iTunes Store gift app

In a world of digital media, ranging from e-books to movies and music, consumers have often questioned the difficulty of loaning or selling their originally purchased items. In an exciting development, Apple has now developed a way to transfer digital content while also protecting the rights of the publisher.

In three patent applications filed in 2011 and 2012, Apple outlines a method similar to selling a house by transferring ownership of the front door keys, only for iTunes purchases. Driven by digital rights management (DRM), the process gives owners of apps, e-books, music and other digital items rights to loan and resell “used” items to other people…

Apple’s patent for “Managing access to digital content items” outlines different techniques for managing access to digital content items such as e-books, music, movies, iPhone apps and so forth to be transferred from one user to another.

Apple iTunes reselling patent (drawing 001)

The patent abstract reads:

The transferor is prevented from accessing the digital content item after the transfer occurs. The entity that sold the digital content item to the transferor enforces the access rights to the digital content item by storing data that establishes which user currently has access to the digital content item.

Unlike selling your copy of Steven King’s latest thriller, like you might on Amazon, Apple’s vision in an interesting twist would let you sell the right to access the e-book on iBookstore, for example.

Apple explains:

After the change in access rights, only the transferee is allowed access to the digital content item. As part of the change in access rights, the transferee may pay to obtain access to the digital content item.

A portion of the proceeds of the “resale” may be paid to the creator or publisher of the digital content item and/or the entity that originally sold the digital content item to the original owner.

Speaking of Amazon, the e-book seller patented a similar (described by some as “nearly identical”) system in 2009, two years before Apple. While Amazon’s patent focuses on a digital content marketplace, Apple offers three possibilities, including transactions between only the person loaning the content and the recipient.

Apple iTunes reselling patent (drawing 002)

In those instances where “used” digital content is sold privately, between users, there could be some restrictions. A movie studio may restrict re-sales until after the DVD hits the store and then with a minimum price. As in previous cases of Apple and digital content, the content owners will likely be the sticking point.

However, as TechCrunch notes, the company’s success with selling iTunes Match to music publishers could be a guide for any used content system. Many have called iTunes Match, a $25 a year service, as a nice way to replace pirated music with high-quality iTunes tracks.

Users currently are allowed to gift iTunes credits or store purchases to others. However, once you buy an iPhone app, say, Apple doesn’t provide a way to transfer ownership of the item to another person.

While there are some issues still needing to be resolved, the patents do reflect changes content distribution is undergoing: namely the cloud.

The advent of Netflix streaming has made consumer accustom to viewing digital movies, the same for streaming music. Since we are fast becoming a digital society, finding a way to resell our digital goods was necessary in order to close the e-commerce loop.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you were able to sell “used” iPad apps to your cousins?

  • Alexander Dohms

    The apps are to cheap for it to really even be worthwhile anyways.

    • Tr1pTr0p

      How do you know what is cheap to someone else?

  • MarcPhilippeB

    What’s the point if you could purchase the item directly from the store?

    • Tr1pTr0p

      Then what is the point of ebay? Why wouldn’t I make money for selling the app I won’t use?

      • JoblessGuy2

        The point of eBay is that you save cash when you buy used stuff from there. Not sure how you can possibly do that on a $.99 app.

      • Tr1pTr0p

        Sell multiple used applications? Average income in the US is about twice as high as it is here, and 1 USD is around 6 HRK. Basically, one cheap-o $.99 app is 12 times more expensive here. I wouldn’t call that cheap.

      • JoblessGuy2

        You have no idea about how money works, do you?

      • MarcPhilippeB

        The point of ebay is that you get stuff cheaper with the disadvantage that it is used. But an app can’t be “used” nor does it have a natural fall in value. So what’s the incentive of purchasing an app from another person? Just to be kind? Then Apple would have to make this purchase option much simpler than through the app store. Otherwise the people won’t use it.

    • I imagine they would let you set the price – the app store could have a “marketplace” or something, where you browse other people’s “used” apps, and pay what they are offering.

  • iBanks

    They first need to come up with a way to transfer all my purchases I’ve made using my gmail account as my Apple ID for the past 3+ years to my iCloud Apple ID so that I can do away with the gmail acct all together.

    • Falk M.

      Wouldn’t this basically enable you to do this? Sell stuff to yourself.
      (sorry, didn’t read the article yet, as I’m just quickly browsing before doing something else, so if I missed something, well, slap me with a tuna)

  • Kurt

    We don’t need more DRM

  • TheAsianDVD

    I think this might just work. If they ever implement it.

  • this would be genius – I have at least $50-$70 of unused apps (another reason to jailbreak/”pirate”), I’d gladly sell them for half that.

  • Falk M.

    They have to according to EU laws…
    In fact, they are in constant violation that they don’t let you do this already.

    Same goes for Google Play and so forth…

  • Stephen King*. Sorry, had to be done. 😛