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Every time I write about how Spotify is awesome Spotify Your Music Collection: The End Of iTunes Spotify Your Music Collection: The End Of iTunes Spotify is no longer content to just compete with radio, now they're competing with the idea of even owning music. Read More , or why my Kindle is better than physical books Books Suck: Why I Love My Kindle More Than Dead Trees Books Suck: Why I Love My Kindle More Than Dead Trees Modern e-readers hold thousands of novels, weigh next to nothing, have built in lights, and don't give you a concussion when they hit your nose. Read More , I get the same comments. Someone always says, “I’ll never use that service, I like to own my things”.


Let’s address that.

A Physical License

When you own a book, what do you actually own? You don’t own the contents; you don’t own the words written inside. The text itself is generally protected by copyright, and is owned by the creator or publisher. You just own the physical object – the pages that hold the tale, not the tale itself.

What about digital files? Well the situation is the same. You probably own the device you’re reading the ebook on, but you don’t own the content you’re reading. Without the constraints of a physical book, publishers need some way of transferring the information to you without transferring ownership of the file. The way they do that is with a licensing agreement.



You never buy a song from iTunes or an ebook from Amazon. – you only buy a license to view the content. It’s not actually much of a change from the way physical products work — in that case, the printed book is simply your license to view the contents in perpetuity.


Growing Up In The Second Golden Age Of Piracy

I’m pretty young – I don’t even know who the fourth member of The Beatles is These Kanye Fans Don't Know Who Paul McCartney Is, And That's Okay These Kanye Fans Don't Know Who Paul McCartney Is, And That's Okay Kanye West and Sir Paul McCartney collaborated on a new track. You'll totally believe what happened next. Read More . For almost my entire life Internet piracy has been rampant. I was 10 when I started downloading music with Napster Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Spotify Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Spotify In the past week Taylor Swift has pulled her music from Spotify, inspired countless song-pun laden headlines and reignited the debate about streaming music services. Read More , and as Internet connections got faster and the technologies developed, I moved on to pirating movies with BitTorrent The Torrent Guide for Everyone The Torrent Guide for Everyone There are tons of ways to download files and there is no doubt that BitTorrent is the most popular and fastest way to download what you want. Read More .

For as long as I’ve been a consumer of media, I’ve been able to find pretty much everything I wanted to watch, read or listen available almost instantly and for free online. Why would I even think about buying CDs or DVDs? It was far simpler to just download the data to my computer.

And I’m not alone with this – all my friends have grown up in a similar situation. Actually owning something physical has no appeal. CDs are just going to be ripped How to Rip a CD to MP3 & Auto-Name Files Correctly How to Rip a CD to MP3 & Auto-Name Files Correctly Read More . DVDs are more likely to be watched on a computer than a TV.

And if owning something tangible has no appeal, why would owning a nebulous license for a digital copy?

The Rise Of Streaming

This is why services like Spotify, Netflix and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited are so great. We get almost all the benefits of piracy — instant access to all the content you could want — without the downsides, all for a reasonable monthly fee. What’s not to love?

Rather than purchasing a one-off license for a single piece of digital content, you subscribe on an ongoing basis to a license that gives you access to a far larger collection of media than you could ever, even in a lifetime, amass on your own.


Last year on Spotify I listened to 34540 minutes of music. That’s almost 24 days non-stop. Let’s say each song was 4 minutes long on average. That means I listened to 8635 tracks. Even if my top 100 songs accounted for 80% of that, it still means I, more than likely, listened to well over 1000 different songs. To buy each of them on iTunes would have cost nearly 10 times what it cost me to use Spotify.

Not only that, but the experience was much better. I was able to find and listen to whatever I wanted without fear of wasting money. If I played a song and didn’t like it, no problem: I just wouldn’t play it again. If I bought an album and didn’t like it… then it’s tough luck.

The same is also true of Netflix. Online movie streaming has killed DVD rentals. For the cost of renting a movie, you can get a full month of Netflix. When compared with buying a DVD the difference is even more stark.

Resistance Is Futile

If you refuse to use digital products on general principle then I don’t think I’ll ever convince you of the merits of streaming services.

If, on the other hand, you buy licenses for music from iTunes, you’re already half way there. You don’t own the music. Assuming a file you “buy” comes with DRM, the companies you purchase the licenses from can revoke them at any moment Think Twice about Buying a PlayStation: How Getting Hacked Made My PSN Content Useless Think Twice about Buying a PlayStation: How Getting Hacked Made My PSN Content Useless My story begins sometime around the American launch of the PlayStation 4. I hadn’t turned my PlayStation on for about a week having been bowled over in work - I needed a break. I’d bought... Read More .

Plus, so long as you buy, on average, one album a month off iTunes, Spotify is going to be cheaper in the long run.

Streaming services are getting bigger and bigger. Spotify just passed 60 million users and shows no sign of stopping. Netflix accounts for 35% of US Internet traffic. These services aren’t going away.

The End of Ownership

What it means to “own” a piece of intellectual property has always been a bit nebulous – with digital files, it’s even more so. What we think of as ownership really ended with the rise of services like iTunes and the Kindle Store, which explicitly sell licenses. But now it’s truly dead.

Piracy has bred a generation that expect instant digital access to content. We don’t care about having CDs, books or DVDs lying on a shelf – let alone digital files sitting on a hard drive. We don’t want to own a movie, we just want to watch it.

Image Credit: XKCD.

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  1. onsenbeats
    November 26, 2016 at 5:39 am

    I think this article is kind of ridiculous. I still buy vinyl, cassettes, paper books, DVDs and DRM free downloads so i can you know, own the shit I pay money rather than pissing it down the drain and having to buy it again later. Turns out i DO want to own the things I pay out my hard earned cash for.

  2. Tetley Smooth
    May 17, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Dear Harry Guinness,

    I have never read an article by you and I wish never to read another as long as I live!

    Good day to you. sir.

  3. Ukmate
    April 2, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    The pricks want me to buy the same shit over and over again, and I say, "no thanks". Greed pure and simple.

  4. John
    April 9, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    There will be a demand for physical media for at least a decade. I too grew up in the same era as the author, I too torrent many things. The media I find worthy of multiple viewings, guess what, I purchase a physical copy. With streaming your at the complete mercy of the company offering the content. If your streaming service decides to raise monthly subscription/hosting fees, your SOL. It can be a pain to store digital content as well. You have to worry about hard drives failing, ensuring your media is backed up to the cloud, space etc.

    There is one advantage to digital owned media which could make discs obsolete one day. Preservation. Theoretically, as long as software exists to play these media files, it will last longer than a physical disc.

    Don't underestimate the human desire for physical possessions. I have been typing on computers since I was 12 years old. I am 30 years old now and thoroughly appreciate pen and paper.

  5. harold t
    January 22, 2015 at 12:18 am

    I cannot see why you would pay for something over and over. Got vinyl you can take that movie or music along. Even if you do not own the copyright the author is not going to track you down and strip it out of your media machine.
    That has happened with Amazon I think. I have never seen the good in renting.
    Same reason I will not use a cloud service for storage, I don't want a some rabid capitalist in charge of my stuff!

  6. Grant
    January 21, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    We understand that digital consumption of media is the future. That isn't a new discussion. But when comparing digital media vs. physical, please PLEASE include and acknowledge all of the benefits of each. Your comparisons fall flat, because you mention one or two of the benefits of digital media, and none of the benefits of physical media.

    And one minor correction... the law says that you do indeed own the content with physical media. You don't own a publishing license like the author, but that copy of the content is yours, and no agreement or platform or file format or anything else can take that away from you (for that, think more along the lines of a house fire). And you've left out some of the biggest benefits of all. So show us both sides, then make your recommendations accordingly.
    Happy writing,

    - G

  7. DoktorThomas™
    January 21, 2015 at 1:11 am

    So you spend money and you have a book, a CD, a DVD, or something. While you may not own the entertainment on it, you always have access (provided you don't break it). Stream a movie or a song and even if you store it on your hard drive, it may or may not be a faithful copy depending on so many variables in the process. Hard drives fill and fail, get slow, files get corrupted, technology changes, OS's change. So your stream is temporary by all reasonable standards.
    I'll take the former over the later any time. Much more versatile for users and more long lasting. Hey, my cassettes still play!
    Streaming is like a juke box; when the party's over the atmosphere is gone.... ©2015

    • Carl Waring
      January 21, 2015 at 10:28 am

      I have to agree. I have a (relatively) small BD/DVD collection and don't buy many in a year so a monthly sub to something like Netflix makes no sense to me. Especially as they don't even have all the films I have available to stream so I would "lose" some of my collection; and the don't have some of the films I would want either.

      That said, I would happily replace my physical collection with a DRM-free digital version if I could but, again, not all titles are available in digital format.

  8. Larry P
    January 20, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    Streaming or electronic content is perfectly acceptable for what I consider "consumable" media...the casual listen or the read it once and forget it. But then there are classics....material that, despite the silly argument of license vs. ownership, in and of itself has inherent value to those that possess. Have you ever picked up a very old leather bound book that was once owned by someone like Shakespeare or Sir Issac Newton? Some of those books are worth 10's of thousands or more. Do you ever think your MP3 file is going to increase in value? It has no value within that context except for use of that material. There is nothing tangible in your hands. Yes, it's extremely convenient, portable, and "consumable", which is perfect for the latest Taylor Swift song. But if you want to talk about something important with real value, let me show you my "still shrink wrapped" vinyl Revolution album by the above mentioned Beatles. Some may argue that none of the material being produced today will have that lasting value that will create that sentimental market much less the investor quality market. I don't think so...but when that is actually realized it's going to be too late because the media is "consumed" and exist no more.

  9. Larry P
    January 20, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Streaming or electronic content is perfectly acceptable for what I consider "consumable" media...the casual listen or the read it once and forget it. But then there are classics....material that, despite the silly argument of license vs. ownership, in and of itself has inherent value to those that possess. Have you ever picked up a very old leather bound book that was once owned by someone like Shakespeare or Sir Issac Newton? Some of those books are worth 10's of thousands or more. Do you ever think your MP3 file is going to increase in value? It has no value within that context except for use of that material. There is nothing tangible in your hands. Yes, it's extremely convenient, portable, and "consumable", which is perfect for the latest Taylor Swift song. But if you want to talk about something important with real value, let me show you my "still shrink wrapped" vinyl Revolution album by the above mentioned Beatles. Some may argue that none of the material being produced today will have that lasting value that will create that sentimental market much less the investor quality market. I don't think so...but when that is actually realized it's going to be too late because the media is "consumed" and exist no more.

    • Harry
      January 23, 2015 at 9:27 am

      Okay Larry, collectables and antiques are a little different. I'll give you that! But you're right, I don't think there'll be many produced like that today. Media is just too pervasive.

  10. John Williams
    January 20, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    8 billion on the planet and rising. The only way to educate and entertain them all is by electronic delivery. Not least because many people live in such tiny apartments, what storage space they have is needed for food and clothing.

    I work in a library. We're steadily digitising everything. We can no longer store all the physical media that we own and keep it safe from flood or fire. We have RAID arrays on the local servers and more servers off-site. In electronic form it is searchable due to added metadata and safer than it ever was on the shelf.

    How many people have whole bookcases full of books, CD's and DVD's that they never play or read? Even the charity shops won't take your old hardback books off you any more - you certainly can't sell them. So what's the point of "owning" them? They are very old technology, they've had their day - move along.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      Wow John that's an amazing point. I think there might be an article in that! Would you mind emailing me (harry at makeuseof dot com) if you're up for having more of a chat about it.

  11. Robin
    January 20, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    Ownership means you can sell it to someone else. You're arguing for rental-in-perpetuity.

    And the Kindle can display .pdfs just fine, thanks.

  12. Robin
    January 20, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Ownership means you can sell it to someone else. You're arguing for rental-in-perpetuity.

    And the Kindle can display .pdfs just fine, thanks.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      Yeah but you can't sell digital files to anyone else. Even CDs, DVDs and books are only in theory sellable. They've no value on the second hand market except rare books, text books and games.

      Really? I've found it miserable for them. Are you using text PDFs?

  13. np
    January 20, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    With physical you get to own a copy that can be used in any fashion. You get an additional property right you get that secures your ownership of *the copy* i.e. the medium. This is reflected in the first sale doctrine in the US. First sale takes precedence over whatever license the publisher may use, as has been confirmed by courts many times now!

    With digital and DRM -- which includes geo-blocking -- or streaming you don't even own the copy and first sale does not apply. How can you say it democratizes media when these services are the very definition of centralized control? Take for instance the case of Norwegian woman Linn -- from tomsguide and computerworlduk
    "Report: Amazon Wipes Woman's Kindle Without Explanation"
    "Rights? You have no right to your eBooks."

    She eventually got her books restored after much negative attention, but that just goes to show how pernicious DRM is. However, there are other cases where Amazon has removed some controversial books (e.g. incest novels) and those are gone FOREVER. People who have purchased the kindle versions prior to their removal no longer have access.

    Of course, the impermanent nature of streaming services is more obvious. What if you go camping where there's no cell service or where connection is bad enough that only voice works, but the data is unreliable? Or what if you move or travel to another country and you're geo-blocked?

  14. A41202813GMAIL
    January 20, 2015 at 11:26 am

    I Did Throw Away Almost All My Books, But, Did I Throw Away My Very Last Porn Book ? - Hell, No.

    Just In Case ...

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      Lol! I can neither confirm nor deny that I have done something similar. ;)

    • justdave
      October 1, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      Save the porn first! :-)

      • A41202813GMAIL
        October 2, 2016 at 1:19 am

        You Got That Right.


  15. lhrh98
    January 20, 2015 at 6:56 am

    You have brought some interesting thoughts, though they may appear confusing to certain group of people including me. If possible, please clarify.
    In my opinion, there three groups of people:
    people who really prefer hard copies of books, CDs, DVDs, etc. Holding these items in hands is satisfactory to them
    people who just prefer owning stuff, which can be computer files, not necessarily physical stuff
    people who like renting stuff (or buying permit for access)
    I belong to the second category. I don't care much about the excitement of opening a gift package and taking out a physical item. But I do like to have sth. local under my control.

    You may ask, what's the advantage of having a book/movie/song local instead of streaming? taking youtube as an example, assuming that I find a really funny video clip and
    1) want to watch again, but internet access becomes terribly slow, thus I can't watch
    2) want to show to my friend, but the clip has been removed from website
    I think the situation is pretty much like owning a condo vs. renting an apt., For the latter, the landlord has far more control over the monthly fee, laundry room policy, trash disposal policy, etc.
    I predict that for digital media, owning and renting with co-exist for decades. I am curious how you jump to the conclusion - "End of Ownership".

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:35 am

      Yeah I largely agree with your classifications! They're pretty accurate. There's also the fourth, the people who just don't care.

      I don't think they're going to co-exist for decades. The next decade, yes, but more and more companies are going to move to streaming as a source of ongoing revenue. Look at what Adobe has done. They've gone from selling $2500 software to letting people subscribe for <$100 a month. Media providers will move the same way. And look at the renting/buying situation in high demand areas. Many people are choosing to rent apartments instead because of all the risks that come with ownership!

  16. piyush
    January 20, 2015 at 6:37 am

    well most of these services are not availablein my region and internet speed is just too it does not leave me much of a choice although i would gladly like to subscribe for streaming services..

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:30 am

      I was in the same situation for a while. In general everything's getting better so you will have fast internet and good streaming services at some point! What choice do you make? Do you tend to buy or pirate?

  17. PaulinSF
    January 20, 2015 at 6:27 am

    Hi Harry,

    I'm 68 years old, truly an "old fart" and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Streaming music and video is one of the great improvements to life that I have seen developed. I used to be a heavy usenet user before NZBMatrix shut down and always felt that that experiencing usenet as it was 4 or 5 years ago showed the promise of what the future would be like. I was able, at the time, to search for just about any song or video that had ever been recorded and almost always instantly have it available. It was the promise of the Internet at it's best. It showed what can be.

    I downloaded from Usenet not to steal or keep from paying but because of the convenience. Someone has said that piracy is simply a marketing failure, and I have to agree. I don't mind paying for access to files. I subscribe to Netflix, Google Play unlimited, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime and Scribd and I have both a Spotify and a Pandora account. What I do mind is running into stupid roadblocks, such as the time recently when, after waiting, my favorite novelist released her latest book. I went to buy it from Amazon and discovered that for whatever reason the book, both print and ebook version, was available in the UK but not be for sale here in the US for another month. WTF??? Well I did end up reading the book that day, but the author and the publisher made nothing from me. Marketing failure. I had money in hand but no way to pay it.

    Anyway, kid, we are on the same page here. I've got no desire or need to drag around physical copies - or even digital copies - of my media. Let someone else go through the bother of storing and keeping track of it. Having it available at the stroke of a key is fine with me.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:29 am

      Hahahah you're my hero! ;) Yeah it's the road blocks that kill me too. I have the opposite ones and I'd say hit them far more frequently — stuff hits everywhere else before it gets to Ireland! A lot of things are released a month or two earlier in the states. It really is one of those things where you have the money, you want to pay and if they're not capable of offering a better service than a pimply teenager who's uploaded it to a file sharing site...

  18. Chris
    January 20, 2015 at 6:13 am

    Interoperability and persistence are the key issues here. Physical copies are permanently usable with any technology paradigm shifts that may come. Piracy solves these problems as well because files that have been stripped of their DRM are vastly more compatible with software standards. Both also eliminate ads and allow you to sort your collection as desired.

    I do use streaming services, but I don't want to for books because there is no good standard format. The best is pdf and most stores don't sell that. Regardless, books are a different experience with the physical copy. At least the others still work the same

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:26 am

      "Physical copies are permanently usable with any technology paradigm shifts that may come." My iMac's VCR drive and record player 100% agree with this statement! ;)

      Many digital media services are DRM free now or are going that way.

      And PDF is a terrible e-reader format! You need to read it on an iPad to use it.

  19. Overlord_Laharl
    January 20, 2015 at 3:00 am

    This is about your digital purchases
    Let me ask you this. What do you do with your licenses when amazon or other service goes under.
    This is why i still buy physical. and rip my media and put the file on any device I want.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:24 am

      Well I still have the files on multiple devices and storage services so keep using them? And if Amazon goes under there's bigger problems going on!

  20. Bluebriz
    January 20, 2015 at 2:08 am

    I wish we could get Spotify here in Japan. God only knows if any decent streaming music service will ever be available in this technological black hole.

    We have Hulu Japan for TV, but the content is a big pile of something smelly in comparison to Hulu US.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:23 am

      It'll get there eventually! It took ages for it to get here to Ireland but it was worth the wait.

  21. mkm
    January 20, 2015 at 2:07 am

    I do agree with the points about physical media; it can be lost and often sits idle on a shelf. However, saying "I'm quite happy with paying every month for the rest of my life", seems a bit flippant. The problem is the same one that people experience with cell phones, cable/satellite, .... They treat these now as a necessity cost and it's just factored into a part of life to exist. Yeah, they are useful and fun, but I would love to see people count the times that it was life and death or life changing (that latest Idol or Voice) for them that they had it. I don't want to just give my money to someone constantly for entertainment, because, and this may only be age talking, but some/most entertainment is getting bad. I believe mostly because the companies are trying to fill empty space with anything they can sell. That is hardly a market for making things better; only more plentiful. So, I understand the convenience of anything anytime; I really appreciate that. I'm just not sure the experience is going to be the same since the quality has to suffer and you get to pay all the time for stuff that just sucks with a diamond in the ruff once in a while. Two more things. You never touched upon the need for every service since there is not one service that gives you everything. Also, where do you rent your DVDs; "For the cost of renting a movie, you can get a full month of Netflix." Last I checked, an online Netflix ($8-$11) was closer to or more than a movie ticket, not the cost of a DVD rental. My rentals are less than a $1.50, but I'm a cheap bastard and can wait 60 days.

    Cheers and keep writing. Ideas flow like the entertainment industry, and not all are gems.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      To be 100% honest, I find music to be life changing. It's a fairly integral part of my life and that and books are what I turn to when I'm going through shit. It'd take a hell of a lot for me to give that up no matter how broke I was. They're beyond entertainment to me. Movies I could drop in a flash! I'm jealous of all these people who had good, cheap rental shops. Mine were always awful!

      Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy what I write!

  22. Duckling
    January 20, 2015 at 12:52 am

    So in the interests of full disclosure, I'm a hoarder of physical things. I'm the loser who still has CDs of everything, and gets physical textbooks whenever affordable. (Which is... well. Not often, but that's a topic for another day.)

    My issues are pretty simple: my internet is too sucky to stream, first of all. (It's really sad. I can watch things, but only in hideously choppy, low-res misery.) Secondly: if I have something in my hot little hands, I *have* it. If it's on someone's server that I'm theoretically allowed to access? I don't really have it.

    When Adobe first shut down the activation servers for CS2, for example, I had the installation DVDs & serial codes, but (due to the online 'activation' process that was necessary) couldn't install my program when I moved to a new computer. Calling tech support ended with "well, you should upgrade! Our subscription service is working!" which would've been more useful if I actually had money (which was why I was still trying to scrape by with my CS2 edition from 2006). Eventually, enough people complained that they put most of the Creative Suite online, but the gap in my ability to use software I'd purchased irked me.

    And then we get to things like the kerfluffle with Disney and the Christmas movies. Do you really own something, if it's streamed? Apparently, only kind of. Or at least, if you have Disney's lawyers. X-Mas year 2013 had an unpleasant surprise for people who wanted to stream holiday films they'd purchased, since apparently Disney preferred that you have to watch it on their cable channel, on their own time, with ads.

    Basically: I'm a hoarder who wants things and wants them here and now, not contingent on my internet or the owners/providers of whatever server the content is on, because I don't actually trust that as much.

    • lhrh98
      January 20, 2015 at 7:20 am

      I fully agree with your opinion, and you gave very good examples.
      I myself had similar experience. I bought apps from iTunes store (as an owner), and 1 year later, when I purchased a new iPhone, the app was removed from iTunes. However, I had the habit of downloading everything to my local harddisk, thus I was still able to install it to my new iPhone.
      Similar thing can easily happen to a song, a movie, a book, or anything stored in a remote server. I have no objection to "renting" but insist people have the option of "owning".

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:23 am

      @Duckling What's your local 3G like? When I lived somewhere with crap Internet I was able to get better speeds over mobile data for a reasonable price!

      The flipside of you having it is that someone can take it away. If you lose the CD it's gone. If I lose my phone or someone deletes the Spotify app I can log in again. Yes companies can theoretically revoke your license but it doesn't happen very often. Adobe's business is very different to media — they constantly need to push you to upgrade to make money.

      I understand your position and it's totally valid, I just can't identify with it!

      @lhrh98 You can still download them by going to purchased apps. And I don't think it can easily happen. It can happen very very very occasionally.

  23. Robert
    January 20, 2015 at 12:45 am

    There are only a few arguments you make in your article that I even remotely agree with. I will agree that no one ever owns the rights to anything purchased unless you are purchasing the copyrights to the actual work be that music, books etc. However there is a major difference to purchasing a physical disk, book ext than buying a digital copy that has excessive DRM! Most of the time you are not allowed to listen to, watch or read the digital media in any way you choose to. In the case of Amazon you have to use their player software, the same with Apple as well as purchases made via the Google play store. For me when it comes to purchasing media I will never give any company money for a restrictive digital download, EVER! I will always purchase a real book or a record, CD DVD or Blueray. Yes when I buy a disk it does get ripped, however it is in the file forma bitrate or resolution I choose and I can listen to it or watch it via any media player of my choice. All of my disk based media are in factory new condition with only being played once. When I get them home I create a digital copy and put it on my Media NAS that is on my home server and then I put the disk into storage. I personally will never purchase anything from the iTunes store nor will I ever own any Apple product. However I do not have any problems with the streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime (I do not subscribe to Amazon Prime for their steaming services, I subscribe for their 2 day shipping and having access to their streaming services is just icing on the cake), Pandora radio etc. This is the same as a cable tv bill and service, you agree to pay a set amount for the service and then are allow to stream the content into your personal network. When it comes to Netfilx and Amazon Prime instant videos I can pretty much watch it any way I choose, I can stream it into my android cell phone and tablet, my Home Theater PC, or my PS3 or PS4. When at home I usually use my PS4 because I like the apps for both Netflix and Amazon, however when I am searching these services for new things to add to my viewing list I always use a computer and a web browser because it is just easier. I am also an avid video gamer, I have over 200 titles in my Steam account. Another issue with digital copies of media is usually it is tied to your user account, over the span of your lifetime if you are legally purchasing your media you will have thousands of dollars invested that due to our corrupt governments especially here in the US the consumer has no rights at all, software or digital media and games are one of the few consumer products that once opened you cannot return for a refund even if it does not work or it does not have the features that were over hyped, we do not even have the legal right to will it to our heirs, unlike physical disks, records, and books.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      Hey Robert. Yeah DRM is a pain at times but I only get involved in ecosystems that are the best around. I've no problem being invested in Kindle because it's the best. I can also crack the DRM if I need to! ;) The digital stuff — especially the games — goes back to what I was saying at the top of the post. It's all about the license. It's far harder to argue a license was missold than to say a physical product was. I'm lucky to live in the EU where we've some kick ass consumer protection.

  24. Richard
    January 20, 2015 at 12:25 am

    To say "Well the situation is the same." regarding books and streaming content is a stretch that does not reach. When you own a book, you can give it to someone else. Try that with streaming content.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:18 am

      You can give them your password to log in. When you give them a book you're deprived of it's usefulness, when you give them your Spotify password only one person can listen at once so... the situation is the same! ;)

  25. Mac
    January 20, 2015 at 12:25 am

    While you are correct that we never owned the content in the previous reality of books and CDs and that our license is technically unchanged with digital, I think you are grossly missing the distinction that people feel there is a difference and when there is actually a difference, not in licence for use, but in control and length of license.

    The key difference is that the license of a book or CD someone has bought cannot be revoked by any means by the company (because our right to property and privacy of our dwellings has a long and deep legal history), but that is 100% not the case with digital. Personally I've gone mostly digital, but we have to be honest that the current model of paying for digital licenses means our ability to continue to listen to a track we've paid for can be revoked at any time. It's a whole different sales and licensing model. Previously people bought the rights to own one copy of the work (writing, music, etc.) forever.

    So your title is correct - this is indeed the beginning of the end of ownership - but the rest of your admittedly fluffy article kinda misses highlighting the issues that come of that. Quite fairly, not everyone will be happy about the irreconcilable differences switching to ending ownership means and the loss of control of something we've paid for means. Previous generations didn't have the ability to access all music on demand, but could permanently control all music they did pay for without any further transaction or revocation from the media own. Licenses for music bought were in perpetuity. Today with streaming music & books we trade access to everything for shaky precariousness of continuing that music, losing that right to keep the content you bought no matter what in the future happens to or is decided by the artist, company or internet operator. If you stop paying Spotify all that music disappears and gets deleted from your device. Or if you like Taylor Swift's music and paid her for a CD, you can listen to her album forever no matter if she has some spat with Spotify and yanks her music off. Maybe someone cares, maybe someone doesn't, but real issues.

    You clearly are happy about that trade and choice, others have fair, rational reasons for preferring the control the business model of buying permanent media gave, but we're eventually going to lose that option, like it or not. I'd love to have seen you cover that kind of depth in your article as what the end of ownership might mean. Ready to move beyond fluff and into meaty writing in a follow-up?

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:16 am

      You raise some great points and I disagree with your dismissal of fluff but what you're talking about is beyond the scope of the article — and probably beyond the scope of the article I should write. I've lost far more books and digital files to my own and other people's idiocy than have ever been taken off me by a licenser (read, none). Can it happen? Yes. Does it happen? Yes. But does it happen often? Nope.

      It's a fear but that's all it is ever going to be for most people.

  26. Steve Fahnestalk
    January 19, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Well, I *am* old enough to know who the fourth (fifth, sixth) Beatle is (Ringo), not George Harrison (you misspelled the name). And I'm also old enough to care that what I want to say is said correctly--referring to "their, there and they're--but some of what you say makes sense.

    Only some, however. Online streaming (as well as piracy) depends--as has already been said--upon a good internet connection and a high usage cap. The loss of video stores means that instead of paying $4.50 to watch any one of fifty 3D videos (yes, I'm one who loves 3D) at the store--and only $2.50 on Tuesday or $3.00 when it's no longer new--means I'm limited to what my cable provider gives me, and I have to pay $6 for two days. Whether I want two days or not.

    And their selection sucks. Netflix doesn't have any 3D movies; and in Canada--unless I spoof a US DNS--their selection of movies and TV shows sucks worse. Plus it's impossible to find those odd movies, like Jacques Tati films, that the video store had.

    Music, I must admit, is really, really convenient to download. Legally or otherwise. Where I used to have over 1000 vinyl discs and a few hundred CDs, now I'm down to a couple hundred vinyls and a few dozen CDs. All the rest is on hard drives (I'm up to a few Terabytes and likely to add more storage in the future) or on backup media.

    Books? I'm a collector, but I'm downsizing. Only association copies--like my own or books by friends or acquaintances--mostly the signed ones--are gonna find a place on my shelves. I'm planning to get rid of most paper books, simply because of age--my own AND the books'. I can walk around the house with my tablet reading, just like I could with a hardcover or paperback. And since moving the remaining bookshelves down to the basement, I now have lots of wall space in the living areas. That's kind of new!

    So, like I said, you have some sense in what you say, but not all.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      You're lucky to have lived near such an awesome video store. All the ones I had near by were awful. Netflix — and the Pirate Bay — have a far better selection. 3D has never done it for me but I can understand where you're coming from. Digital hasn't embraced 3D at all really.

  27. gbswales
    January 19, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    Potentially there is solid ground in what you claim however I am not yet convinced that any online video company offers a great deal. Amazon prime for example only gives access to a limited range of videos and if you want to watch more popular items you have to pay - and not at a special subscriber rate either. Netflix has more included, but still a limited range - I don't see any all inclusive subscription services that offer everything in the current listings - in fact Amazon has the best range but only if you pay premium prices, on top of their subscription, for the best items. Music services like spotify do better but even these do not have complete catalogues. Is spotify premium cheap? - probably not to the generation that grew up with the file sharing phenomenom. When you can listen to music radio for free then much more than a couple of pounds a month for spotify sounds expensive to me.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Yeah the streaming video landscape isn't as good as it could be but it's going to have to get better in response to piracy just as music has. Spotify has a really good collection and it's getting better and better. Music radio gives you no control so it's a pretty poor alternative to people who like things on demand! And as some one of that generation, I can report we all think it's cheap. Granted we're all in our 20's now so have a bit of cash but I think most people will age into as they start to work.

  28. Martin (Chaim) Berlove
    January 19, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    It's true I don't own the media on a DVD, anymore than I own what I stream on Netflix...but Netflix can decide to stop offering a show anytime they please, while no one can decide to make my DVD disappear.

    Likewise, I don't own the words in a book anymore than I own the contents of an ebook...but I have full and total control over my physical book, while the same cannot be said for Kindle book bought from Amazon.

    There are many advantages to digital versions of physical items, but it is just as foolish to ignore their problems as it is to deny their usefulness.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:10 am

      For me, I've lost far more books to my own, and other people's stupidity and just general use — 50+ probably, I'm an avid reader — than Amazon has taken off me — they've taken none. As for Netflix, if something's not there it's on BitTorrent sites... I'd sooner pay but... At some point in the future everything will be available for streaming and it won't be an issue!

    • Sheeva
      January 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      So, they, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify et al, may have never "taken off me" YET but there is a day when they will. And they will. It's like like countries that privatize their essential services only to find out that these services can be denied anytime and for very little reason. If Amazon or Spotify or whomever digital decides the costs are just not bottom-line centric, who do you think will have to go without just to get a book or film or music?

      Living in a digital world means you need to deal with things differently in such a transient society. When "they" control what you have access to, when you have access to, why you have access to, etc. you're living in a foolish digital utopia.

      As an aside, many areas of North America are NOT COVERED for Internet access which means you would need to have "permanent" copies of whatever, movies or music or books. Which at the end of the day, I don't mind having a book or two, a magazine or two or movie/music that doesn't require on-line access or electricity.

      Yes, as they take away our rights and privilege to human creativity only to dole it out when "they" see fit, there will be hold outs like yourself who will be the "oldster" in your digital utopia.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      Well the beauty of the Internet is that anyone can be a "they" and they can offer stuff for free or by whatever terms they like. In a traditional system there was far more limits and controls placed. Getting some movies or books was next to impossible in Ireland. And I don't understand what you mean by "to go without just to get a book or film or music"? The costs of media is falling. It's unlikely to rise.

  29. Victor
    January 19, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    In terms of music, videos, and other media that generally HAVE to be viewed/consumed digitally anyways, streaming will probably be the future (or the present, whatever).

    But books are different because there is an alternative. Books don't need any sort of technology whatsoever to operate, which is great in the event of something like a blackout or very long airplane ride. To me, and this will make me seem old-fashioned AND plain old, the experience of a book, holding its weight, flipping its physical pages, and smelling the paper, is something that cannot be replicated with electronic readers.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:07 am

      Ah but Victor, what if you don't want to replicate the terrible terrible experience of reading a book!? ;) I've given myself a black eye dropping books on my head while trying to lie on my back and read them. My Kindle can't do that!

  30. Tech Crone
    January 19, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Good for you, Harry. You and your own-nothing friends are very smart. Speaking as someone who's pretty old, I can tell you that a lot of people my age are now sorry we accumulated so many physical objects. Any annoyances associated with digital storage are nothing compared to the burden of maintaining, storing, moving, and then finally having to try to find someone to take away all that stuff. Any time you can replace a physical object with a digital one, by all means do it. Your pretty old self will thank your pretty young self one of these days.

    • Harry
      January 19, 2015 at 5:58 pm

      Hahahahhah that's an awesome perspective! Thanks for your comment. That's something I'll definitely have to consider.

  31. KT
    January 19, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    I'm not old enough to like the Beatles, but old enough to remember physical ownership (43). I agree with you that the digital age is sweet, the biggest drawback I see is employment. Without the need to make physical things like books, magazines, cds, dvds, cassettes, lps, and more, you eliminate potentially good jobs. Add to that the technology that streamlines automation and you have even fewer jobs. It's the genie out of the bottle scenario. Luckily, I work on robots and automated machines, but it makes for a tough future for younger people.

    • Harry
      January 19, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      Hey KT, yeah jobs and employment in general are changing. The big thing is there are fewer and fewer easy routes. It's no longer a sure thing that you can get a job that you'll work 40 years and then retire. But the entire workforce has shifted before. Technical people — whether it's robotics or software — are going to be at an advantage going forward.

  32. Dave
    January 19, 2015 at 5:22 am

    All compelling points. The way we consume media of all kinds is no doubt changing. The problem is that the presence of your desired media on your streaming service of choice depends on popular opinion. Putting this choice solely in the hands of the masses will supress the unique and revolutionary. There will always be a market for work thats not pre-digested for mass consumption. I'll read my copy of 1984 in paperback, thank you. (While wearing my tinfoil hat, of course!)

    • Harry
      January 19, 2015 at 10:12 am

      I totally disagree! Services like Spotify, Soundcloud, YouTube and video totally democratise the means of distribution. Your copy of 1984 is the product of careful choices and marketing by the author and publishing house. Grumpy cat videos are pure and unadulterated by such base motivations. ;)

  33. TucsonMatt
    January 19, 2015 at 3:14 am

    Love my Kindle, but my dead tree books can't be unilaterally removed by the publisher on a whim. I can lend it to whomever I like as can they. Or I can sell it without some draconian organization threatening to take me to court. I love "Ground Hog Day" and I own it to watch whenever I want without worrying it may disappear from the streaming service.

    There are many advantages to owning content. Eventually, the younger generation will discover this when they get older and find their nostalgia is hard to find.

    • Harry
      January 19, 2015 at 10:09 am

      No, but they can be damaged, lost or otherwise made unusable. I've lost far more books than have ever been removed from my Kindle (none). To be honest I don't really fear losing access to the movies I love. They'll either be available on streaming services that I pay for in the future, or they'll be available for piracy. No media is going to be lost now. All my favourite TV shows from when I was a kid have now been digitised. Nostalgia will be easy!

  34. Mike Jones
    January 18, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Who cares, just do things how you want to and don't care about how others do it.

    • Harry
      January 19, 2015 at 10:05 am

      I care! It's my job to write about how things are changing.

  35. Learjet
    January 18, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    The obstacle I run into is that a lot of rare songs or remixes simply aren't available. I currently have an "All Access" subscription with Google Play Music, but much of the time I find myself listening to my own music that I have uploaded to their cloud service. Perhaps this will change in the future.

    I'm a media hoarder and get a lot of satisfaction in collecting my digital catalogue of music and keeping it meticulously organized and tagged, etc. It's a habit I'll have to work on in the future as streaming becomes even more mainstream than it is today.

    Also, I don't think this is going to affect the rate of piracy, as most people who do that are doing it because they can attain music albums weeks before they are officially released.

    Times, they are a changing! Great story!

    • Harry
      January 19, 2015 at 10:04 am

      Thanks! I'm glad you like it. The thing about Spotify and Google Music is that it's up to the people who release remixes or created the rare songs to upload them to the services. As they get better more of them will have an incentive to. What I love most about Spotify is it keeps my media meticulously sorted. And Spotify has hugely reduced Spotify! I've an article to write on that subject in the next few weeks...

  36. Hildy J
    January 18, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    If you are content to follow the crowd, ownership is probably unnecessary. But with video and, especially, text, ownership is essential for anyone with remotely eclectic tastes (and if you know what eclectic means without Googling it, you probably agree).

    • Harry
      January 18, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      Hahahah hey Hildy. Have to be honest, I've found most of my eclectic music stuff on Spotify! I'll totally grant Netflix doesn't have the best selection of movies but their documentary pool is pretty good.

    • Harry
      January 18, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      And is eclectic an unusual word!? Would have thought it was fairly common (ironically).

    • Doc
      January 18, 2015 at 8:27 pm

      "Eclectic" is a common word if you have an 8th-grade education...which I'm sad to say is becoming more and more uncommon. Most people (and I include a lot of bloggers!) sadly don't know when to use "there," "their" or "they're" any more, or the difference between "two," "to," and "too."

    • Harry
      January 19, 2015 at 10:02 am

      Hahahahah is it reall? In most of the world education levels are increasing hugely. Also as for their, there and they're. Yeah I'm guilty of that one... It's not that I don't know what they mean, it happens when I'm more focussed on writing than get the words right.

    • likefunbutnot
      January 19, 2015 at 4:53 pm

      @Harry, @Hildy J: try using Spotify or literally any other streaming service as someone who enjoys classical music or jazz. They can't even handle search properly; the services are missing the metadata needed to deal with those kinds of content. I don't know if the music I like simply isn't present, or if it's so poorly indexed that it's just impossible to find. Of course, iTunes has the same problem and I do hope it dies a flaming death, but the fundamental assumption that everyone wants the same things is one of the biggest reasons why online music services are hard to take seriously.

      Harry, you should probably consider writing in a more formal fashion. MUO articles are frequently ranked highly in Google Search results. You should bear that in mind. Failing that, you might want to find someone able to better edit your articles prior to posting them.

    • Harry
      January 19, 2015 at 5:54 pm

      @likefunbutnot, it's largely up to the producers of jazz and classical — and the fans — to work with the online music services to get the things up there and listed properly. It largely falls to the rights holders to upload everything, rather than on Spotify to import it.

      As for the writing, most of it is caught. It's a few instances where for whatever reason it gets through. Doc's always on the case then!

  37. Mom
    January 18, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    "I’m pretty young – I don’t even know who the fourth member of The Beatles is. For almost my entire life Internet piracy has been rampant....For as long as I’ve been a consumer of media, I’ve been able to find pretty much everything I wanted to watch, read or listen available almost instantly and for free online. Why would I even think about buying CDs or DVDs? It was far simpler to just download the data to my computer....And I’m not alone with this – all my friends have grown up in a similar situation."

    If you're not old enough to know what you're talking about, finish your broccoli and let the grown-ups talk. I bet you've named your fort in the yard "Skull and Bones." Jesus Christ.

    • Harry
      January 18, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      What on earth are you talking about?

    • Mom
      January 18, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      What rational adult has ever been swayed by the argument, "All my friends are doing it!"

    • Harry
      January 18, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      Anyone who's voted for a political party. Also I didn't use that as an argument, it was an observation of the way things are going.

    • Doc
      January 18, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      I'm 48, and I've used Napster and KaZaA, and I know who the *fifth* member of the Beatles is. (Pete Best, former drummer, ousted in favor of Ringo).
      Ma, instead of being argumentative and putting down Harry, why not make a *rational argument* for pre-Internet media? For example, Kindle has DRM (Apple doesn't use DRM any more, but they *do* watermark your copies of media). I'd rather have a choice of which devices I "consume" media on (how to play a QuickTime .MOV file on Android? Open a Kindle .AZW file without a Kindle?), so I choose DRM-free open standards.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:06 am

      @Doc, yeah I choose DRM free stuff if I'm buying when I can. The problem is the Amazon-Kindle setup is just better than any of the others, and more likely to be around in 20 years, so I give in on that one!

  38. Antonio Gil
    January 18, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Certainly, I can agree with some of the points that you expose in this article, especially with the availability of the huge amount of books, and music.

    I also was resilient to "make the jump" into streaming services (and in some extent I'm still resilient), but I cannot deny that they gave some advantages over having a physical (or digital) copy of something (Spotify, for example... Even if their algorithm goes banana once on a while). Not to mention that I see an advantage from the ebooks: less demand physical books, less trees being used for paper for these books [and less competence for me to get some books :P haha])

    Sadly enough, I can't agree with the concept of "end of ownership". Yeah, probably I'm an "old fart" (mentally, even if I still not reach my 30's), but it's kinda disappointing that youth today (weird to me said this) won't even consider to acquire physical stuff (CDs/DVDs, books)... It made me sad that they never will experience the joy, and the emotion of that ritual called "unpacking", the awe of contemplate the booklet that came with the CDs, the feel of the pages from a brand new book... Damn, even the waiting for a CD gives a sense of expectation... *goosebumps* (ex. right now I'm waiting for a CD/DVD from Sweden... I feel like a teenager waiting for his girl for the first date... Seeing the download bar doesn't give the same experiencie [despite all the advantages]).

    Fortunately (in some extent), there exists some young people that values that things that I described above, and that give some hope...

    • Harry
      January 18, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      Hey Antonio, yeah theres this really strange split. I'm 24 and I think I'm pretty close to the very tip of the generation. I've friends who are even a year or two older who are far more attached to physical stuff. I'm as old as you can be to have missed out on CDs. My first one was the Spice Girls. Not something I have massive emotional attachment to!

    • Eva
      January 19, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      Hey Harry,
      Fortunately for me, my first CD was U2 - The Joshua Tree. I even bought it 6 weeks before I could get my CD player out of layaway. It was the last item of a really nice Kenwood component system, and when I finally brought all the pieces of it together, and then slid that CD into the drawer and closed it ... I get goosebumps just thinking about it! Pure bliss!

      Nothing beats your first time. Hehe {8~)

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:04 am

      Hahahhha yeah the Spice Girls really don't have the same emotional kick. Don't get me wrong, I'll happily rock out to some Spice Girls but it doesn't give me shivers!

  39. Christian Cawley
    January 18, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Three words: resurgence of vinyl.

    (Also, Ringo Starr was the fourth member, not Paul McCartney ;) )

    • Harry
      January 18, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Nostalgia. And baby boomers with more money than sense. ;)

      Hahahha I was referencing my joke about Harrisson actually!

    • danite
      January 19, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      Ringo was the sixth member. And not knowing that is not a sign of youth but of willful ignorance.

    • Harry
      January 20, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Again, a reference to a joke! And not knowing the pre-successful Beatles members is a sign of youth and only a passing interest in the Beatles.

  40. Pierre
    January 18, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    the fly-in-the-ointmint is the assumption of a decent internet connection.
    - there are lots of people, in Your Country, and not just in mine, that still can't achieve any of those scenarios.
    - including ME. ..

    • Harry
      January 18, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      Hey Pierre, Spotify at least doesn't require an amazing one. You can download music once you've a premium subscription. Though you're right about Netflix. However the flipside is that mobile data is getting faster and cheaper in most of Europe. I've travelled around a lot of coast and 3G was always pretty good!

      Also connectivity is always improving. In the last 5 years I've gone from 100kb/s to 1500 kb/s. I'm sure in the next decade whereever you are will get better too!