Once upon a time, in a major city once more powerful and not so far away, there was a phenomenon among less wealthy citizens: the neighborhood Cadillac. Families would pool their money to buy one car, one VERY NICE car, and work out a shared arrangement for custody. Driving to church, to social functions, around the neighborhood...all could be done in a fine set of wheels, despite an annual income that suggested a midrange used car might be a bit of a stretch.
Zipcar, eat their cooperative exhaust.
Today, "car sharing" is a business, and the emphasis is on eco-friendliness as much as economic feasibility. The neighborhood Caddy was more about reconciling economic reality with the desire for upscale goods. The ZipCar blends eco-consciousness with budget concerns, often with a healthy dollop of the challenges of warehousing a car in a dense urban environment. Either model appeals. Only buying a piece of the cake, rather than the whole, appeals to my share the planet / don't hog / but go ahead and appreciate the finer things in life self.
I like this model for things beyond consumer goods, too. Art...books...music.... The first two can be found in museums and libraries that allow greater distribution of the experience for less cost to the "user." Full ownership is available...for a price.
Music is tricky, of course. What would you "buy"? There aren't too many Habsburgs around these days, employing their own full time musicians and composers. In terms of live music, we consume per performance. And while a performance is "shared" with every member of the audience, seating capacity limits how many "users" or recipients can enjoy a given performance. Recordings were an innovation in access. "Owners" of a given performance can just keep pressing and selling those recordings until the cows come home. (Yes, people from a certain generation took advantage of cassette recorders to make mix tapes for friends or swaps of full album tapes. Most people I knew ended up going out and buying their favorites, because they wanted their own for their collection. Swapping tapes did not curtail any retail urges...though, when we were young and poor, it helped both develop and whet our tastes.)
Perhaps you see where my rambling ruminations are headed.
In perfume, there are practices known as decanting, and splitting. The former run as a business, the latter, as a co-op effort. Call them, if you will, the K-tel car share and the Cadillac. The former buys product, repacks it in smaller amounts, and sells it to willing consumers. One shot at the jukebox, or a few, depending on how many coins you put in. (Oh, rats, I'm muddying the metaphorical waters here. Which I'm going to call my Muddy Waters move for the moment--I can do that, I veered into music, see?--and proceed.) In cars, this single investor model is the ZipCar; they take on the risk, you pay for a certain amount of use. Somebody else invests in the car in the first place, handles distributing the shares of the product, and insures the vehicle.
Splitting with friends is buying a neighborhood Cadillac. You can't afford a full bottle; you're not ready for the commitment; you want the option to drive a Caddy sometimes, but increase your opportunity to drive other models as well. You agree to work with a group of friends to figure out who "hosts," and does the work of distributing the shares. Unlike the decant model, where the purveyor offers a shopping list that you can go to at any time, the split is a one-time dealie. Which will only happen if you can get critical mass for a purchase, and which, once fully spoken for, is no longer going to be available.
There is unrest about decanters, mostly from The Big Companies. This didn't happen in auto world; Ford/ Cadillac/ et al never chased after the neighborhood car arrangements; as far as they were concerned, if the purchase was legitimate, the purchase was a deal. Of course, they didn't worry that once you drove off the lot, you'd alter the vehicle somehow and then drive around in non-genuine product, impugning the quality of the product. (They WOULD, however, chase after you if you didn't pay for your purchase; hence, the glamorous world of the Repo Man.)*
So, are the corporate suits going to come after people who buy a perfume with pooled money and divvy up the goods? If so, this could mean trouble the next time a bunch of teachers gather to unwind and all toss some money on the table to buy, and share, a pizza.
I understand protecting product. You are talking to a person who made her child de-install music sharing software that didn't use appropriate licensing. I am a proponent of intellectual property rights, a person who puts believes artists should be paid for their product.
It just seems to me that, as long as nobody is messing with the art, and the original owner is getting their self-determined price for their product, there's nothing wrong with a purchaser/new owner deciding to share custody.
You can co-own real estate and call it a time share. You can purchase a piece of owning a company and call it a corporate stock. Heck, you can even break up your Aunt Claire's intact set of LuRay dinnerware and sell each piece to the highest bidder.
I plan on purchasing a portion of a Cadillac bottle of perfume. I'm safe, right?
*This altering of product is not to be confused with selling a bunch of Escalades to Houston dealers for one price, to dealers in Dubai for another price, and then the Dubai vehicles ending up cheap in Baton Rouge. Mind you, your Baton Rouge vehicle won't come with the manufacturer's warranty, but if your game...they'll sell. That's grey market, and that's not what the corporations are accusing the decanters of doing.
See more on grey market in the perfume industry in the Feb 2008 Perfumeshrine article "Dirty Secrets of the Grey Market and Fakes," or more reflections on the grey market in this Dec 2009 article from Intellectual Property Watch which takes a look at various laws, trademarks, and the concept of "material difference."
Images from the very cool Shorpy site, which plays with images from Library of Congress, which means you can go to LoC or Shorpy all on your own and enjoy poking around, but should not share or redistribute these images as if *I* offered. I have no rights to give you permission to redistribute them whatsoever or pretend that I do. I love the wording of the LoC Rights section. Straightforward. Clear.