Be An Owner, Not A Consumer: Don’t Get Licensed Out of Your Stuff

Your stuff, should be, well, *yours*.Do You Own What You Buy?
Increasingly, it seems that we no longer own our own stuff.

Is Your Website Yours?
Are we getting used to governments seeking to regulate websites? If I own or rent a server, and pay to connect it to a private network so that other users can access my private machine from their private machines, what is the state’s interest in the distribution of lawful data on such a medium? The regulation of Internet content is a hot topic around the world.

I understand that my real estate needs to be zoned for public good, but must we how we track visitors on private machines be a matter of policy too?

Is Your Computer Yours?
How about the operating system of your computer?  Is that yours? Not if it’s Microsoft Vista,  which you’re only licensed to use. What good is owning a computer if you don’t really own the OS? Is Mac any better?  Not if you put it on a machine Apple didn’t make.

How About the Rest of Your Media?
How about e-books? Nope, you may not be able to resell them or give them away as you would with a printed paperback. Remember, Universal Music even claimed the promo CDs junk-mailed to radio stations could only be disposed of by being returned to Universal. Thank goodness my right to toss my junk mail away has been upheld.

World of Warcraft licenses its users not to bypass its program to skip levels; doing so is in violation of the game’s copyright. Don’t you miss the days when you could buy a game and cheat just as much as your opponents’ gullibility would allow? Whose game is it if cheating is a copyright violation?

What About Your iPod and Auto?
“If you’re not able to open and replace the batteries in your iPod or replace the fuel-sender switch on your Chevy truck, you don’t really own it,” an NPR interviewee states, “The terms of ownership are still dictated by the company that assembled it and glued the iPod shut so that you couldn’t get into it.” Extending this thinking: do you really own something if you are engineered out of repairing or modifying it?

There’s data stored inside your car that is necessary for its repair and maintenance. But if it’s coded so only franchised dealers can use it, whose car is it? There is in fact a movement to create laws to require  car companies to make available to independent repair shops the same service information and tools capabilities that they provide to their franchised dealer networks.

Just Say “Mine!”
I don’t think we should be defined by what we own. But that doesn’t mean manufacturers should regulate—essentially control—items we have bought for our own use.

This might be therapeutic: the next time a government or copyright holder tries to assert interest in your stuff, emphatically holler “No, mine!” like a four-year-old.  Asserting rights of real property over our possessions, to modify, sell, and maintain them as we wish, confers a dignity of ownership otherwise lost on mere consumers.

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