A cloud over ownership

This is the title of an excellent article of Simson Garfinkel in Technology Review.  He explores the consequences of the switch from physical cultural goods to digital cultural goods stored in the cloud.  It is nothing really new but it has the advantage to be clearly stated.

The first point is about privacy.  When you purchased a physical book or a CD, the merchant has no way to profile you.  Of course, if you purchase it on  a digital store such as Amazon, the merchant will be able to profile some of your preferences.  but with a digital good stored in the cloud, the merchant will be able also to analyze how you consume this digital good.  And this is even more interesting.  he will know what is you prefered book among the ones you purchased.  For the same result with a physical book, you need to look for the more worned book in my library.

The second point is really about persistence.  When I purchase a book, it is mine until I destroy it, or give it away.  With a e-book in the cloud, it is mine as long as the cloud operator accepts (or survives).  This si a massive difference.  I am not sure that the legislation has taken into account this shift.   I do not even tackle the issue of DRM that may shape the ways I can consume the digital good.

Thus, the notion of ownership of a digital cultural good is changing.  As the good itself, the ownership seems to become more ethereal.  Is it good or bad?  I don’t know.  It is most probably useless to look for the answer, I’m afraid it is an unavoidable shift.  We will have to adapt for the best and the worst.



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