve discussed this before, both for used MP3s and the onrushing train that is apparently at least one game console company trying to shut down used game sales. But a quick recap is in order.
Technically speaking, if you buy something, it’s subject to the first-sale doctrine: That is, the right-holder only has the right to make money on the first sale of the object. Once you buy it, you own it. This is why you can sell a CD used.
In theory, this applies to digital goods as well, although the law is still a bit murky on this point and quite frankly a case will have to go to the Supreme Court before it’s settled for good. The main problem is that there’s really no system for selling “used” digital media, aside from sites like ReDigi. It’s very much a fringe idea.
Now Amazon has filed a patent about it:
When the user no longer desires to retain the right to access the now-used digital content, the user may move the used digital content to another user’s personalized data store when permissible and the used digital content is deleted from the originating user’s personalized data store. When a digital object exceeds a threshold number of moves or downloads, the ability to move may be deemed impermissible and suspended or terminated.
Essentially, you could treat your digital books, movies, and music as you do your physical ones: Sell them for cash. Or, likely, credit.
Again, Amazon hasn’t announced a plan to implement this yet. But they’re thinking about it enough to patent it. And it means a new front in the Internet copyright wars is about to open.