Leasing Music from iTunes

As rumors recently circulated that Bruce Willis was planning to sue Apple for the rights to pass his vast iTunes collection down to his children, Apple held fast to their assertion that consumers are merely purchasing licenses that allow them to listen to their music on a limited basis. As it turns out Bruce Willis isn’t planning a Willis vs. Apple moment in court any time soon but his 5 minutes in the Apple limelight raises an interesting question about just what it means to “buy” an iTunes song and whether the term “buy” is actually the correct term for the transaction that is taking place. The fact is that the average consumer is accustomed to engaging in many types of transactions that don’t allow them full rights of ownership. Many consumers lease cars with the understanding that they only utilize the car with limited rights and must eventually return it to the corporate owner. In fact, the definition of lease states, “to grant the temporary possession or use of (lands, tenements, etc) to another, usually for compensation at a fixed rate. Others rent homes while knowing that they have not assumed full ownership of the property. Rent is defined as, “a payment made periodically by a tenant to a landlord in return for the use of land, a building, an apartment, an office, or other property.” However, the term “buy” implies full rights of ownership. In fact, the definition of buy states, “to acquire the possession of, or the right to, by paying or promising to pay an equivalent, especially in money; purchase.” Thus it would seem that Apple is, in fact, leasing music to their customers rather than allowing them to buy it. However, it would likely be a grim day for Apple if a judge ever ordered them to replace the word buy with lease. After all, how many of us want to lease our music collection, even though we already do?