LA Times on The "Buy Now" Button

One persistent problem facing consumers in the digital marketplace is the blurred line separating sales, which have traditionally conferred some form of property interests, and other transactions, often dubbed licenses, which don't. As we discuss at length in the book, the challenges of navigating the marketplace are exacerbated when retailers use language like "Buy Now" to appeal to consumers' familiarity with traditional sales, but bury licensing restrictions in the fine print.

Today, the LA Times reported on the study I conducted with Chris Hoofnagle that shows a significant number of consumers believe that, when they "buy" digital goods like ebooks and mp3s, they acquire the rights to lend, give away, and otherwise transfer those purchases. The relevant license agreements, however, tell a different story.

Our study is set to appear in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review next year, but the findings are discussed in detail in The End of Ownership.