You Bought It, But Do You Own It?

February 23, 2011

Today marks the launch of an initiative, the Fan Freedom Project, focused on consumers’ problems with restrictive paperless ticketing – the practice of using electronic ticketing to control or take away entirely consumers right to resell or transfer tickets which they have purchased.

The question here – who controls what you own – has become increasingly important with the growth of digital technology, but it also predates digital technology.  For example, if consumers buy a product, are they shackled to the manufacturer for replacement parts?  Consumers have always expected to resell used books offline and online, creating thriving online marketplaces like Amazon.  Can consumers also resell online a handbag they no longer want, or can a luxury bag maker interfere with that online transaction?  Upon buying a printer, can the manufacturer restrict from whom they buy toner?  Or can the consumer buy toner from less expensive resuppliers?

How consumers can use what they own — whether this means reselling products they no longer want, or buying replacement parts and supplies — has obvious effects on consumer welfare.  It also has less obvious, but equally important effects on commerce, and e-commerce in particular.

This is why the Fan Freedom Project is consistent with several principles CCIA has long supported: open systems, interoperability, and the first sale doctrine.  All of these principles enable consumers to use what they have purchased without obtaining the seller’s permission, and in turn permit the formation of online marketplaces, e-commerce platforms, and aftermarket parts and services industries that create jobs and economic growth.

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