When you purchase that new game, song or e-book, what goes through your mind? Probably not the fact that what you have purchased isn’t actually your property. Most digital products you purchase do not actually transfer ownership to you! What you are purchasing is a license that enables you to use the product. This very important difference is usually hidden from the end user behind a mountain of EULA’s, and the only time people seem to realize this is when they have a problem with it. As companies shift to digital distribution of their products, we hear of more and more horror stories involving user who can no longer enjoy the goods they purchased. Take EliteNorsk for example: http://www.gamespot.com/battlefield-3/forum/messages/platform/xbox360?topic_id=m-1-60892092&pid=621026
After being banned from the EA forums, all of the games that were linked to his EA account are locked down, and he can no longer use them. Its easy to assume that EliteNorsk did something to deserve being locked out of his account, but what if this was a mistake, or an abuse of administrator power?
EA’s origin game distribution platform continues to generate horror stories about this very topic. In a rather absurd case, A user was charged twice for a game he had purchased, and when he tried to resolve the issue, he was locked out of his account, not able to play at all: http://www.giantbomb.com/forums/general-discussion/30/worst-eaorigin-horror-story-yet/522905/
Then there is the infamous 1984 incident, where Amazon actually removed copies of George Orwell’s novel from every single kindle E-book reader because of a licensing dispute, after the copies had been sold and distributed to the users. It is hard to imagine the same happening with a physical copy of the book: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/technology/companies/18amazon.html
So in closing, the next time you want to purchase Starcraft 2 for your PC, 1984 for your kindle, or the Beatles for your Ipod, ask yourself: “What am I actually purchasing?” It could save you a lot of trouble.