A digital used market, powered by NFTs?

The used printed book can be exchanged and resold relatively easily: by virtue of the principle of exhaustion of rights, a rights holder cannot oppose the sale of a work as long as it has already been the subject of a first sale, with payment of the related rights.

The e-book has obviously shuffled the cards: A few years ago, attempts to resell digital books appeared before they were quickly rejected by the courts. In 2018, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the illegality of the sale of used digital files.

” [E]n strictly applied copyright law, the court confirmed that reproduction of a copyrighted work without permission and distribution of it does not amount to a resale and transfer of a second-hand work, such as in a second-hand bookstore “, welcomed the Association of American Publishers at the time. In particular, the court had held that the guarantees regarding the effective transfer of the digital work, then its destruction – so that only one copy remains – were not sufficient.

But the idea of ​​a digital second-hand market is re-emerging with the emergence and development of NFT technology, in order to ” non-fungible tokens “(” non-fungible tokens “). To put it simply, a digital certificate of authenticity attached to a file guarantees its uniqueness.

Participate in every sale”

This new approach opens up a very engaging prospect, according to Andy Bird, CEO of Pearson Group. ” In the analog world, a Pearson textbook could be resold up to 7 times, and we only participated in the first sale “, he recalled in front of the shareholders.

Going digital has reduced the secondary used market, and technology like blockchain and NFTs make it possible to participate in any sale of a particular copy throughout its lifetime. “, he continued. Here, ” to participate », evidently means taking a percentage of the secondary sale of the work. The principle of exhaustion of rights would thus be conscientiously circumvented.

READ: Copyright and NFT: the public domain at risk?

Bird, who came from the Disney group in 2020, made Pearson take a digital turn, a historic school group that narrowly missed its conversion. In a few months, he raised the bar: since last year, the Pearson + application offers a subscription for $ 14.99 a month to students to access a catalog of textbooks. Which is reminiscent of audiovisual streaming services, including … Disney +.

This gradual disappearance of ownership in favor of perpetual rental would therefore be supported by another movement where digital possibilities would only be possible on the condition that the exhaustion of rights disappears. The limits set by the courts, due to an impossible control of the digital copies, would actually jump with the possibilities of identification offered by the NFTs.

In France, the Superior Council of Literary and Artistic Property has considered this very specific question, considering that, in light of current legislation, the NFT, or JNF, does not ” constitute no more [le] material and tangible support of a work: as such, the exhaustion of rights would not apply to this technology, which leaves the door open to the implementation of a system described by Pearson’s CEO.

Under these conditions, delivery by download via JNF of a digital file for permanent use may fall under the right to “communication to the public” set out in Directive 2001/29, which is not subject to the exhaustion of rights, which is not without impact on the development of JNF in the music and publishing sector, e.g. ”, quite rightly concluded the CSPLA in its statement.

image credits: ActuaLitté, CC BY SA 2.0

Leave a Comment