You don’t “own” smartphone apps, just the ability to use them. Ditto for your copy of Windows, or those songs on your iTunes account. So what happens when the servers that facilitate these products are shut off?
Alex Kidman writes in The Drum about this “grey world of digital ownership”, in which we own the hardware but often not the software or the content.
He gives the examples of how we don’t own our smartphone apps, the music we’ve bought on services such as iTunes, or the Kindle books we’ve purchased. This means that the companies that own those products are able to take them away from us or turn them off at any time.
With the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) bringing products such as internet fridges, self-driving cars or IoT locks, the potential consequences of having our digital products turned off are increasingly serious:
For an IoT product, and that’s a wide field that will only get wider over the coming years, the ownership of the server that allows it to talk to other products is arguably more vital than the ownership of the product itself.
Kidman alerts to grey areas in the laws in regard to the end user license agreements covering such products.