Apple Could Bring Artist-Signed Copies Back To Digital Movies, Books And Music

Apple is working on a way to renew the autograph for the digital age, with a technology that would allow authors, artists and musicians to “sign” their work for customers via a dedicated iOS app as described in a new patent application(via AppleInsider). The signature would be unique, and tied specifically to the user’s own digital copy of that content, complete with authentication certificates that are transferred to the cloud so the user has access on whichever device they move that content to.

The bulk of the patent focuses on ebooks, describing how an author could use their own device to virtually sign content resident on another’s. There might be a specific hotspot where the signature can be issued, so that it could be arranged for a bookstore appearance, for instance, and help to ensure the authenticity of the signature thanks to its associate with a specific time and place.

Different methods account for different kinds of signing. In some, an author has created a signatory page specific to their ebook, and in others, the ebook owner can specify exactly where they want it. An author’s device carries an electronic certificate verifying the author’s identity, and the transfer of the signature then takes place using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

There are some cases where the signing can take place remotely via the Internet, with ID keys transferred along with the autograph, and autographs need not be limited to actual signatures – the patent offers examples of other original content that might be transferred, including soundbites or a photo, which can also carry authentication certificates.

The tech has a number of potential applications: It could be used to add additional value back to digital copies for resale, if used in tandem with Apple’s multiple patents on resale of virtual goods purchased via online stores like iTunes. And it could also simply act as an incentive for purchases to begin with, and a way for artists and creators to make additional revenue on their own content.

Digital signatures used in this manner could be yet another way to add value to items for sale in digital storefronts, like “enhanced” and “deluxe” versions of iTunes albums and movies, so it’s very possible we’ll see Apple introduce something like this down the road. It’s still quite narrow in terms of focus and appeal, however, so I’d expect this to be rolled up into a larger product re-imagining for digital goods, if implemented.