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Patents Businesses The Internet

The Great Library of Amazonia 140

Posted by Zonk
from the like-powells-only-virtual dept.
theodp writes "Amazon had a dream. To bring the world a modern-day Library of Alexandria. Apparently they had a second dream. To own the patents on it. Interestingly, fears of lost cookbook and reference text sales voiced by the Author's Guild are echoed in Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos's patent application for the Suppression of features in digital images of content and a9.com CEO Udi Manber's follow up Access to electronic images of text based on user ownership of corresponding physical text, which discuss how one might block content from viewers who have no proof-of-purchase for a book on file with booksellers."
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The Great Library of Amazonia

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  • by justkarl (775856) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @09:23AM (#12035058) Homepage
    But it seems to me that if they were supressing images and images of text to people who didn't own a proof-of-purchase, it would defeat the purpose of having that information available.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2005 @09:24AM (#12035063)
    Companies generally don't do things just to be evil, they do things to make money.

    Design a system where honesty and ethics are rewarded big bucks, and you'll see companies fall all over themselves to be corporate saints.
  • Who cares? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Broiler (804077) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @09:28AM (#12035104)
    I don't want to look at pictures of books anyway!
  • by Kainaw (676073) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @09:32AM (#12035136) Homepage Journal
    I am going to come up with the most ridiculous and obvious idea relating to computers and patent it, just to see if i can get something completely insane throught the USPTO. now, who wants to give me $350

    I tried. The response (a good 3 years later) was:
    1. Author did not use a patent lawyer.
    2. Author used the phrase "may be used", which could mean "it possibly not possible".
    3. Author used the phrase "it is possible", which could mean "it may not be possible".
    4. Patent refused.

    So, like the rest of government, get a lawyer. There's no room in there for common folk.
  • My Take (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RagingChipmunk (646664) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @09:38AM (#12035164) Homepage
    My take on this patent application is to "sell" access to reference books - probably more for trade books than the the casual "Idiots Guide To XP".

    I can see a subscription service that allows you to browse through some medical text seeing bits and peices relevant to your search, but, not the entire page. To see the entire page, you gotta "buy" the page. The implication that you must first own the physical text is a red-herring - its really about rights to use the book in "whole, or in part".

    I can see it being useful to ME for access to pages from the Chilton manuals etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2005 @09:38AM (#12035170)
    Design a system where honesty and ethics are rewarded big bucks, and you'll see companies fall all over themselves to be corporate saints.
    Except, of course, that free marketeers vigorously oppose efforts to create such a system. See how they rail against government regulations and socially responsible investment efforts. Pollutes the "purity" of the free market, don'tcha know.
  • MP3.com (Score:4, Insightful)

    by telstar (236404) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @09:39AM (#12035178)
    "access to electronic images of text based on user ownership of corresponding physical text."
    • Isn't this precisely what MP3.com tried to do with audio files? If you could prove you had a CD of something, you could stream a digital version of the song to wherever you may be logged in. What's the difference?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2005 @09:43AM (#12035209)
    This is not insightful. The old system of libraries works, this system doesn't -- it creates a world of "have" and "have-nots". It keeps those (esp. children) without money/education in a disadvantaged state. This world is everything but a world of opportunity... its a world of opression. It has _nothing_ to do with freedom.

    Now, if copyright was for 24 years, I'd be OK with this -- but it is not, it is, for all practical purposes, infinite.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2005 @09:50AM (#12035260)
    Being a paid member of a digital library allows you to "borrow" an electronic version of a book. After reading it you "return it" by deleting it from your reading device.

    How is this different than a library? Am I gonna make a fortune off of this one? Great business model eh, Jeff?
  • by geoffspear (692508) * on Thursday March 24, 2005 @09:52AM (#12035288) Homepage
    A library could do something like that. But only if they have a mechanism to ensure that the number of concurrent users for their electronic version of the book is less than or equal to the number of physical copies of the book in the library, not being used by patrons, at the time the ebook is being used.

    Quite frankly, you're not going to find [m]any public libraries with the resources to digitize their entire collections and the desire to actually manage something like that. It would almost certainly be cheaper for them to license the books from the copyright holders for electronic use. And most of them aren't going to have the funds to do that, either.

  • by spisska (796395) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @10:14AM (#12035534)
    The library of Alexandria was so extensive (and so important) precisely because they didn't do anything like this.

    Back in the day, any ship entering port at Alexandria had to declare any books, maps, written works, etc they were carrying as part the customs process. Anything that wasn't already held by the library was taken over and copied by hand, then returned.

    The library also allowed others to copy works that they held.

    The idea was that ships would create and add to star charts and other navigation tools that could be quickly (for the day) shared with other ships, who would then add their own observations. Everybody benefited, and the Mediterranian became a whole lot safer.

    The hoarding and guarding of knowledge didn't become popular in Europe until the Age of Discovery, when nautical charts and chronometer designs were the most closely guarded state secrets.

    Having all the books in one place (virtual or otherwise) certainly does make the knowledge more accessible for purchase, but locking down the contents is not quite what Alexandria was about.
  • Re:DRM for text (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AllUsernamesAreGone (688381) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @10:17AM (#12035568)
    Okay, I'll bite. Now this is going to sound a dumb question, but I am serious and I want a serious answer.

    How, exactly, does any DRM system ever ensure that "it's the publics right being protected more than the copyright holder", given that the entire point of DRM is to prevent the public from using material in any way other than those dictated by the copyright holder?
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday March 24, 2005 @10:24AM (#12035627) Homepage Journal

    I may not be happy in thirty years when I can't obtain a copy of a book because its out of print but still in copyright but I'm not going to hold that against the author who wasn't involved in making the law.

    Really? The author signed the contract granting perpetual exclusive rights to a given publisher. Authors who know what they're doing insist on clauses that should the work go out of print, the publisher's exclusive rights become nonexclusive rights.

  • Bigger Concerns (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @10:59AM (#12036004) Homepage Journal
    Lets say for a moment they can create another Alexandria, this time digital.

    Then most print books go out of style..

    Who is to stop someone from changing the text, to fit their needs/views/beliefs and claiming its 'always been that way'.. With no hard paper evidence to prove them wrong it gets accepted as fact.

    This already happens with book 'revisions' over time.. Subsequent generations get different 'facts', all twisted to fit the views of who is currently in control.

    Or even ought ban of information. "sorry, you don't need to know this" and poof it no longer exists. This is harder to do if people still own the hardcopy..

    Ok, so I'm paranoid, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. And I'm old enough to have seen it happen in the schools.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 24, 2005 @11:57AM (#12036557)
    Actually, they own the book outright, it's the information contained within the book they have no copyright to.

    I'd wager if a library washed all the ink from the pages of all their books so that the information was completely obliterated, leaving only the paper on which the information used to be printed that not a single, solitary publisher would balk at their giving away their entire collection.
  • by Winkhorst (743546) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @12:21PM (#12036786)
    "anyone who truly believes in free markets would have these characteristics be secondary in their preferred economic model"

    Let us finally get one thing straight here, Poncho. The ONLY advantage of "free markets," and capitalism in general, is that they work relatively well despite the inadequacies of the average human animal. This does NOT somehow make those failings good in any philosophical sense, nor does this fact mean that there is something superior about the free market economic model. Capitalism is not a free ticket to do as you damned well please. Nor is it an excuse to sit on your butt and do nothing about the problems with the world. It is just a makeshift system devised in order to prevent the worst instincts of humanity from completely destroying all hope of a rational economic system. If we had ideal people, any economic system would work. The goal should be to improve the human condition and the human animal to the point where this model is no longer the only one that can possibly work, not to enshrine their current abominable state in an economic model that some seem to think actually requires human depravity in order to function.
  • by Pfhorrest (545131) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @01:25PM (#12037504) Homepage Journal
    "Shark" jokes and such aside...

    I think the reason why the grandparent poster would be upset by refusal of a patent because he didn't use a lawyer is that, if he had done it right in all other ways, requiring a lawyer is an arbitrary barrier to entry. If the response he got had said "This is wrong, that is wrong, this other thing is wrong. We recommend you seek a patent lawyer", then that would be one thing; but saying "This is wrong, that is wrong, and you need to use a lawyer" puts using a lawyer as a neccesary prerequisite even with all the other requisites of proper application. What if [this] and [that] were fine? Would he have gotten a response "Author did not use a patent lawyer. Application rejected."?

    To use your doctor analogy, it would be like if you accidentally cut yourself and, unless you went to the hospital and had it professionally treated (when a simple bandage would do), your insurance would refuse further treatment of that limb because it was not treated by an authorized medical professional, even if you treated it perfectly well yourself. Or say, if you got a fix-it ticket for your car for something simple that you know how to fix yourself, but you were *required* to have the dealer fix it.

    Such arbitrary barriers to entry are fascist constructs in the literal sense of the word (fascism has corporatism [wikipedia.org] as a major componant). It's the government enforcing the use of certain industries' services even when the individuals could perform those services themselves; a cartel between the public and private behemoths, in essence.

    As a personal aside, to touch on some of your comments about lawyers being needed due to the complexity of law: I consider that a sign of a fundamentally flawed system. Any government whose laws necessitate the use of lawyers is too complex and opaque. An average citizen of a country should reasonably be able to understand the laws he is expected to obey in full; otherwise, he cannot justifiably be held accountable for the infraction or violation of those laws.

    If ignorance of the law is no excuse, as our government claims it to be, then the law should be so simple and obvious that we can teach it in its entirity to our children in school, so by the time they are adults and held responsible, they know in full what they are responsible for.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @01:37PM (#12037625) Homepage
    Capitalism is not a free ticket to do as you damned well please. Nor is it an excuse to sit on your butt and do nothing about the problems with the world. It is just a makeshift system devised in order to prevent the worst instincts of humanity from completely destroying all hope of a rational economic system. If we had ideal people, any economic system would work.

    Capitalism most decidedly is not a makeshift system devised for any purposes.

    At its core, capitalism is an observation of how markets actually work. People have stuff, people want to buy stuff, and there is more than one seller. Capital simply means 'stuff of value'.

    It's also based on the observations that the more governments try to regulate and control commerce, the more they muck things up. Hence, 'free' market means free(ish) from government interference.

    Now, once a country decides it will use a capitalist-system (private owners of property, etc) they may choose to put measures in place to keep trying to sway the markets in a way they want.

    Some of the side-effects of government getting involved in these things are evidenced by things like patents and all of the IP stuff we get now.

    Originally, Mr. Smith could choose to buy potatoes from any of a bunch of suppliers, and the ones who consistently had good potatoes at a good price would win out. Now, Mr. Amazon gets to pay the government so that Mr. Smith may only buy potatoes from Mr. Amazon because he's effectively been given a government monolopy on potatoes. That is by definition not a free market in any way shape or form.

    That's an artificial change made by the government, not a real market factor. That's what happens when governments interfere.

    Again, I really must reiterate ... saying that Capitalism is just a makeshift system devised for anything is just plain wrong. It's an observation of how real systems work and a model you can use going forward to decide how you'll treat stuff since it tries to explain behaviours in the system.

    What you're seeing now is a hodge-podge of governments trying to further national interests and sway the market they would like to see and artificially buggering it up. But, please, don't go around saying that Amazon patenting the whole world is really a direct result of capitalism per se, but the results of governments tampering with a free market.
  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Thursday March 24, 2005 @04:51PM (#12039951) Homepage
    Companies generally don't do things just to be evil, they do things to make money.

    Contract killers generally don't kill people just to be evil, they kill people to make money.

    Are you really putting this forward as a valid excuse? After all, Enron was only cooking their books to make money. I could run around sticking pins in people - it's minor enough harm that no one would probably call the cops, but I really shouldn't be doing it in the first place. Harm is harm - even if it is minor or indirect enough that it cannot be made illegal (which is possibly the case here), needless harm should not be sanctioned.

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