The Ongoing Erosion of Ownership

Entertainment is being used as justification to erode ownership, or even cancel it outright. There is a very disturbing trend where you don’t own the things that you buy — the companies that sold them to you keeps claiming ownership even after the money has changed hands.

Apple has been caught using nonstandard screws on the iPhone and MacBooks with the only purpose of preventing you from doing what you want with your own telephone and computer. Sony is suing people who are tinkering with their own consoles, bought for hard-earned money.

In short: just because you bought something, you shouldn’t believe you have the right to think of it as your “property”. It is actually still controlled by the people you gave money, and they are prepared to sue you for forced entry into their console that you have bought. This is something entirely new.

This trend started some time in 1997 with CDs, when record companies claimed that you didn’t have a right to rip your own records to MP3 files for listening on MP3 players (which is why they sued the first MP3 player manufacturer, Diamond, into oblivion).

As a result, the fundamental concept that you own the things you have bought for good money is under assault. Ownership as a concept is being eroded. For some reason, politicians are accepting this attack on the concept of ownership without really challenging the overabusive corporations.

In the early 2000s, Apple was using a slogan provoking the record industry: RIP, MIX, BURN: It’s your music. In this slogan, the concept of ownership was very clear: you had bought the CD, you had the right to do whatever you wanted with it. It was a challenge to the record industry’s woes of people ripping CDs to MP3 files.

To illustrate how far several industries have gone against ordinary people’s right to own what they have bought with their hard money, the equivalent today from Apple would be HACK, MOD, ROOT: It’s your iPad. Can you see them running that campaign? No? Me neither. More likely, they would sue the hell out of anyone writing that in a public location. Still, it is your hardware. You bought it.

We need to defend the very straightforward right to own what we buy for our own money.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. Mikke

    Ur right. That goes without saying really.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Glyn Moody, Bas Grasmayer, Falkvinge, Tom DS, Justus Römeth and others. Justus Römeth said: RT @Falkvinge: on #infopolicy: The Ongoing Erosion of Ownership […]

  3. Uno Hansson

    Utöver att politiskt försöka avskaffa lagstadgade korporativista privilegier som skapar nyuppväckta globala skråväsenden, så bör vi konsumenter försöka skapa konsumentorganisationer med internet som gemensamt kommunikationsnav. Dvs. förhandlings- och “pekarorgan” som på vår beställning teknikupphandlar och avropsavtalar direkt med legoföretag, underleverantörer och OEM-leverantör (på motsvarande sätt som multijättarna). Hopmonteringen bör sedan kunna ske inom varje beställares närområde, samtidigt som monterföretagen återtar uttjänta utrustningar för demontering, återanvändning och återvinning. Om betalningen deponeras vid beställningen så sker det ingen överproduktion och svinn.

  4. Uno Hansson

    forts. med “pekarorgan” menar jag sponsrade konsumentorgan som talar om att “…vi förhandlat med alla dessa olika kompetterande företag om att för varje gång som alla berörda batchar är beställda med deponerad betalning, så kör automatiskt nästa tillverkning och leverans igång …”

  5. Mumfi.

    In the case of music it is not your music. You have bought the right to the specific copy and are of course not allowed to make further copies apart from the copies allowed by the law. You may actually make those copies from any CD you get your hands on, regardless of the ownership of that CD. I’m not really sure how this would work with a rented CD, or one borrowed from a library, but I strongly suspect that copying that would be a contract breach with the lender, rather than a copyright violation.

    Now, hardware is another thing entirely. This is yours and any patents covering it explicitly do not cover private use. No one should be able to try to legally prevent you from doing whatever you like with it. That said, I see nothing wrong with the manufacturer selling the hardware in whatever configuration he likes. If he encases the device in epoxy, or use nonstandard screws, or fills it with DRM and thermite based tamper protection; it really is up to the market to accept or reject the product. I do see a need to legislate under the marketing laws, so no product using DRM, or containing thermite for that matter, is sold without properly informing the customer of exactly what he is buying. That should be enough. In fact, it is entirely possible that European consumer laws already legislate the selling of crippled products. The problem is that the customers simply do not care.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Mumfi — actually, it is your music by every definition and by law. However, the copyright monopoly, which is not held by you, limits your ownership rights in terms of what you can do with your own property (your piece of music).

      This doesn’t change the fact that the music is your property.

      1. Mumfi.

        I would actually contend that ownership is applicable at all for something as abstract as a piece of music. In the sense that you own the specific copy of the music, and may not do whatever you like with it, you are right. Because copyright does set some limits on the use of your specific copy. You may not play it for large audiences or make numerous copies of it, and so on. These are very real and somewhat intrusive restrictions on your ownership. Which is kind of the whole point of copyright and the means to create the artificial scarcity that is supposed to create an economic opportunity for the holder of the right to make copies.

        I would not however go as far as saying that you own a piece of music. You may own a state given right to copy or distribute a piece of music, you may own a container containing a piece of music, you may own a moral right to be called the creator of a piece of music. I am not prepared to acknowledge the possibility to extend the ownership concept to something so uncontrollable and abstract as a piece of music. I do understand that sometimes we use the verb “own” to connote some of the situations above, or other similar legal or moral situations. It tends to lead to confusion however, as in this case. You were referring to the ownership of the physical container, I to the legal rights. Goes to show ownership is not really very applicable to music.

      2. Magnus

        I was just about to post this as an answer to Mumfi, but then i saw his answer below (or does this end up below?), so everything i wrote was.. well, like banging in an open door. But i still think i wrote something good and hit something worth to think about, the english word “copyright”. You will get it when reading this.

        You talk like copies is all that art is about. Can i own an oil painting? Not a copy, the oil painting. I have one on my wall, i have not painted it, but believe me, it is my property, not the painting artists.

        Now what am i allowed to do with my painting. Am i allowed to copy it? Yes i am. No one can stop me from taking a photograph of it. Infact this painting is rather small, so i could put it in my scanner. This is perfectly legal, since it is my property. But i do not have the copyright (the english word is a terribly bad one), so i do not have right to publish or sell the copy i just made with my camera or scanner.

        The swedish word “upphovsrätt” is a much better one and would translate roughly to authors-right. That do not lead peoples minds to restricted copying just as much, in many cases the english word is misleading since coping many times is perfectly legal to do, but not making the copies accessible to the public.

  6. Egens copyright, annans copyright

    […] skriver lite om ägarskap i en digital värld på sin blog, han använder delvis Apple som referens eftersom de använder […]

  7. Rev. Smith

    I must concur with Mumfi. The perception of purchasing a record, is not the legally purchasing of the same. I.e. you buy a permit to use it, while the record as such (in it’s physical shape) is only a carrier, which you own. The same goes for most intangible assets – you buy a permit.
    However, when it comes to tangible assets, such as a VCR, DvD or iPad, you do buy the carrier (mostly what you are interested in), but also the permit to use it. Nevertheless, even if there is a standard purchase contract, I am very doubtful it being a binding contract by Swedish law.
    If this was possible, Volvo could for instance have their own permits of usage, that you may or may not use standard parts, or why not a plate manufacturer does not allow spicy food on their plates or may not be used as a discus.

    I lost track there, but since intangible goods is sold as a permit, third party liability aught not apply (which it does in the TPB-case for instance), since there is no contract with the thhird party what so ever.

    So to sum things up, we have come yo the end of the line where the hardest parts of the legislation is used on the weakest player – the consumer. So this is also a consumer question, as you stated – so why not make a consumer union for intangible goods?

  8. anders

    Det är väl så att de storas äganderätt främjas på bekostnad av de smås? Ungefär 🙂

  9. or

    “I must concur with Mumfi. The perception of purchasing a record, is not the legally purchasing of the same. I.e. you buy a permit to use it, while the record as such (in it’s physical shape) is only a carrier, which you own. The same goes for most intangible assets – you buy a permit.”

    Why complicate things? You simple buy a container with information. Information can’t be owned by nature, but the illusion can indeed be created with laws such as copyright. It’s simple a matter of restricting people’s rights for benefit of a selected group of people.

    1. Mumfi.

      I concur with this comment much more than I concur with the comment that concurs with me.

      If you were actually signing any sort of a contract by consent in buying music such contract would not apply to a third party. And anyway, as said, information cant rally be owned. You may try to limit it with laws and licences, and if the perceived good is such that people accept the limitations, you may actually manage to do it too.

  10. Klistvud

    I frankly don’t understand all the fuss about it. It’s a FREE market. If you don’t like a license, don’t buy the product. In a free market, the manufacturer is free to invent any oddball license he wants. He may choose to not allow you to listen to his music unless you shave your left leg and eat blackberry jam, for all I care. It’s your freedom not to buy the product. I frankly don’t get it why I should bother to follow their intricate legal conundrums. Why bother buying an avocado that comes with a full-page EULA written in legalese and with a heap of small print? Go to the next shop and buy a banana instead.

    I didn’t like the Microsoft EULA, so I stopped using Windows. I don’t like the concept of not owning what I buy, so I never buy CDs or DVDs. I now do my computing on Linux, get my music from Jamendo, and record my movies from cable TV (until that’s still legal that is). Not only am I better off, I’m also staying legal. I can copy/lend/distribute/give my computer programs and music to whomever I choose.

    They can only exploit you to the extent you let them.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      In a free market, there are no government-sanctioned private monopolies like copyrights or patents.

  11. Anonymous

    You’re a damn good manipulator Rick. Love your writing.

  12. al marqz

    Need to think seriously about publishing these valuable concepts in other languages, their notes reach more people who can influence public opinion. Congratulations.


    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Dear Al Marqz,

      several people are doing so, and I encourage it. The work translated so far is available on this page, and more translations are coming steadily.

      I hope most of the reference material will be available in a selection of languages soon enough, thanks to people who volunteer to translate and post it on their own blogs and similar.


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