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Why Your e-Books Are No Longer Yours 295

Posted by kdawson
from the i-am-not-a-lawyer-but-they-are-or-at-least-will-be dept.
Predictions Market sends us to Gizmodo for an interesting take on the question: when you "buy" "content" for Amazon's Kindle or the Sony Reader, are you buying a crippled license to intellectual property when you download, or are you buying a book? If the latter, then the first sale doctrine, which lets you hawk your old Harry Potter hardcovers on eBay, would apply. Some law students at Columbia took a swing at the question and Gizmodo reprints the "surprisingly readable" legal summary. Short answer: those restrictive licenses may very well be legal, and even if you had rights under the first sale doctrine, you might only be able to resell or give away your Kindle — not a copy of the work.
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Why Your e-Books Are No Longer Yours

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  • by gnutoo (1154137) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @09:48PM (#22833300) Journal

    I think I'll stick with Lessig's opinions and the surprisingly readable US Constitution.

    How to sell your copy of Hary Potter only touches on the madness of paper based copyright applied to digital files. If these books are no longer mine, they are no longer the library's either. Do we really want a future where anyone and everyone can be cut off of knowledge at the flip of a switch? Where "owners" must be trusted with the raw material of history? No.

    The answer to all this is very simple. The lower cost of publishing should bring lower protections and fewer created rights because fewer incentives are required. Advertising costs have not declined, so it is easier to recoup publishing investments now than ever. Worse for high cost, established publishers technology makes old laws contradictory and insane. Publishers want to make "unwet water" and outlaw the normal stuff by dominating the channels of distribution - the no real library future. We should allow people to make exact copies of almost all works and distribute them freely. It's really that easy and companies that can't live with that kind of freedom should look for a new line of honest work.

    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:01PM (#22833344) Journal

      Embed advertising in ebooks, the same as in magazines and newspapers, and give the ebooks away.

      Advantages

      1. "Content is king" - it'll be seen
      2. Targeted market
      3. Reflects the lower cost of production/distribution
      4. Easier to disintermediate - greater portion of the revenue ends up in the authors' pocket/purse/wallet/bank account
      • Fine idea. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gnutoo (1154137) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:28PM (#22833456) Journal

        That sounds like a great way to do things and I'm sure there are many, many others.

        What I'm interested in is preserving our rights. Publishers can think of ways to make money without robbing us of the ability to help our neighbor and without assuming draconian control of information. For them to violate our rights, we must agree to be threatened and prosecuted for doing things that are not crimes. It is better to keep them from making laws that threaten us than it is to try to do their job for them.

        Publishers already know how things will work in a free society. They are not stupid and this is why they fight so hard. They understand that the broadcast era is over and with it their ability to control opinion and profit from every aspect of popular culture. There will be profits but they will be distributed and much closer to the artist than they are now. The big record companies, movie companies and paper publishers are out of luck and the damage done to public institutions will follow. With freedom comes truth and from truth we can expect justice. Without freedom, expect great injustice.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by shmlco (594907)
          It's all very well to speak of "publishers" in a derogatory sense, but totally ignore the fact that we're also talking about "authors". You know, the people who spend a year or so up front WRITING those books.

          What I'm interested in is preserving EVERYONE'S rights.
          • Re:Fine idea. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by aleph42 (1082389) * on Saturday March 22, 2008 @11:26PM (#22833660)
            Oh, please.

            the **AA always use that point, but everybody knows that theyare the only one who are going to lose in the new system (or in this case, the publishers are).

            They only sell a centralised organisation to distribute content. And there is nothing they could invent to preserve the same insane margins that they had in the old system (well, publishers may not do as much money as Universal, but still).

            On the contray, authors can find inventive new ways to reach the public and leverage the increased audiance and ease of use to get as much or more revenues.

            Maybe some authors won't do as much money anymore; maybe some won't even make a living and will have to find an other job. But I don't think that there will be that many of them; and by definition, they won't be missed very much.

            And if you don't beleive that the new system can reward authors, look at blogs: millions of authors getting advertising money, which is based directly on their success, and will either make them some extra cash or push them to make blogging their day job.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by peterarm (95041)
              I call bullshit: I have self-published a PDF-only book on Lulu, and I made $16 per copy. This book is currently for sale with a real publisher, and I would miss the PDF royalties *very* much if they evaporated. (My book is copied on BitTorrent, and there's nothing I can do about it.)

              Authors are real people with families and mortgages; this isn't just some juvenile "you vs. the **AA" thing -- that may be true to a degree for records or movies where the **AA is evil, but it's not true for books. Many publi
              • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                by Mr2001 (90979)

                I would miss the PDF royalties *very* much if they evaporated [...] Authors are real people with families and mortgages

                The folks who made a living selling buggy whips were real people too, with their own families and mortgages to worry about. Some of them, the ones who wouldn't or couldn't adapt to a changing world, lost their ability to provide for their families.

                That's sad.

                But you know what? Our society is better off now, because we were willing to bite the bullet and tell those people, "You're going to have to find another way to earn a living." If we had used the force of law to protect their incomes, those few people

                • by Baumi (148744)

                  I would miss the PDF royalties *very* much if they evaporated [...] Authors are real people with families and mortgages

                  The folks who made a living selling buggy whips were real people too, with their own families and mortgages to worry about.

                  Flawed analogy: People didn't buy whips anymore because they had no more meed for them. On the contrary, people nowadays still want to get writers' works, they just don't want to pay for it anymore.

                  If we had used the force of law to protect their incomes, those few people would've been better off -- at everyone else's expense.

                  We're in the same situation now. Some people won't or can't adapt to a world where they can't make a living selling copies of information: a world where their talent as artists and authors is still valuable, but only when it's applied directly, not indirectly via copyright.

                  So how would that work? Why should I spend months or years researching and writing a book, if there's absolutely nothing to stop people from freely distributing it once its out there? Sure, some people are still going to writem but it'll be fewer, and I fail to see how our culture would benefit from that. (Of c

                  • So how would that work? Why should I spend months or years researching and writing a book, if there's absolutely nothing to stop people from freely distributing it once its out there? Sure, some people are still going to writem but it'll be fewer, and I fail to see how our culture would benefit from that. (Of course, society would be better off without greedy corporations trying to destroy fair use rights and extending copyright ad infinitum, but completely taking away any creator's rights is not the answer, either.

                    Absolutely agree. Content is king. Why should people spend their own time and money to create content and not be compensated adequately for it. If I know I'm not going to make more than a couple thousand dollars for that novel I've been working on for the last 5 years, I might as well let it just die and use my time more efficiently.

                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by cpt kangarooski (3773)
                    Why should I spend months or years researching and writing a book, if there's absolutely nothing to stop people from freely distributing it once its out there? Sure, some people are still going to writem but it'll be fewer, and I fail to see how our culture would benefit from that.

                    The public benefits from having more works created and published. The public _also_ benefits from being unrestricted with regard to works, so that they can be republished for minimal cost (rather than the monopoly prices charged b
                • Re:Fine idea. (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday March 23, 2008 @06:56AM (#22835314)
                  You're wrong. Some buggy whip manufacturers didn't have to change, some made a successful dive into S&M products.
                • It's not like you can't buy the book.

                  You have a choice.

                  Buy the book. Then it's not a problem anymore.

                  These "electronic papers" are very new, anyway. There's the pauses and other nonsense. Even PDF is "locked up", in a way.

                  So is Postscript.

                  What about XML?

                  I'll hold out for a universal standard for electronic paper -- an open source one. One where I can purchase an e-copy as I would a PDF and just be trusted with it.

                  This e-copy then, like a flac or an mp3, would go onto one of many digital devices (just as a P
              • Re:Fine idea. (Score:4, Insightful)

                by wall0159 (881759) on Sunday March 23, 2008 @03:46AM (#22834792)
                Yeah. Unfortunately, most people base their actions on selfishness, and try to justify them later by moralising...

                While it makes sense to revise some of the ideas of copyright for internet distribution - I don't think it makes sense to advocate the wholesale destruction of 'Intellectual property' as a concept. I don't believe that cheapskates and freeloaders should define public policy.

                While I have shared original music on Jamendo (for example), I also know that my day-job is dependent on the fact that I am creating value for my company by creating new ideas and writing software. These are not tangible, and in the absence of IP protection would be nearly valueless (in a monetary sense, to the company - I realise they would likely have some value to society as a whole. But then, isn't that the point of copyright - to reward those that contribute to society, and hence hopefully encourage more to contribute. If there were no IP laws, my company would likely not exist)
                • Re:Fine idea. (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Sunday March 23, 2008 @08:59AM (#22835748) Homepage
                  Yeah. Unfortunately, most people base their actions on selfishness, and try to justify them later by moralising...

                  While it makes sense to revise some of the ideas of copyright for internet distribution - I don't think it makes sense to advocate the wholesale destruction of 'Intellectual property' as a concept. I don't believe that cheapskates and freeloaders should define public policy. ... But then, isn't that the point of copyright - to reward those that contribute to society, and hence hopefully encourage more to contribute.


                  Sadly, you sound selfish to me. But don't get me wrong; that's perfectly fine.

                  Copyright is based on selfishness. The public is greedy; it doesn't care about authors for their own sake, it only cares about having more works created and published, and having those works for free, sans any kind of restriction or protection, so that it can do what it pleases with them. Copyright is simply a policy to try to satisfy that greed, by stimulating creation and publication, with as few restrictions as possible, for as little time as possible. If the benefit to the public of the stimulus is outweighed by the harm to the public of the restriction, it isn't in the public interest.

                  There's no intent to reward authors at all. The idea is to exploit their selfishness so that they'll do things -- create and publish works -- that are in the public interest. Copyright is no reward; it's a bribe. And it's not meant to be a generous bribe. If an author would create and publish a work in exchange for a 5 year copyright, it would be idiotic to offer him a 6 year copyright; it'd be idiotic, even if the author would prefer it.

                  So basically, we have a system that is geared around public selfishness, but with a recognition of the fact that immediate gratification might be quite weak, and that a delay can produce vastly greater results (like allowing cattle to mature, be milked, reproduce, and then be eaten, instead of having lots of veal but causing cows to go extinct). It functions by exploiting the selfishness of authors, who in some cases will not create and publish works without a bribe. (Those that would create and publish anyway don't deserve to be bribed, obviously)

                  Selfishness is the very heart of copyright. It's a system that works best -- for the public, I don't care about authors -- when cheapskates and freeloaders administrate it, since we want to maximize the net public benefit. Generosity would interfere with that.

                  Your position is understandable as an author; you are selfish, and want to increase what you get, regardless of the effect on the public. You wouldn't respond to copyrights at all if you weren't, so no one is upset with you. It's just important that we ignore you for the most part, and only give you the bare minimum that it will take in order to get you creating.
              • Re:Fine idea. (Score:5, Interesting)

                by WNight (23683) on Sunday March 23, 2008 @03:52AM (#22834820) Homepage
                What's the link? If it's any good I'll talk about it at least, and may buy it if I really like it.

                As for how you make money, why do authors deserve a perpetual income from a one-time creation?

                Write a book, get lifelong monopoly rights. Write a song, get lifetime royalties but no control. Build a chair, sell it once. Design a neat house, watch everyone design their own with your neat idea while you get nothing. Do someone's accounting and have no rights to the figures. Spend time and resources compiling a factual text and find all the facts duplicated on someone's website.

                It's a little arbitrary what's blessed.

                Why do you, by virtue of the specific way you make marks on paper, deserve society footing the bill for your copyright protection?

                Without chair-builder's monopoly rights, do carpenters stop making chairs? Without control over similar designs, do architects stop designing houses? Without protection for facts, do news agencies quit reporting?

                Some profit motives (like writing games) goes away, but others remain (sponsoring a game to sell console hardware). id Software wouldn't have the incentive to write Quake, but what if Sony had them write it for the Playstation, to encourage gamers to use their product? Sony payed a lot for temporary exclusivity of Grand Theft Auto (not technologically enforced - simply because only the playstation port was released).
                • by dogugotw (635657)
                  Books = chairs
                  eBooks chairs

                  If I print a book or make a chair, it's A physical object and I can extract money from the sale of physical item. If someone buys 10 chairs or 10 books, I get paid 10 times.

                  If, on the other hand, I release a book in eFormat and someone else chooses to copy and distribute it for free, I get squat. I may or may not get follow on sales but the fundamental issue is that I've lost control of my distribution channel.

                  I agree that restrictive DRM methods are stupid. I understand creat
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Fael (939668)
        What a stup

        (PLEASE WAIT FOR AD TO LOAD ...)
        (ENLARGE YOUR PEN1S NOW ASK ME HOW)

        endously great idea.
      • by zotz (3951)
        No thanks to the advertising in my books.

        The last time I was prompted to write on eReaders and eBooks I put this up:

        http://zotzbro.blogspot.com/2007/11/ereaders-and-ebooks.html [blogspot.com]

        I sure hope these nasty plans don't end up having a place in my life. I hope others manage to stay away too. We can do better.

        all the best,

        drew
        http://packet-in.org/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page [packet-in.org]
        Packet In - net band making libre music. You can get some gratis.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tomhudson (43916)

          Which would you rather have?

          • Option 1: A proprietary format eBook that you can't copy, share, pass around to others, back up to other media, etc., even after you paid for it?
          • Option 2: A free eBook that you can copy, share, pass around to others, back up to other media, etc., and that didn't cost you a cent?

          Having a business act as your books' sponsor doesn't mean turning it into the eBook equivalent of an ad-jammed web page. That would be counter-productive. A notice that "this book is sponsored b

          • by rolfwind (528248)
            I prefer:

            Option 3: A eBook you pay for but one that you can copy, share, pass around to others, back up to other media, etc.

            But instead I'm getting your option 1 from distributors. Or I can get Option 2 w/o ads from Pirate Bay. Even iTunes these days are selling open format higher quality mp3s for a premium (so I heard). What use is the dream of digital books (no space wasting library) if it is cancels out the benefits with encumbered DRM bullshit?

            I'm mostly looking at Textbook publishers. Those are the
      • Content isn't king in any advertise-subsidized medium, it's the advertiser's revenue streams. They'll censor what they fear will alienate their viewers, they won't subsidize what they think won't sell. Advertising is horrible for content, unless the power that the sponsorship dollar holds over creators and audiences can be limited.
        • by tomhudson (43916)

          Content isn't king in any advertise-subsidized medium, it's the advertiser's revenue streams. They'll censor what they fear will alienate their viewers, they won't subsidize what they think won't sell. Advertising is horrible for content, unless the power that the sponsorship dollar holds over creators and audiences can be limited.

          ... and that's why we can't trash advertisers like Microsoft on slashdot ... except we can, and do. Content is still king - otherwise, Microsoft wouldn't feel compelled to spen

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by popo (107611)
        Until someone develops an AdBlock for eBooks.

        I just removed AdBlock from my system for exactly this reason. One can't bitch about draconian efforts to extract money from consumers, and then circumvent the one last option left to content producers: ad revenue.

        .
        • by WNight (23683) on Sunday March 23, 2008 @03:19AM (#22834690) Homepage
          You've got the right to hit mute, even if ads are how the publishers make their money in the long run.

          Turn it back on and clear the block list. Then block only annoying ads.

          They'll be able to see viewing statistics for the ads and they should realize that some users are blocking some of the ads. Blocking the real garbage keeps from rewarding the jerks, and gives the people who play nice a better chance. If they investigate they might find that giant pulsing banners aren't popular...
      • by Tyrdium (670229)
        It's been done, actually; see Wowio [wowio.com]. The author gets something like 50 cents per ebook downloaded, and while it is currently for the US only, I believe they are working on being able to serve other countries. Works quite nicely, assuming you're in the US.
        • by tomhudson (43916)

          I was thinkng more along the lines of the author soliciting one or more sponsors for their books, and the books then being distributed for free.

          Lets face it - most books don't earn their advance, so

          1. the author isn't losing any money
          2. the author can either accept or reject individual sponsors, and also decide what formats of sponsorship/advertising are acceptable
          3. broader distribution, since its free to the reader
          4. since the advertiser has a fixed cost for the book, its in their best interest to promote it
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by StreetStealth (980200)
      That's all very well and good, but legal protections do you little good when technological measures in the market are present to prevent you from exercising whatever rights may be in question. Even if the supreme court says sometime next year "Ok, you can totally resell digital files you paid for!" the downloads in your Kindle are still trapped there, bound either by arcane cryptographic systems, the DMCA, or, as it stands now, both.
      • Then we need to create a segregated community: their content and Our content.

        Copyright is on their side, as it is on ours. The GPL is one answer, in terms of software and documents. Other viral-like licenses also spread that openness of the gated community. "If you accept our free work, you must do the same."

        The other half is thus copyright statements: Sue the corporate bastards when they do violate the GPL (and thus, copyright). What is it again... 750$-35000$ per violation? Up to 150000$ per for intention
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by shmlco (594907)
          "Then we need to create a segregated community: their content and Our content."

          Cool. I eagerly wait your next book.

          You know, the one you're going to spend the next year writing, and that you're going to donate to the world, free of charge?

          Odd, isn't it, that it's easy to advocate that eveyone else give away their work for free?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Metasquares (555685)
            I don't know about entertainment authors, but many scientific writers already do this. Certainly we give our publications away freely, if not our books, and most of us are perfectly OK with that. (The publishers tend to lock the works up for profit which we don't receive any of, which isn't OK, but that's a whole different issue).

            Give your works away for free if you want the greatest exposure to your ideas. Sell them if you want to monetize them. But at least have the decency to allow fair use.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            How sad you must be..

            So, only books count as content in your world? I see many a ways to make content that builds upon others, expanding all. Cooperation is almost always better than competition, except in cases that all sides gain from ones work. Consider it, if you will, a challenge of ideologies: a Vi vs Emacs, or KDE vs Gnome, or KOffice vs OppenOffice.. Advancements in one lead to advancements in all, at the detriment of none.

            And, I guess we can't count on creators to make content freely available, can
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by erroneus (253617)
            You don't read much fan fiction do you? There's a lot of written work out there that is written by individuals and put out there free of charge; small stuff and large stuff alike. Some people just want to be read and some people write because they enjoy it. Not every 'artist' does it for money and it could be argued that it's not art if it's done for money in the first place. (Kind of like prostitution isn't making love...)
          • by HAKdragon (193605)
            As pretentious as he may seem sometimes, Cory Doctorow [wikipedia.org] seems to do pretty well. Most of his work is available on the Project Gutenberg.
          • Well, I'm spending three years writing several books, and they're appearing right here. [ofteninspired.com]

            You can even watch me (and other authors) write in this forum. [ofteninspired.com]

            When they're done, they will still be available. Added content will be in the paper version on Lulu.

            Is that a fair example?

            Of course, I love writing, and choose this method freely.
      • Go one better: require publishers to enable the general public to exercise their rights.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Even if the supreme court says sometime next year "Ok, you can totally resell digital files you paid for!" the downloads in your Kindle are still trapped there, bound either by arcane cryptographic systems, the DMCA, or, as it stands now, both.

        I don't know how nonsense like this got modded up.

        You don't have to be a lawyer to know that the Supreme Court would never make such a useless ruling. First, someone would bring up the DMCA as an issue, if not the individual(s) bringing the suit, then through an amicus brief [wikipedia.org]. Second, since the Supreme Court is... Supreme, they get to decide which is greater, the DMCA or the doctrine of 1st sale and then they are free to strike out or create exceptions to whatever portions of the DMCA they feel is necessar

    • Quote: "While the restrictions on e-books may initially seem inconsistent with the rights granted for hard-copy books, these differences are the consequence of new digital products outgrowing traditional copyright doctrines. Such issues are currently being examined by legal scholars and industry insiders, but only time will tell whether this degree of control over digital media is acceptable to society."

      First off, I disagree that "digital products" have "outgrown" anything. On the contrary, I fail to see
    • by Oligonicella (659917) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @11:46PM (#22833740)
      "I think I'll stick with Lessig's opinions and the surprisingly readable US Constitution."

      The surprisingly readable clause:
      To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

      "The lower cost of publishing should bring lower protections and fewer created rights because fewer incentives are required."
      "We should allow people to make exact copies of almost all works and distribute them freely."

      It doesn't at all sound like the copyright clause of the Constitution. You might reread that clause and notice the word exclusive.
      • I'm pretty sure that the "limited times" were intended to be well inside the lifespan of the author/inventor. I wouldn't care so much about reselling my copy if I knew it would be public domain in 10 years anyway.
        • Exactly - from the creator's perspective, current copyright terms are not of a "limited time" at all.
    • Advertising costs have not declined, so it is easier to recoup publishing investments now than ever
      You seem to be under the impression that copyright is intended to protect the publisher. It isn't.

      Quite the opposite, actually.
  • Worked wonders for the music industry, right? How long do you think it would take to hack a "kindle code"?
    • Yeah, but you should be get your hands on a kindle first.
      With amazon devoting the entire first page to Kindle, it seem it is a big failure for amazon.
      So don;t expect to see one soon.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:02PM (#22833350)
    "Surprisingly readable" because the authors ain't actually lawyers yet.
  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:10PM (#22833382) Homepage Journal
    Copyright was intended to provide a compromise between the needs of those creating works, and the needs of the public. The deal was that we'd give the authors a monopoly for a limited time in exchange for them releasing their works to the public domain.

    What's happened since is that the creators sold out to corporations and the corporations have been throwing their weight around with our lawmakers. The term of copyright has been extended and re-extended to the point where virtually nothing is entering the public domain anymore. They've even filed (and received) copyrights on things that were previously in the public domain.

    Not satisfied with their greedy taking of the public domain, they decided to move on to getting paid multiple times for the same thing. Enter "digital rights management" and such travesties as the DMCA. That effectively puts an end to the first sale doctrine and completes the process of locking up all "intellectual property" (interesting phrase, isn't it?) and completely eliminates any possibility of anything entering the public domain.

    The deal was that we'd give them a exclusive right over the works for a limited time in exchange for them releasing the works to the public domain. Our corporate government has eliminated the need for the rights holders to release their works to the public domain, so the deal is broken. They don't deserve their exclusive right over the work either; the deal is broken, remember?

    This will all work out in the long term, our corporate masters will do their utmost to spin this into something that's supposedly good for us. But we're not fooled, are we?

    • by timmarhy (659436) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:40PM (#22833488)
      I like the idea of making them pay property tax on it if they continue to insist on calling it property.

      not only that but make it law that they can declare what ever value they like for their IP, BUT anyone can purchase it from them for that price.

      so they can give a true value for their IP, get all the protections of regular property in exchange for paying tax on it.

      the current setup is a total free fucking ride for so called IP companys.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Microlith (54737)
        I don't pay taxes on my Playstation 2, or on my couch.

        Do you want to try and estimate what the value, and tax, associated with any given open source project is? Who would pay it?

        Do you want Microsoft to be able to forcibly buy out the Linux kernel? How about the Apache Project?
      • by leabre (304234)
        Copyright is not the problem. DRM is. It subverts the whole agreement that eventually the work will expire into the public domain.

        What should happen, rather, is something close to: if you restrict the usage of your electronic works with technical measures, then you should also lose copyright protection because in essence, you are tyring to prevent copying, printing, format shifting, whatever else. If you want someone to lock up a copyist of your electronic work for 20 years and fine them $250,000 per per
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      What's happened since is that the creators sold out to corporations and the corporations have been throwing their weight around with our lawmakers.

      No, that's not what happened. What did happen is that the US became a party to The Berne Convention, [wikipedia.org] which specifies a minimum term for a copyright of the life of the creator plus 50 years. I won't say that various corporations aren't happy with this, but the idea has been part of copyright law in Europe for over a century.

  • Caveat Emptor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by justsomecomputerguy (545196) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:16PM (#22833398) Homepage
    It bears repeating: The RIAA, The MPAA and all the other sue-the-customer organizations really really do want to make so that eventually you the consumer have NO RIGHTS, zip, zero, nadda to own anything.

    Making everyone pay a fee each and every time they want to listen to or read or view something is their eventual goal.

    You will own NOTHING.

    You will have NO RIGHTS to view ANYTHING unless you pay their fees.

    That IS the eventual goal.

    Figure out how to tell this to non-librarians, non-techies

    • by mapkinase (958129)
      Actually, I do not mind that.

      Look at all the work of human creation. It's either new and perishable, or old, uncopywritable and eternal.

      I do not really think that people would want to keep their Spears CDs or their Windows 95 CDs forever...

      Same goes for "Fortran 66 for VAX" textbook. Same goes for Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.

      Information should be processed, learned and discarded. It's timed material, like anything else.

      I will be happy to pay less for the most recent O'Reilly of the most recent fashionable pro
      • Re:Caveat Emptor (Score:4, Insightful)

        by The End Of Days (1243248) on Sunday March 23, 2008 @12:09AM (#22833844)
        What I find most interesting about the argument over copyright is how it boils down to two groups justifying why their greed is more meaningful and important.
        • by mapkinase (958129)
          Thank you, sir. That is what I have thinking all the time.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by skeeto (1138903)
          What I find most interesting about the argument over laws putting serial killers in jail is how it boils down to two groups justifying why their greed is more meaningful and important.
          • by toriver (11308)
            Nice how your lame derail fails to see the difference between criminal law and civil law.

            But if serial killers had the same lobbying power as the industries, I am sure serial killers would NOT be put in jail.
      • by pentalive (449155)
        So you want to be able to read it for 4 years.. The market forces want you only to be able to read it ONCE, then pay the fee again.
  • by CajunArson (465943) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:24PM (#22833426) Journal
    Courts have expressly not extended doctrine of first sale to electronic files like mp3's and it would make perfect sense to extend that to ebooks. The thing to remember about first sale doctrine is that you do NOT own the "content" of a book you purchase. If I go out and buy The DaVinci Code I have 0 ownership interest in the story. What I DO have an ownership interest in is the actual physical book and the ink printed in that book. I can go out and resell the book or give it away and there is nothing the copyright owner can do about it (famous early case from 1909 about a publisher that sued Macy's for selling its books below the price the publisher wanted. Copyright had nothing to do with the eventual sale price because first sale doctrine meant the publisher lost control of the physical books after it had made the initial sale, Macy's was not bound by further contractual obligations either).
          However, looking at statute there are exceptions to first sale. One is rental of music: Ever notice how you can get a movie from Netflix but not a CD? The same applies to software (with a narrow exception for videogames so places like Gamestop can stay open). This rule goes way back to the '70's & 80's when it was pretty obvious that music "rental" places were just fronts for mass copying of music. You'd go in, rent a record, and there would be blank tapes by the checkout and a wink & a nudge. See Section 109 [copyright.gov] of the copyright act for more on this.
          In the digital age, the same reasoning that applies to the exceptions to first sale doctrine has been extended to digital downloads. Here the actual instantiation of the copy is merely a set of bits sitting on a drive. It is too difficult to be able to make an actual "sale" of the instance when transferring it over the Internet. Before you say "but I delete the file after I send it!", the courts considered that and do not buy the argument. That's why the article notes that selling your entire eBook would count: you are transferring a physical manifestation of the copyrighted material instead of trying to play games with moving bits around.

        Where CAN there be limitations on sales of actual physical items: Well, most of the limits in the article have nothing to do with copyright. Instead, they are contractual limitations which you agree to when you purchase the eBook. Copyright gets confused with many other kinds of law, but don't forget once you are in privity (aka you make a deal to buy a book from Amazon) then the contract will likely be much more relevant than generic Copyright law.

    Disclaimer: IANAL but I am a 2L in copyright class right now.
    • Ok ... so, sticking with the I'm selling the physical media, not the content, line of reasoning, here's my argument; I purchase the eBook, then a) print a hard copy -then- b) burn the file to a CD. According to the "physical manifestation rule", I could sell either the pile of paper, the CDROM, or my eBook reader without violating any laws?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by icegreentea (974342)
        Wouldn't that run into some problems with reproduction? This is why photocopying and book and then selling the photocopy isn't allowed, or why the DVDs on sale in Chinatown for 3 bucks are illegal.
    • Sorry, but while the case law may be clear on the issues, that is irrelevant. The judgements are bad law, in the same style as the doctrine of "Separate but Equal."

      Sorry, but technology has developed, and as a result, some things are less valuable than they used to be. Shockingly, the buggy whip makers want to maintain the value of their product, but that's just not in society's best interest.

      Also, Privity doesn't matter. For a number of reasons. Arguably, these are contracts made in bad faith on

    • However, looking at statute there are exceptions to first sale. One is rental of music: Ever notice how you can get a movie from Netflix but not a CD?

      I don't think this has anything to do with the 'first sale doctrine.' Rather, Netflix is in the business of renting movies, not renting music. There's no law stopping them from renting music CDs if they wanted to. That's just not the market they are going after. If they were after that market, then they'd probably be called "Netmusic" instead of "Netflix." Does anybody really want the CD rental market,anyway?

      • by MulluskO (305219)
        "There's no law stopping them from renting music CDs if they wanted to."

        Apparently, there is. Ditto for computer software except for limited purpose machines like video game consoles. You can read it for yourself -- or maybe you can't.
        • by dangitman (862676)
          OK, so what is this law you speak of?
          • by MulluskO (305219)
            Section 109, as linked above in this thread.
            http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#109 [copyright.gov]
            • by dangitman (862676)
              I've read that, I don't see how it doesn't also ban the rental of DVDs, after all, they have a soundtrack on them. Also, if you read it, you will notice that you are allowed to rent CDs and computer games with permission of the copyright holder. Also, if this law is in effect, then why are there so many places that rent computer games around? And how does Blockbuster rent music on CDs if it is illegal?
              • by MulluskO (305219)
                I did read it. You're allowed to do anything with the permission of the copyright holder. A phonorecord has specific meaning under the law and does not include DVDs. There are not so many places that rent computer games. Blockbuster does not offer music for rent where I live.

                The main point here is that NetFlix may rent DVDs to the public with or without the approval of the film industry. If they wanted to rent CDs they would require the blessing of the music industry in order to do so. The RIAA bought and p
                • by dangitman (862676)
                  I'm not buying it. The act talks about the musical performance rights in the recording. Movies have those, too. Why would a DVD recording of a musical performance be any different to one on CD? Under the legal definition, a DVD also counts as a "phonorecord."
    • by Frankie70 (803801)

      Ever notice how you can get a movie from Netflix but not a CD?


      Yes. It's because people hear a single CD far far more times that they would watch
      a single movie.
  • The Right to Read (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:26PM (#22833438)
    Just thought this was an opportune time to reference The Right to Read [gnu.org]
  • irc.nullus.net

    Contribute please.
  • by fermion (181285) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:52PM (#22833536) Homepage Journal
    When I bough a record I had the 'right' to copy that record onto tape and other medium, and, normally, I kept the record as a backup. I could in fact sell the original item, under the assumption, not always true, that I did not keep the copies The same is true for CDs. I do not think anything in the constitution or copyright law gives me the right to sell the copies and keep the original or vis versa, though I know many people did. Likewise giving copies to friends was not protected behavior, but it happened.

    With the VHS tape, we are not so lucky. Though VHS was relatively easy to copy, people want to put you in jail for ripping a DVD. Madness. Waste of police enforcement resources. But people are happy because frankly, in inflation adjusted terms, movies are comparatively cheap now, unless you pay the early adopter fee. In addition, studios add original content to DVDs so it not just the same old stale product.

    What I can't understand is how they expect to move towards downloaded movies, that cost more than a DVD and has less content, or ebooks that have nothing but restrictions. It is not that first sale doctrine should necessarily apply. We are not buying a physical product, at least not in most cases. But If I the lowly consumer must give up some flexibility, then so should the publisher

    And herein, I believe is the problem. We see overall that publishers are not making equal sacrifices. We here that studios are still charging packaging and return product percentages when there are not packaging or physical product. Likewise newspaper prices have been going up, allegedly, because of the increasing price of paper, ink, and transportation, yet many publishers refuse to leave those expensive relics behind. Evidently those items are not so expensive when compared to the loss of physical ad revenue. The NYT Times want $15 a month for the electronic edition.

    So here is the issue we are going to see with E-Books. Cost of a paperback, $8. Cost of an E-Book, $10. Fine, there is a connivence fee, but if I can't resell it, if I can't put it on whatever device I want to use a the moment, I can;t return it the next day, then why the hell am I a paying the same amount for a book? To maintain the luxury corporate offices in New York, Paris, and London. I don't think so. Just like iTMS, Just like the DVD, if you are going to restrict use, give me something in return. For books the logical thing is price. No paper costs, no overstock costs, no shipping costs. I know the publishers are saying, well, a hardback is $30, so we are giving you a 60% discount. But you are not. I could wait a month or two and buy that hardback second hand for $10. Now I can't. The publisher will be getting all the money for every sales. So compromise and don't be the greedy bastards that never learn and put this country on the brink of financial crisis every 40 years of so. Sell the ebooks for $5-8 and I bet that all this will go away. If you are going to create a market where you control everything, be a compassionate fascist and give your peasants a break.

  • Garage Sales (Score:4, Interesting)

    by the_Bionic_lemming (446569) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:55PM (#22833546)
    Garage sales sell lots of books for oft near a dime.

    I have at least a years backlog built up to read.

    If people turn their backs on the cash grab, then the folks trying to grab cash will painfully learn the lesson.
  • as I understand... they are saying that we do not own the physical copy of the book so that is why we can not sell it..

    Then using this same logic .. how can *they* sell the electronic copy in the first place?
    • ...and they do not have our physical money. Hence they can't "spend" the money we pay them for the book except under conditions we specify.
      I faced the same issue with a now-defunct ebook retailer: www.paperbackdigital.com
      I had bought about 8 mobi format ebooks from them and when i needed to visit their website to reset PIDs for my PocketPC, they were closed.
      I felt like a dork.
      Fortunately my credit card was just billed, so i disputed all the payments i made to them.
      If i can't get their product, they can't ge
  • by MasterC (70492) <cmlburnett@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday March 22, 2008 @11:25PM (#22833658) Homepage
    The Kindle is $399. The books listed on the Kindle page [amazon.com] are $9.99 each. Picking a random book: Sue Grafton's T is for Trespass. Kind price: $9.99 [amazon.com]. Hardcover price: $17.79 [amazon.com].

    (Something I find extremely interesting is Amazon compares the kindle price to the hard cover list price ($26.95) AND does not link to any other versions of the book, but the hard cover sure does. It seems they are intentionally wanting to give the false sense of "what a deal!" and making it harder to jump to a non-kindle version.)

    $7.80 may look like a lot (Amazon will tell you $26.95-$9.99=$16.96 ...more than double the market price difference) but is having the ebook worth the difference? Grafton's previous book -- S for Silence -- is $7.99 for paperback ($4.24 if you buy 3rd party to Amazon) and $6.39 for Kindle (again, Kindle page doesn't list other editions). A whopping $1.60 difference. $1.60 to [legally] be permanently locked to that copy with your Kindle with no rights to sell that copy to any one, nor transfer to other devices, etc. (I don't think I need to list them).

    Is $1.60 (or -$2.15 if 3rd party) or $7.80 worth it to switch to Kindle? Not to me, so I'll stick to being a tree-killer. I won't ever switch to ebooks that trap my money and ability to do as I please.

    (I also don't own HD DVD (hah!) nor Blu-Ray and never will until I can play them under my OS of choice, but I digress.)

    Honestly, if it comes down to DRM books and DRM movies where I can't read/play on the device of my choice then I'll happily give them up. But it won't be for long because the time will come when good creators of books and film will not be hamstrung by those who demand DRM. That is if the recent digital "experiments" by known musicians are of any indication.
  • by LihTox (754597) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @11:47PM (#22833748)
    What lets companies get away with this is that consumers don't know about it, and stores toss around words like "buy" and "sell" when the more appropriate term might be "(indefinite) lease". Let's pass a law forbidding e-book sellers from saying in their advertising "Buy this e-book!" or "We have e-books for sale!"; if they are forced to say "Buy a license for this e-book!" or "Lease this e-book!" and consumers will get the idea that something is up, and become informed.

    Ditto for DVDs, music, software, or anything else where the manufacturer claims to be selling licenses.
    • by xtracto (837672)
      Yeah, and while doing that, the license should enforce advertisers to state "buy this dead tree with some spilled ink forming specific glyphs which we are licensing for you to see but not to reproduce"

      Because you know, when you obtain a dead-tree book, you are just buying the paper, but the content is still not yours.
  • I am writing my own ebook, which I have decided to market myself, without any support or help from anyone. I decided to write such a tome because the deals given to authors, unless you are an established author, like Patricia Cornwell etc., is incredibly poor. For instance, a friend of mine writes books on ocean liners. They sell for about £15 (approx. $30). For every 1000 sold, he gets just £1000! By "doing it yourself", you get to keep just about all the cash, less postage and CD costs etc.

    I

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday March 23, 2008 @10:04AM (#22836148) Homepage Journal
    Don't forget that at any time ( if you are using some sort of online-DRM system ) that what you purchase a right to read for can be yanked from you in an instant.

    All it will take is one judge to declare the 'book' violated some copyright and it suddenly disappears off readers all over the country. Or how about the government decides its 'forbidden information', once again causing 'books' to disappear. ( after reporting back who had the copy for further investigation. how dare they want to learn about the forbidden fruit ). Your so called contract is null and void at that point and you possess something that is considered illegal.

    Oh, and that little clause in all contacts that lets THEM change the terms... "now we are moving to a pay pre read model, id you don't accept this agreement all previous contracts are null and void" and then once again, poof goes your 'book'.

    No thanks, ill keep my paper thank you very much. ( even self-scanned unencumbered books will eventually get bit by the 'not licensed to view' DRM bug once they lock all machines down to were ALL content must be authorized by a central body or its rejected and reported )
  • by Garwulf (708651) on Monday March 24, 2008 @11:29AM (#22845318) Homepage
    Sorry that I'm not replying in a specific thread, but I'm seeing a lot of misconceptions in this discussion, and I want to hit as many of them as possible with just one post. I am a published author, as well as an editor, and I am now also the owner of a small publishing company that recently put out its first book - so understanding the ins and outs of this is very important to what I do.

    First of all - the issues with e-books and first sale doctrines. When it comes down to it, copyright law is in regards to how copies are made (while this does involve the public to some degree, it's far more about how creative artists deal with their distributors and keeping one group from ripping off the other). If you buy a print book, and then resell it, or give it away to somebody, you are not making a copy. However, that's not something you can do with an e-book - if you give a copy of a Kindle book you just bought to a friend, you are actually making a copy, and that does violate copyright law. So that's where the problem lies. It is not a conspiracy to take people's rights away.

    (Think of it like this - it's the difference between buying a book and giving your friend a copy, and buying a book, photocopying it, and then giving your friend the photocopy.)

    Second - where e-books are going. A few people here are talking about how DRM on e-books are going to wipe out libraries. This is complete garbage. It is absolute nonsense in part because libraries are protected under copyright law in most countries (even in the United States, the "Sonny Bono" act had special dispensation for libraries). But, it is mostly nonsense because in order for e-books to wipe out libraries, the e-book would first have to wipe out the print book, and that just isn't going to happen.

    I'm speaking from experience here - e-books are really a lot like radio. They're great for getting samples out, but if somebody really likes what they're reading, they want a copy of it on paper. The last time people were talking about how books were going to go digital, I was there in the ranks of e-book authors in the great "e-book revolution." And I had absolutely everything going for me - I was the author of Diablo: Demonsbane, the e-book launching the entire official Diablo fiction line, and Diablo II had sold millions of copies, which back then was almost unheard of for computer games. Advertisements for Demonsbane were showing up on Battle.net, so pretty much every Diablo multiplayer fan had at least some inkling that the book existed.

    To this day, eight years later, I don't think the book sold more than 1,000 copies. And I was one of the e-book authors who did WELL - about the only thing I didn't have going for me was that I wasn't Stephen King.

    By 2001, the e-book revolution had fizzled, and a bunch of publishers, Pocket Books included, stopped releasing them. And Demonsbane was released in every read-only format you could get, including Acrobat Reader. And it wasn't DRM that killed it, believe me. I've had a lot of time to think about why the print book didn't even notice the e-book assault was happening.

    Frankly, it all comes down to barriers to entry. If you think about it, most of the technology that has caught on has been reducing barriers to entry for something. Take music, for example. We started off with the record, and then moved to the tape, which was smaller and more compact. Then came the CD, which had no moving parts. And now there's the MP3, which doesn't require a CD. But there was always a barrier to entry in music. That's not the case with a print book.

    A print book requires only the ability to read, your eyes, and a light source. An e-book requires more - you need a power source, and a reader of some sort, be it a computer or a Kindle, etc. The readers are subject to obsolescence, as are the file formats. So, instead of removing barriers to entry, an e-book raises them.

    Now, an e-book does have its purposes, and if you're on a long trip, it is far more handy to

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