Government taking notice of digital ownership issues

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Ron Giordan buys whatever he can in digital form: music, movies, books, but especially video games to play with his son. We asked him a simple question: does he think he owns the content that he purchased?

"I always thought when I downloaded a video game and you hit the 'buy now' button that you owned it."

Professor Aaron Perzanowski co-authored a report that looked into what people thought they were getting when they clicked that "buy now" button. Typically, he said, goods are not sold to purchasers but merely licensed.

"They often think they have the same sorts of rights that they would have with the physical goods. So, that would include things like resale, or giving an item away or lending it to a friend or even keeping it forever and often times that's just not true."

Depending on the site, content can even be removed under certain circumstances.

We checked leading digital retailers and restrictions are spelled out in the terms and conditions.

"I think terms of usage, that nobody goes through and reads all of these pages of a contract for terms of usage," said Giordan.

Experts said it is not reasonable to expect consumers to go through all the legal documents-- but that is not the only concern.

"I think the biggest issue for consumers is the disconnect between the marketing language that they encounter in the real world, phrases like 'Buy Now' or 'Own', and the reality of what consumers are getting for their money," said Perzanowski.

The U.S. Commerce Department Internet Task Force recommends looking into a list of alternatives to the buy button that would avoid suggestion of ownership.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said it plans to meet on the topic.

Experts said not only does the word 'buy' need to disappear, but the terms of the transaction should be front and center when you make a purchase.

"The other option, of course, is to actually sell consumers the product they think they're getting," said Perzanowski.

There may be a "flip-side" to this digital revolution. According to the Entertainment Retailers Association in the United Kingdom-- vinyl records are now out-selling digital downloads of music in Britain.

What's old-- is new again.

Copyright 2017 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

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Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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