Sunday, August 3, 2014

Can Amazon accounts get married?

Imagine this: You're a 40 year who has been married for the past decade to another 40 year old. Over time you built up a cassette collection, then phases it out for a CD collection. You also built up a VHS library, then a DVD library. Now that it's 2014 you and your spouse stopped buying CD's and DVD's and are instead buying digital music and movies. You even stopped buying physical books and switched to e-books. You and your spouse share a single profile on Amazon, or maybe iTunes or Google Play.

Now imagine you are a 30 year old today, getting married to another 30 year old, and you both have digital collections on, say, Amazon. Two libraries, two different accounts. Streaming players tend to make room for one account, such as Roku, an Xbox or a PlayStation, but what if you want to switch to something only available on the other account? E-readers currently only allow one account. Logging in and out is a pain, and you can't make a music play list with songs from separate accounts. This is a real problem that needs a solution.

It sounds like allowing people to combine them would solve that problems, but what happens when a couple splits up? With physical copies you and your spouse can split the library up, but digital goods are not transferable. However, allowing the digital library to be split up means it could be split up in a way that one party doesn't like. That would put the company at risk of being dragged into divorce litigation. It sounds like something they'd want to avoid to be on the safe side.

But what happens if that 40-year-old couple divorce? It seems like the entire digital collection would go to whomever's name the account is in, but that seems destined to be challenged in court at some date. Someone will argue that digital goods are property that have value, and their custody needs to be split. What if the account holder didn't want eight seasons of Charmed and they'd rather sign over the full account than keep it? What if there isn't enough property between them to compensate the partner who does not get the digital goods?

The easiest solution to all these problems is to pressure companies to grant customers the ability to transfer digital goods. This is clearly something Amazon, Apple and Google don't want to do, as they haven't made it possible yet, but it's something consumers can press them into doing. The technology is there, but the will is not.

Maybe when more modern marriages and divorces take place the consumer demand will arise.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like Amazon is finally letting this happen: