Ownership Matters: A way to own digital media you buy online

In his piece for PoliticoMagazine, Kyle K. Courtney describes the questionably precise positioning of the “buy” button so commonly found next to music and movies online.

“When Amazon, iTunes or any digital retailer explicitly says ‘Buy Now’ and the consumer clicks that ‘buy’ button, there is a definite presumption of purchase, and, with that purchase, ownership. That presumption, however, is not reflected in reality,” says Courtney.

If you read the pages of fine print, which many of us don’t, you’ll see you’re not really “buying” anything. Your content is only as protected as the terms say it is, and only if the retailer maintains your access to the content you paid for, as they or their service can close at any time. Most of the digital content you buy is not protected by the solid legal rights you get when you purchase media in its traditional physical format.

So why do people keep buying into media they’ll never own? Courtney says, “We are attracted — and have become accustomed — to the convenience of rapid purchases and on-demand content. When it comes time to move our online MP3 collection or transfer digital content to another device, then we face a surprising reality: We do not really own our electronic music, books and movies in the same way we do when we purchase physical books, CDs, records or DVDs.”

With the Murfie service, we’ve created a hybrid of physical and digital ownership: digital content with true ownership rights in the underlying media you own. The music you buy on Murfie can be available instantly to stream, and you can sell it to someone else if you decide it’s not for you. This is possible because each album you buy is backed by a corresponding physical copy that we store at our headquarters. It’s up to you if you want to store your titles on our shelves or yours, but the digital access is available to you anywhere.

On-demand music and movies are convenient, and it’s true that not everyone will care about owning everything they pay for. But the main issue, Courtney seems to be saying, is transparency. If we’re not really “buying” the digital content from these other big-name services, that should be clear. Then people will have the information to make informed choices about real purchases vs. rental contracts, and go for an ownership-based model if that’s what they desired in the first place.

In the future, we could have ownership that’s free of the physical backups. This could be possible with better contracts around digital content, which could allow buyers to have permanent and transferable rights connected to the media they bought, in formats that work across vendors and services. At Murfie we refer to this as a Physical Equivalent License, and we’re working on offering one down the road—and when it happens, we’ll be sure to state what you are really paying for clearly, right on the buttons in the shops.

This Week in Music History (January 29th-February 4th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

1/29- On this day in 1964, The Beatles spent a day recording at the Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris. They recorded new vocals for “She Loves You”, “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.

1/30- On this day in 1956, Elvis Presley began recording what would be his first album, Elvis Presley. Recorded at RCA Records’ New York studios, the tracks included his version of Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes”.

1/31- On this day in 1969, Led Zeppelin played the first night of the band’s two-night run at the Fillmore East in New York City during their first North American tour. It is said that Zeppelin’s show got such an enthusiastic response that headliners Iron Butterfly refused to follow them!

2/1- On this day in 1986, singer Diana Ross married Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Naess. Stevie Wonder performed at the reception, which took place in Geneva. The couple divorced in 2000.

2/2- On this day in 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper all appeared at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. The gig was all three acts’ last before “The Day the Music Died”, or the fatal plane crash that killed all three the next day.

2/3- On this day in 1979, Blondie had their first of five No. 1 singles with “Heart of Glass”, off the band’s third album, Parallel Lines. The song was originally recorded in 1975 under the name “Once I Had a Love”.

2/4- On this day in 1968, while working on “Across the Universe” at Abbey Road Studios, John Lennon and Paul McCartney decided the song needed falsetto harmonies. They invited two female fans, aged 16 and 17, in to sing and provide the harmonies.

You can own these music history gems by checking out our CD marketplace! Every album you own comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC. Boom! :-)

This Week in Music History (January 1st-7th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

1/1- On this day in 1960, Johnny Cash played a famous free concert for the inmates of San Quentin Prison in California. The recording of the concert was released as At San Quentin, Cash’s 31st album.

1/2- On this day in 1971, George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass began a seven-week run at No. 1 on the US album chart. The spot made Harrison the first Beatle to score a No. 1 solo album.

1/3- On this day in 1976, Bob Dylan’s song “Hurricane” peaked at the No. 33 spot on the Billboard singles chart. The song received enough publicity to eventually get Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a former boxer, released from prison. The song was written to promote Carter’s innocence.

1/4- On this day in 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience played the first of what would be over 240 shows of that year. The band’s appearance on January 4th was at the Bromel Club in Bromley, England.

1/5- On this day in 1973, Bruce Springsteen released his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. The album, which was recorded in a single week, only sold about 25,000 copies in its first year.

1/6- On this day in 1975, the mayor of Boston canceled a Led Zeppelin concert after 2,000 fans rioted while trying to buy tickets. The riot caused an estimated $50,000-$75,000 in damage to the venue.

1/7- On this day in 1971, Black Sabbath released Paranoid, their second studio album in the US. The album included songs that would go on to become the band’s signatures, including “Iron Man” and “War Pigs”.

You can own any of these or other music history gems—just head to our music marketplace and pick them out! All albums purchases include: CD, streaming, and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and Apple Lossless.