The Importance of Ownership Rights
The certainty that what you buy is what you own is the backbone of commerce. Consumers gain tremendous value from the guarantee of they own the goods they purchase and are thus able to resell, give away, and use the goods they buy in any lawful manner.
Ownership Rights and the Internet
Nowhere are the benefits of ownership rights more evident than on the Internet and no groups of consumers enjoy the benefits more than Internet users. Internet users can shop for and obtain products online from other Internet users or from e-retailers. They can take advantage of competition among sellers to obtain lower prices and easily and profitably resell their used or unwanted goods online.
The Recent History of Ownership Rights
There has been an effort in the U.S. in the last few years to pare back the protections of ownership rights, largely through the use of copyright law. Courts have interpreted copyright law to hold that owners of goods that are manufactured overseas do not have complete ownership rights...such as the right to re-sell them. Moreover, manufacturers have begun to use contracts to restrict the free movement of goods and the ability of legitimate purchasers to use their goods in legitimate ways. Many goods consumed in the U.S. are made overseas, and more and more goods are being subject to restrictive contracts.
Manufacturers will find it easiest to prosecute potential violators on the Internet because of the ease in identifying “illegal” actions. Thus, this is a very serious issue for Internet users.