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DRM Books Media Entertainment Your Rights Online

E-Book Lending Stands Up To Corporate Mongering 259

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-may-loan-seventeen-words-at-a-time dept.
phmadore writes "Publishing Perspectives is talking today about the rise of e-book lending, which, one would hope, will lead to a rise in questioning exactly how far one's digital rights extend. Although the articles are mostly talking about the authorized lending programs through Kindle and Nook ('The mechanics are simple: ebook owners sign up and list books that they want to allow others to borrow. When someone borrows one of the ebooks you have listed, you earn a credit. Credits can also be purchased for as little as $1.99 from eBook Fling'), we have to ask ourselves why we are suddenly paying publishers more for less. In the case of iBooks, you can't even transfer your books to another device, let alone another user, but then at least the prices are somewhat controlled. In the case of sites like BooksOnBoard, you've got ridiculously out-of-control prices with a greatly decreased cost of delivery. It's not all bad, don't get me wrong; Kobo offers competitive prices that never leave me feeling ripped off or stuck with an inferior product. Still, I can't help but think: digital rights management, sure! Where are my rights, as a consumer, and who is managing them? I wouldn't mind selling the rights back to the publisher or store for in-store credit; I also wouldn't be terribly bothered if they got a reasonable cut off the resale of the product to someone else. What I won't like is if they never allow it or continue to make it impossible for me to sell what's rightfully mine."
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E-Book Lending Stands Up To Corporate Mongering

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  • by Saint Aardvark (159009) on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:47PM (#35202234) Homepage Journal

    Still, I can't help but think: digital rights management, sure! Where are my rights, as a consumer, and who is managing them?"

    And that is why the Free Software Foundation insists on calling this technology "Digital Restrictions Management (http://www.defectivebydesign.org/what_is_drm [defectivebydesign.org]): it points out that this is meant to keep YOU, the paying customer, from doing useful things with the stuff you buy.

  • by craftycoder (1851452) on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:53PM (#35202288)

    Much like music before it, publishers can't decide if books are personal or intellectual property. If they are personal property, then you should be able to do with it what you want after you purchase it. Put it on any device. Share your ONE copy as you want. Sell it when you are done etc. If a book is intellectual property and you only have a license to the content, then the form of the content takes should be provided to the license holder at cost. Say I buy a license to Rush, 2112, a favorite album of mine. I should be able to get an MP3 version for the cost of transmitting it to me. I should be able to get a CD, LP, cassette, 8 track or whatever new format is available whenever and as often as I want one for the cost reproduction and delivery. If books are intellectual property, then I should be able to get a nook, kindle, mobi, pdf, word doc, and any other digital version for the pennies it would cost to deliver it to me and printed versions should be made available at printing cost + shipping once I've purchased a license. The caveat for IP is that I cannot share it with anyone ever.

    As it is now, they want the best of both worlds. They sell me a license to the content and give me no credit for that license if I want to put that content on some other device I own. Buying a printed version in the IP world should essentially mean I get free digital versions of that product for life. Same with music. I promise you that if you sold Harper Collins a piece of software and they lost the hard drive it was on, they'd insist that you let them install it on another computer. Why are we not treated the same way?

  • by Moryath (553296) on Monday February 14, 2011 @03:00PM (#35202386)

    Welcome to "modern DRM", also known as "Broken By Design."

    Buy a console video game on disc... but then there's the 0-day "DLC" associated, the "DLC Expansion" the month later because the developers were too damn lazy to finish the game before ship date. 5 years from now, nobody will have a complete copy unless the game's lucky to get a "game of the year edition" release, because all the consoles will have broken and the DLC authorization server will be turned off.

    Don't believe me? Take a look at Halo 2 right now. Want to set up a LAN party? Hope you're willing to bring in 3-4 original Xboxes, better hope they're all softmodded, hope someone has the custom installer for all the DLC maps preserved somewhere, and pray one of them doesn't die on you while you play.

    Ebooks? The goal of the publishers is, and has always been, to try to figure out ways to stop lending and resale. They hate, hate - with a passion - companies like Half Price Books that buy and sell used books. They hate, with a passion, the public library system.

    And what they really don't understand is how stupid it makes them look. The "pirates" do the world a huge favor by crafting no-CD hacks, by coming up with ways for people to back up their discs and still play the game, with the original tucked safely away where a dog with chewing issues or a small child can't reach it to destroy it. They give people a way to back up - without having to trust in "authorization servers", without having to hope for a working net connection - downloaded package files for DLC content.

    And what's sad is it didn't have to be this way. They could have included a way for us to back up our DLC packages on the consoles. They could sell the games without the ridiculous DRM crap and DVD drive being used as a fucking 5 1/4" dongle. But no. Instead, they treat the customers as criminals and drive them right into the hands of the "pirates."

  • by ScientiaPotentiaEst (1635927) on Monday February 14, 2011 @03:11PM (#35202516)

    ... maybe I can see the point. But for long term reference material or for books I value, there's no way I'm going to use any of the eBooks. Sure, they're portable. But they come with more points of failure that can prevent the contained books from being read. Also, the text isn't (yet) so clear and sharp as ink on paper.

    But even were there no technical issues, the DRM makes it a non-starter for me. I've had /.ers beat me up about my opinion on this subject. Still, it doesn't fix the "rub". When the distributors can reach out and remove books remotely (as Amazon has already done), or restrict what one can do with them, or charge for lending, or provide no mechanism to buy anonymously, etc, I'm just not interested.

    PS: if you tell me that the distributors promise not to delete books remotely again, you are then telling me that you trust large corporations to keep their word.

  • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Monday February 14, 2011 @03:22PM (#35202616) Homepage

    Of course, remember that it would have to be a photographic scan. No one is likely to go through the trouble of typesetting these books all over again. OCR based on the scan would be nice, but you'd still need the raw pictures in case of OCR errors or to handle any sorts of illustrations (e.g. graphs, plates).

    The main stumbling blocks, probably, are 1) the expected return is fairly low, so they have higher priorities; 2) the contracts they made with the copyright holders may not have been written with the possibility of publishing them in an electronic format, or may have already terminated for one reason or another, in which case the rights would be with the author or the author's estate, which might not know, or care.

    Chalk up another reason for requiring copyright registrations and frequent renewals (so that the rights holders can be tracked down easily, if they continue to have an interest in the work) and short terms (so that rights don't last longer than the rightsholder's active interest in keeping them).

  • by idontgno (624372) on Monday February 14, 2011 @03:30PM (#35202688) Journal

    if there were no pirates to begin with, we wouldn't have DRM.

    If pirates did did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them.

    -- Media Publishing Voltaire

  • by icebike (68054) on Monday February 14, 2011 @03:43PM (#35202832)

    The Lend-Me system form Barnes and Noble, and Kindle's equivalent are designed to make an eBook more like a paper book, namely, you have a copy that is yours to keep, lend, trade, re-sell. When you lend your copy, you don't have it to read, just like a real book. If you sell your copy, it does not remain on your device, just like a real book.

    It uses the Adobe Digital Editions DRM scheme, which attempts to objectify a digital file, (giving it properties as if it were a physical object).
    Its a reasonable solution, which if done correctly would have served both user and publishers well, allowing unlimited serial lending, gifting, selling and book banking of ebooks.

    Unfortunately, the restrictions imposed by the publishing industry prevent these systems from being used to their fullest potential, and actually work against their best interests. (To say nothing of the interests of the customers).

    They limit lending to once per book. Even after the borrower returns it, you can never lend it again.
    They limit lending to 14 days. I've got lots to read, 14 days is not enough.
    They prohibit gifting or resale.

    Had they used this as it was originally designed, unlimited serial lending, request return of lent books, permanent transfer to a new owner (sale/gift) it would have actually increased the value of ebooks, justifying higher prices.

    Instead, the lock-down just encourages stripping of DRM, and once that is done, the book is in the wind.

    Thieves will always be Thieves. There will always be traffic in stolen digital items, just as there are in stolen physical items. Black markets will always exist, just as illegal knock offs of physical items will always be sold.

    But the restrictions imposed by publishers mean there can be no LEGITIMATE market in digital items. You can never legally trade or sell your possessions. Someday this will have to be decided in court. In the mean time publishers aren't trying too hard to punish DRM stripping because they know that the imposition of such rights-robbing DRM is probably illegal and they do not WANT this decided in court.

    Amazon makes a market in used books. Why not make a market in used ebooks?

  • by blair1q (305137) on Monday February 14, 2011 @03:46PM (#35202862) Journal

    A book is personal property that contains intellectual property. Possession of it as personal property implies a license to access it as intellectual property. You have a right to sell it as personal property, and with that the same license you had, but not to sell the intellectual property, that is the right to create more licenses.

    When you copy it electronically, you are diluting its value as intellectual property, and eliminating its value as personal property (the copy has 0 value, since you can give it away and still have exactly what you had before; meanwhile the intellectual property owner can no longer command the same price for new, licensed copies).

    eBooks with DRM create a situation where the book is no longer personal property. The nook you're holding is, but the content is not. Each copy has 0 value, and the license to access it holds all the value.

    And that is a contract you agree to when you purchase access to the book. If the contract states that you can subsequently transfer that copy to another, then you should value it higher and expect pay more. If it states that you can transfer a copy and keep one for yourself, then you should value it still higher and expect pay much more. If it states you can make all the copies you want, then you should value it very high and pay a lot for it, if your license is exclusive, but pay almost nothing for it if your license is not exclusive, and nothing if the intellectual property is essentially being unprotected by its original holder.

    I don't see any legal conflict here. They will structure their license as they rightfully see fit, and you will either buy the book or not depending on the price.

  • by nabsltd (1313397) on Monday February 14, 2011 @04:33PM (#35203358)

    Bad laws should be removed, not simply scoffed at and ignored.

    Until enough people scoff at the bad laws, they won't be removed.

    Once you have a critical mass of people ignoring a law, then it's easier to work within the system to get the law changed (or repealed).

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