Unlike buying physical goods, returning digital purchases can get a bit tricky. Purchasing songs and movies on iTunes, for example, pretty much tie you to the product and you can’t sell it once you’re done with it. This is compared to physical purchases of CDs or DVDs where you can always resell them when you think you no longer plan to listen or watch it. However a recently discovered Apple patent reveals that perhaps one day in the future, Apple will allow us to resell our digital purchases made on iTunes. It’s actually a pretty interesting system and it’s quite complex.

Instead of simply putting your purchases up for sale at a price determined purely by you, the patent describes a system in which several conditions have to be met before the digital item can be resold. For example it will need to check what type of purchase you made, i.e. book, app, song, movie, etc. and if that purchase is allowed to be resold. That criteria will not be made by Apple, but rather the publisher/developer/owner of the content who might specify that their song, movie or app cannot be resold. Of course there are more criteria to take into account – for example film studios could set a minimum time period which must be passed before a show can be sold, and minimum prices could be set.

Once all those criteria are met, the item will be resold and the original user will no longer be granted access to it. The patent also describes a system where the items can be sold even if you don’t own a copy of the app, movie or song on your phone. If we had to guess iTunes will probably rely on your sync with iCloud to determine what purchases you have made, so if you purchased something on your iPad, you could probably sell it via your iPhone. Like we said it sounds like an interesting idea albeit a bit too many conditions and variables that have to be met. Another question would be whether labels and movie studios will be open to the idea – but then again a resell is better than piracy, right?

Filed in Apple. Read more about iTunes and Patent.

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