Move over DRM/EULA, Publica’s TKP is here.

Novelist Cory Doctorow, these professors of ownership, and I have argued for years for the end of predatory practices baked into DRM and EULA. Why? Because that “Buy Now” button was a lie.

DRM/EULA finally has a successor for ebooks. One that fits our digital age. That gives us the sense of ownership we deserve when we click the Buy button. All it took was a blockchain, a company crowdfunded by passionate supporters around the world, and a few people dedicated to changing things. As Margaret Meade said, that’s all that ever has, and I don’t doubt it.

Who is this successor, and what does she look like?

Today, on World Book Day, Publica announced the live testing of its ereader-wallet app for mobile devices to buy and read books. Really, really, buy them.

As I write this, purchased books are being sent from wallet to wallet, around the world, in a grand historic gesture of cross-border community and friendship. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, dear Publicans.

What does real book ownership look like in the digital age?

Ain’t she a beauty?

That’s a digital wallet and a READ Token for the Ethereum blockchain and a book’s smart contract. What just happened here?

One of our Publicans bought a book. She paid for it with Pebbles (PBL), Publica’s token. How did she get her Pebbles?

She bought PBL with whatever currency she wanted to buy them with. From anywhere on Earth because blockchains don’t know what country they’re in. Nor where (sometimes fleeting) borders lie, or from where she’s connecting.

The blockchain does know how much she paid, for what, when, from which wallet. That’s ecommerce perfection.

What happened next?

Her Publica ereader-wallet app checked her ownership of that book on the blockchain, and she started reading her book.

What will she do tomorrow? Whatever the heck she wants. It’s hers.

She may keep it for decades; the blockchain never sleeps. She may give it to her child’s wallet. Do you have a problem with that? If so, take it up with her, and copyright law’s Fair Use Doctrine.

She may sell it someday. Why not? She bought it fair and square. If the rights-holder wants a piece of that transaction, they could put that in the blockchain’s smart contract. If not, there’ll be a record of the transaction on the open blockchain for anyone to see. That’s valuable business information that any publisher would love to read.

Was she the first person to ever buy, lend, sell, or give this book to a loved one? You could look it up on the blockchain.

Where will this lead? Nobody knows in much detail, but where do you think? You buy a digital book and you own it. Until you give, lend, or sell it. Or you leave it forever on your digital shelf.

Does that sound familiar? A little like Gutenberg’s press? For our forever-to-be-digital world? For all people, in all nations, borders begone? Where did Gutenberg’s press get us to?

For the record, today we also settled on the formal name of DRM’s successor. Publica named it TKP, for Token Key Protocol. Ironically, it’ll go into Wikipedia on the DRM page.

The king is dead, long live the king. Or rather, there’s no need for a king anymore. We have blockchains. We have books full of knowledge. We have TKP to buy, sell, lend, and give them with.

Enjoy your newfound freedom in business models, dear authors, rights-holders and publishers. Enjoy your books, dear readers. You own them now.

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