The Ministry of Consumer Protection Baden-Württemberg in Germany is starting to advocate used e-book sales. They stress that a clear path of ownership with digital content needs to be established.
Assistant Secretary of State Wolfgang Reimer recent led a panel in Brussels entitled Who owns my eBook. During the conference he stated “From a consumer protection point of view unexplained possession, acquisition and ownership of digital products are no longer acceptable. We urge the European Commission and the Federal Government, therefore, to ensure the implementation of the strategy for a digital single market and in the reform of copyright for legal equality between digital and analogue goods and thus for legal certainty.”
The ambiguity of e-book ownership is quite pronounced. In most markets you aren’t buying an e-book, as much as you are buying a license for it. Germany is hoping to convince the EU that when you buy an e-book, its the same thing as buying a print book. You should be able to own it and resell it if you want.
Poland is also trying to change the way e-book ownership is classified, but they are doing it through the courts. Poland’s constitutional court has formally challenged a European Commission ruling that VAT on e-books must be charged at the standard rate. The EC has previously ruled that e-books are electronically supplied services and not goods, and were not entitled to reduced VAT rate status, unlike printed books, which are. If Poland manages to convince the EU that print and e-books are synonmious, it could open the floodgates of true ownership and legally being able to sell your e-books.
Can used e-books ever be a reality? Amazon and Apple are betting they are. In 2013 Amazon filed a patent that had something to do with establishing a new digital system that would allow the reselling of content you purchased directly from them. 48 hours later Apple also filed a patent to sell used digital content.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.