After reading the story earlier, though, an evil thought popped into my head - I know, hard to believe. I'm sure all of Scholastic's executives own homes. Since sale can equal rental, whoever sold them their houses should be allowed to change their mind and take them back without any repayment.
I'm not saying it's reasonable, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be fair.
You mean like when a bank forecloses? Yeah, you don't actually own your home until you have finished paying the bank for it, plus interest. In essence, as long as you still have a mortgage, you are renting the house from the bank, who is the real owner.
However, I would like to clarify some general misconceptions about property ownership and knit the example even closer together.
If you "own" your home, you don't own your home. Period. The state owns your home. You are merely "renting" it.
Land titles are almost exclusively fee simple, which is not actual ownership --- it's more akin to "stewardship".
If you live in Canada, the Queen (royal family) owns "your" property. The same goes pretty much everywhere.
Now, in some places like communist Viet Nam, people lease land from the state and then transfer those leases. This is relatively common around the world with leases being generally up to 99 years.
The difference in places like Canada is that the leases are perpetual.
The state gets around this minor inconvenience by taking the value of the land back over a period of time through property taxes. i.e. A slow exercise of eminent domain or expropriation.
Software licenses work similarly - you don't own the software, but you have the right to use it. (There is a very broad spectrum of licensing, so it is a bit tough to talk in general terms here for the purpose of the property rights metaphor without getting overly specific.)
DRM is like the perpetual shadow of eminent domain/expropriation looming over your rights to use software. At any point the company can flip a switch and violate your rights to use what you paid for. Amazon famously did this when they deleted everyone's copy of "Nineteen-Eighty Four".
It all boils down to a few factors:
- Ownership vs.
- Rental vs.
- Right to use? -- Who owns it?
- The spectre of the right to use being violated.
Today property rights are very weak for people, but strong for government and for corporations.