Trading digital content and keeping everyone happy: the next-generation problem to solve. And it seems like Apple's already started trying. A patent published today but filed last summer - Managing Access to Digital Content Items - has a bunch of bright ideas about how trading and even loaning digital content could work.
Incidentally this isn't just for trading books or games or music or apps, it's also for sharing digital content between devices you own. There's even a technique for allowing content to be shared by proximity to a host device.
"This may be useful in games that can only be played with or nearby the original owner or in an educational setting where students can only, for example, watch a movie in the presence of a school teacher (who may be the original owner)," the patent, spotted by Apple Insider (via GamesIndustry International) pointed out.
Broadly, the idea is that when someone wants to buy or sell (or loan) a piece of content, the store it was originally bought from is notified. The store checks whether one or more criteria are met - this could be price, the length of time after it was first purchased, or whether or not it's allowed to be resold (or loaned) at all - and then authorises the deal.
When that sale (or loan) is authorised, ownership of the content passes from the seller to the buyer - in other words the DRM changes hands. If it's sold, the seller is no longer able to access that book or game or music or software. If it's loaned, ownership eventually returns to the loaner. Loaner - ha!
Crucially, there's potential within that process for the makers of the content to get a cut of its re-sale price.
Interesting other tidbits include digital books increasing in value as owners annotate them with their thoughts and ideas. The patent also discussed selling only bits of content: bits of games (demos), bits of books, bits of movies (the extras).
Whether techniques like these will ever materialise is another question. But if they do, does being able to sell-on digital content on mean new-sale prices could rise on the App Store?