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HarperCollins Wants Library EBooks to Self-Destruct After 26 Loans 181

An anonymous reader writes: "HarperCollins has decided to change their agreement with e-book distributor OverDrive [and other distributors, too]. They forced OverDrive, which is a main e-book distributor for libraries, to agree to terms so that HarperCollins e-books will only be licensed for checkout 26 times. Librarians have blown up over this, calling for a boycott of HarperCollins, breaking the DRM on e-books -- basically doing anything to let HarperCollins and other publishers know they consider this abuse." Cory Doctorow, who wrote TFA, says: "For the record, all of my HarperCollins ebooks are also available as DRM-free Creative Commons downloads. And as bad as HarperCollins' terms are, they're still better than Macmillan's, my US/Canadian publisher, who don't allow any library circulation of their ebook titles."
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HarperCollins Wants Library EBooks to Self-Destruct After 26 Loans

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  • by esoterus ( 66707 ) <esoterus@gm a i l . c om> on Friday February 25, 2011 @08:37PM (#35319198) Homepage

    Harper Collins also wants libraries to self-destruct after being used 26 times.

    • in DRM America, Libraries want Harper Collins to destruct after being sued 26 times!

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        DRM America is worse than Soviet Russia. Soon there will be a media tax instead that everyone has to pay because the media industry says that everyone is guilty.

        • by guruevi ( 827432 )

          There already is. If you use a Music CD or a standalone CD burner you have paid for this. Other countries likewise implement something similar.

        • I'm not exactly sure of the terms and conditions because I'm not an UK resident, but isn't there a tax on TVs and radios for usage?
    • by Gerzel ( 240421 )

      No they don't.

      Even a single use is a lost sale. Remember, sharing is stealing!

      • by EdIII ( 1114411 )

        No they don't.

        Even a single use is a lost sale. Remember, sharing is stealing!

        Which is a slightly more logical argument than saying skipping the commercials is stealing.

        Considering the fact that the latter bashit insane logic was successful at trial and tanked SonicBlue, the first (and only) manufacturer of the auto-skip commercial DVR's, I am willing to bet that HarperCollins will find some receptive (read corrupt) Senator to make eBooks in libraries illegal and that it in order to enforce it we all need to have 100% surveillance in cyberspace.

        You know..... if logic and precedent ar

        • Remember Mr. Phelps if you or any member of you Impossible Mission Force is captured, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of you mission and all your e books will self destruct in 5 seconds.
    • Re:Unsaid but... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:36PM (#35320214)

      OMFG, self-destroying information. What could possibly go wrong? Maybe what we need is some common middle ground. How about we let Harper-Collins decide which information should be destroyed, which should be altered, and which should persist?
      It has become clear to me that the USA simply isn't ready for a digital information age, and whomever should have the power to effect change, cannot (for whatever reason). I think it is time to exclude Americans from the table of countries looking to move forward with this technology, and in a generation or two, they'll "tear down that wall" and catch up.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      Is it bad if I want Harper-Collins to self destruct right now?
    • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @07:11AM (#35322664)

      I mean, really. What are they being paid for? The author writes a book, presumably in digital form... ebook publisher does exactly what before posting it into the Apple store or Amazon? Sprinkle fairy dust on it?

      I can see the need for an editor to proofread and make some quality suggestions, so freelance or editing companies, but then? Advertising? Google Ads...


      Buh bye publishing houses.

      • by shawb ( 16347 )
        One of the big things is probably marketing. I imagine most ebooks also have a dead tree version, and getting shelf space for those is quite difficult without a publisher behind you. Even in the digital world, letting people who would actually read the book to do so can take some effort and skills that an author doesn't necessarily have. Once an authors name is out there, sure... then they can sell books. Which is why publishers often sign multi book deals... for an insurance of ROI.
    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      I know you are joking but i bet they would rather get paid every time a book is merely removed from the shelf and opened.

      The very idea of self-destructing information is scary.

  • OK....... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 25, 2011 @08:39PM (#35319216)

    I agree to their terms but I will be using loan money. It ceases to function after 28 days and gets returned to me.

    No deal?? ok I'll just pirate them. You lose.

  • Inspector Gadget style?
  • by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @08:40PM (#35319238)

    It's okay, I've found gigpedia & usenet have simpler checkout procedures.

    It's asinine that library ebooks should self destruct. If they want to negotiate a minimum loan duration to force the library to buy more of popular books, like maybe 1 day per 100 pages, well fine, but checkout counts run contrary to the whole idea of libraries.

    • I'd sort of assumed that they were licensed the way that other media is licensed. But either way, the library buys a certain number of copies, and I don't see any reason why ebooks should be treated differently than regular books. Well, perhaps the fact that they don't wear out might warrant a little something to help the publisher, but this is just asinine.

      • Library books don't wear out, either - if a page gets damaged in one copy, the library scans and prints that page from another copy, then pastes it into the damaged book. The only limit is the hassle required.

        Restoring damaged pages from a digital repository of page scans is a logical step

        Printing replacement copies from a digital repository of ebooks is a logical step from that

        Loaning out ebooks from the digital repository is a logical step from THAT.

        • by Moofie ( 22272 )

          OK, I'm no expert, but I've checked out a lot of library books. I've never seen this printing-scanning-pasting evolution you describe.

          • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

            I have, it typically happens at larger places like Dallas Public LIbrary or at a College Library.

      • I'd sort of assumed that they were licensed the way that other media is licensed.

        I guess that's true, in a way.

        Virtually no media is licensed. When you buy a book from a bookstore, you simply buy it. There's no license. You can do anything you want with it, as long as you don't break the law. Making copies of copyrighted books is against the law (unless you fall within certain exceptions). Reading or lending copies of copyrighted books is not against the law, (provided that you lawfully have access to them -- you aren't allowed to break into a building in order to read a book, for examp

        • If you want to get really specific, even reading a single copy of a book on your computer hard drive requires it to be copied. It has to get copied from the hard drive into RAM. If you want to get even more pedantic, it then gets copied into the registers of your CPU, and then the CPU eventually creates a copy you can see on your computer screen. Oh, and if you downloaded the eBook in the first place, it probably got copied 6 or 7 times as it travelled over the internet.
        • by temcat ( 873475 )

          it's actually completely pointless now, due to changes in the law.

          Interesting. Can you clarify this? What do you mean by changes in the law? Are there some new laws in effect stating that all software is sold, license language notwithstanding?

          • Back in the old days, the rationale behind licensing software for ordinary use was that in order to run it, in order to copy it on to a different medium (e.g. installing something from tapes or floppies onto a hard disk), or in order to make backups, copies would have to be made, and making those copies could be unlawful if copyright law applied to computer software. Therefore, the user would need a license in order to do those things if copyright applied. If it didn't apply, better to have some sort of con

            • by mpe ( 36238 )
              It wasn't until several years after the 1976 Copyright Act (which was a major revision of the law, replacing the 1909 Act, and is still what we use today) that the government finally worked out how it wanted to handle software copyrights. Section 117 of the Copyright Act was enacted, and it basically says that if you own a copy of a computer program, you have a right to make such copies and modifications as are necessary in order to make it run, and you have the right to make backup copies for your own use,
              • The GPL example isn't complex, it's simple.

                I didn't say that the GPL was complex. The GPL covers a situation more complex than: Here is one copy of a program, you may run it on one computer (making copies or adaptations as needed to accomplish that), and may make backups.

                As v2 of the GPL says:

                Activities other than copying, distribution and modification are not
                covered by this License; they are outside its scope. The act of running the Program is not restricted....

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @08:44PM (#35319266) Journal

    "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further. "

  • From [] :
    "Fair use rights
    DRM is often used unintentionally or intentionally to take away fair use rights and sometimes sell them back, assisted by anti-circumvention provisions in laws like the DMCA that applies regardless of things like fair use rights."
    In this case it is of course first sale, but the point is still the same.

  • by RightwingNutjob ( 1302813 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @08:51PM (#35319322)
    They work when the power goes out

    They work when the vendor changes formats for newer releases

    They work when civilization collapses and they're found centuries later in a cave

    And the don't magically turn into pumpkins when the clock strikes twelve.

    There is of course, a way to make a normal book stop working when the availability of its content becomes a problem. It's called fire. It's generally bad form to burn a paper book. Why exactly is it socially acceptable to DRM a book again?
    • They work when civilization collapses and they're found centuries later in a cave

      Absolutely. As well as lending out, one of the primary functions of libraries used to be as an archive. Many/most libraries quickly jumped on the e-* bandwagon, ignoring that fundamental property in favour of cheaper acquisitions. Now they're reaping the benefits. I'm glad they're fighting back, or at least complaining. Unfortunately the argument still centers mostly based on arguments over cost rather than realizing what is being lost..

    • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @09:19PM (#35319550) Journal

      They work when the power goes out

      My Kindle can easily last for a week without recharging. If the power goes out completely for longer than that, I think there will be other things that I'll be worrying about.

      (Naturally, I'm talking about fiction books and other literature I read for fun here. A decent hardcover book on survival basics should always be in one's collection "just in case").

      They work when civilization collapses and they're found centuries later in a cave

      Why would I care?

      They work when the vendor changes formats for newer releases

      If an ebook can be read and interpreted by the reader, it can also be converted. I used to own a Sony reader and converted stuff to LRF for it; now I convert it to ePub for my phone and tablet, and to MobiPocket for my Kindle. It has never been a problem.

      DRM is a problem, but that is a different issue.

      Why exactly is it socially acceptable to DRM a book again?

      Now we get to the crux of the matter. You seem to be confusing e-books in general with DRM. It's true that most popular online stores only sell DRM-encumbered books today, but there are still many legal (and even more illegal) ways to get an e-book with no strings attached.

      • They work when civilization collapses and they're found centuries later in a cave

        Why would I care?

        It's happened (more or less) before. Aside from just being nice to help future historians, religious scholars, readers of classical literature, etc., know about us for their own enlightenment, if civilization collapses, preserved books can keep knowledge alive. They helped out the Renaissance quite a bit, although had to be discarded as we progressed to the Enlightenment, since they hadn't gotten that far themselves.

        You seem to be confusing e-books in general with DRM.

        True, but even without DRM, there's nothing to indicate that electronic records are particul

        • It's a pain in the ass to read punch cards or paper tape, much less run software or understand the data encoded on them. And those media were in use within living memory.

          I do agree that dead tree books are, overall, the more robust medium, but your point here is flawed. Punch cards and paper tape didn't have an installed base anything like the size that CDs, hard drives, or many other modern technologies do - as such, both the hardware and the knowledge to decode them is rather sparse. There's also the fact that people now have a fundamentally different attitude to computing than they used to, and the question of data longevity is one that's commonly considered with the ben

          • CNC machines, of the laser or router variety, should do the job nicely.

            What about reg'lar old 3D printers? The enviros keep telling us that PVC or polystyrene, or whatever it is those things print with aren't susceptible to biological decay. Perhaps that's a less expensive alternative to wearing out end mills or burning out lasers?

    • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @09:20PM (#35319556)

      They don't work in the dark.

      They cost a forest and a polluted river.

      They require huge structures to house them, constant vigilance to watch for mold and deterioration, mice and fire.

      Caves are not where you find books.

      They bring jack booted thugs to demand their surrender for burning.

      Books have to be carried around, you can never carry very many of them. Moving house is a bitch.

      Shipping them is expensive. Printing them is expensive. This leads to a artificial scarcity of ideas and knowledge.

      Books out of print may never come back into print. If you didn't buy it then, it may not be possible ever again.

      Long after the copyright has expired, the Physical DRM encumbering books still hinders their distribution and replication.

      ok, I'll get off your lawn now.....

      • by jackspenn ( 682188 ) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @01:01AM (#35321230)

        They bring jack booted thugs to demand their surrender for burning.

        Dude that is so old school. These days you don't need firemen to burn unwanted books/ideas. In a world of electric books on multi-media devices there are two far simpler options:

        • You run code to remove electronic copies/versions of unwanted ideas whenever they are found on the network
        • You produce large quantities of reality TV, trash novels and other "noise" to drown out unwanted ideas
      • Do books cause more pollution than creating an e-reader?

        • by Ltap ( 1572175 )
          Yes or no, depending on the scale. Remember, each e-book is simply data, whereas each physical book is a little bit more pollution. So an e-reader versus 5 books might create more pollution, but versus 500? I doubt it.
      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        They bring jack booted thugs to demand their surrender for burning.

        At least that is a conspicuous abuse of power. With e-books, someone at amazon enters a command or two and Orwell's works go *POOF*

      • They bring jack booted thugs to demand their surrender for burning.

        Are you for hire, my hero?

    • by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <> on Friday February 25, 2011 @09:24PM (#35319614) Journal

      Actually, you might be on to an idea.

      Can we contact the agents for Ray Bradbury for permission to crowd-source Fahrenheit 451?

    • They work when civilization collapses and they're found centuries later in a cave.

      I'm buying the book so I can read it, not so future archaeologists can.

      There is of course, a way to make a normal book stop working when the availability of its content becomes a problem. It's called fire. It's generally bad form to burn a paper book. Why exactly is it socially acceptable to DRM a book again?

      Not the same thing. Book burning is used by dictators and fanatics to censor the content of books they don't like. They don't want you to read the book at all.
      Publishers want to use DRM to keep extorting money out of you. They don't care what the book says, as long as you pay for the privilege of reading it.

      The closest we've come to an ebook-burning so far is the mechanism that allowed Amazon to yank illegitimately sold copies of 1984 f

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Pumpkins??? Oooh, I could easily make them as pies. I love pumpkin pies. ;)

    • They work when civilization collapses and they're found centuries later in a cave

      Most paper in books don't last that long. I'd guess 150 years is the limit.

      The documents we do have that are much older were made using a (more expensive) process which includes durability as a side effect. There's no way one can produce the volume of books we do using that kind of process - it would be prohibitively expensive.

    • They work when the vendor changes formats for newer releases

      For loose enough definitions of "work". Yes, I can read them, but they look out of place on my bookshelf!!111!!!! AAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGG!!!!1111!!!!! aasgklj goigno iergoihrgohqpoigq oighqeroigqerglkrfvqerfgfrgm lkds lkfm dfgaioetpiurgeqag;klegnrk eqgjeqrgjlkdf


    • They work when the power goes out

      Not at night.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Friday February 25, 2011 @08:58PM (#35319386) Journal

    This is just another attack from the corporate powers against what is known as "The Commons". They won't be happy until they've destroyed any social institution that doesn't function to create profits for corporations. From prisons to libraries, there have been institutions in our society that we hold "in common". Public libraries, public schools, public safety (police and fire departments) even parks are all facing coordinated assaults on their very existence as public institutions. Corporations hate these things because people make use of them without enriching the economic elite. Hell, they don't even believe you should be able to lend something you bought to a neighbor or friend.

    It can only happen if we go along with it.

    What Harper Collins wants to do, what the RIAA and MPAA want to do, make a great case for civil disobedience, which in this case might take the form of "piracy" (an inaccurate label). Why would you want to buy a book from someone who holds you in such contempt?

    And it is definitely possible to support the artists without supporting the corporations. It just takes a little more thought and effort.

    • Very true, and it goes far beyond copyright. Even here in Sweden, once a society where solidarity was the guiding spirit, corporations are now running charter schools for profit with taxpayer money. They are saving on things like libraries, gyms, etc. that public schools are obliged to have, and sending the profits to their venture-capitalist owners. Corporations will stop at nothing to earn that extra buck, and we happen to have a neo-liberal government which is more than happy to help them along...

  • They better not block screen readers and the blind should sue.

  • by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @09:05PM (#35319440)

    1) Print
    2) Scan
    3) OCR
    4) PDF
    5) Lend at will, as many times as you please.

    Although it isn't legal, in this case I think it could and should be regarded as simple civil disobedience. Prohibition was brought down largely by people's flagrant disregard for it. If enough people thumb their noses at this foolishness, then perhaps we can all stop fighting about obsolete business models and get on with taking full advantage of the things our shiny new technology offers us.

    • If their DRM is anything like other publishers use for their e-books, it is trivially removed without need to print/re-scan. Remember, DRM is flawed by design, since it necessarily puts the encryption keys where the user can always reach them - he just needs to be sufficiently motivated.

    • by sltd ( 1182933 )
      The problem is some DRM restricts printing (either no printing, or there's a page limit). This could be circumvented using Print Screen.
    • Is it illegal? I mean, I don't recall books coming with any sort of license agreement that would forbid you from digitizing them and allowing one person at a time to view said digital back-ups. I'm not a lawyer or anything, so I have no idea what law that would run afoul of -- but it certainly sounds like fair use to me.

    • Replace "thumb their noses" with "execute every last IP and copyright troll", and you might be on to something.

      The big problem with things like the DMCA and egregious copyright abuse, is we (consumers) let it happen. We all recognize that good work should be rewarded, but the rules are set up in a way that gives way too much power to the publishers and distributors... often not even the content creators themselves, who sign away their rights. This abusive practice needs to be stopped. In the age of the

    • Actually, with the copyright law provided exceptions for libraries, it just might be legal for the libraries to do exactly that for their lending, backup and storage needs.

  • by blarkon ( 1712194 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @09:13PM (#35319498)
    The great problem that libraries have is that most of them aren't used by the people that support them. As local governments are increasingly finding, you can shut a library and other than some well written letters to the editor, most taxpayers will go along with it. Public libraries have been around for 150 years and were far more important in ages where books were a lot less accessible. Spin forward to today and the use of public libraries has been declining. Part of this is the Internet. A lot of the information you once would have once gone to the library for you can search the internet for on your mobile phone. Schools have libraries that complement their curriculum, and Universities tend to be the place where you go if you are looking for more obscure books. My high school library was superior to the civic library when it came to research for papers back then. If I couldn't find stuff in my high school library, I had to go to the University library, because civic libraries didn't carry those sorts of books.
    Although it is nice to believe that the community is charitable enough to want to spend money on putting books into the hands of people that can't afford them, a lot of people aren't willing to fund public health for poorer people. If you aren't willing to fund doctors for poor kids, you probably don't give a rats about making sure they have access to books. What is comes down to is that as much as a certain segment of the community likes the IDEA of libraries, the majority of the community doesn't give a rats arse because they never use them. That makes them an easy cut when local municipalities are trying to right the balance sheets.
    People would rather less services than more tax and that puts libraries, increasingly less utilized, squarely into the "this is a luxury" column.
    • by Radtoo ( 1646729 )
      Well yes, they are a bit of a unnecessary luxury by now. We want information to be on the internet or our hard disk drives, in proper form for reading on many screen form factors and many OS's supported readers, printable and storable. If libraries could offer that, they could stay as very relevant as Wikipedia is.

      Of course, the modern information access that is being demanded directly contradicts the business model of most copyright holders. Now the question is, which of these two is unsustainable... and
  • obRMS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adavies42 ( 746183 ) on Friday February 25, 2011 @09:39PM (#35319758)
  • No Surprise (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Harper Collins = Newscorp = Rupert Murdoch = Fox

  • nobody wants to work anymore, everyone just wants to get paid

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All I take from this, is that Cory Doctorow needs to have all of his book rights under a better publisher than Macmillan.

    • I was going to say that what I took from it was that no amount of permissive licensing and publisher story whoring would make me read Cory Doctorow's books. :)

  • Pirated versions of your content do not have these annoying restrictions.
  • Libraries should simply buy paper books instead of ebooks while this policy is in place.
  • Sometimes I truely wonder if useful information technology has plateaued...

    It seems any more innovations in communication and information publishing are about maximizing the sales channel rather than providing value to the consumer.

    Now I know how poor rice farmers in India must feel as the seeds from their rice harvest can't be regrown after some clever biotech company introduced a terminator gene to protect their IP and profits.

  • Makes sense to me, cause y'know regular books self-destruct after 26 loans too, right? Oh, wait...
  • Should you choose to accept this E-book.
  • not to support those who support DRM, but I can kind of see where HaperCollins is coming from. I mean paper books degrade over time, ebooks do not. I can't claim to know if '26' is the avg borrowers of a paperbook before it gets replaced (or more likely retired), but if HC is just trying to make sure the libraries aren't getting more for their dollar (actually, that HC is getting less $s for their work), then I have no beef with them.

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"