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Books Piracy

'Science Fiction Writers of America' Accuse Internet Archive of Piracy (sfwa.org) 117

An anonymous reader writes: The "Open Library" project of the nonprofit Internet Archive has been scanning books and offering "loans" of DRM-protected versions for e-readers (which expire after the loan period expires). This week the Legal Affairs Committe of the Science Fiction Writers of America issued a new "Infringement Alert" on the practice, complaining that "an unreadable copy of the book is saved on users' devices...and can be made readable by stripping DRM protection."

The objection, argues SFWA President Cat Rambo, is that "writers' work is being scanned in and put up for access without notifying them... it is up to the individual writer whether or not their work should be made available in this way." But the infringement alert takes the criticism even further. "We suspect that this is the world's largest ongoing project of unremunerated digital distribution of entire in-copyright books."

The Digital Reader blog points out one great irony. "The program initially launched in 2007. It has been running for ten years, and the SFWA only just now noticed." They add that SFWA's tardiness "leaves critical legal issues unresolved."

"Remember, Google won the Google Books case, and had its scanning activities legalized as fair use ex post facto... [I]n fact the Internet Archive has a stronger case than Google did; the latter had a commercial interest in its scans, while the Internet Archive is a non-profit out to serve the public good."

'Science Fiction Writers of America' Accuse Internet Archive of Piracy

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  • Damn right (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It should be illegal to read a book without the author's permission.

  • by klingens ( 147173 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @06:26PM (#55923671)

    who are behind this SFWA thing? So we can avoid them in the future, cause they obviously suck at thinking about technology, the future and what it means for society.
    I could understand if it was org for writers of world war 2 fiction, regency romances or other stuff for old farts doing this, but SF?

    • by thomst ( 1640045 )

      klingens demanded:

      who are behind this SFWA thing? So we can avoid them in the future, cause they obviously suck at thinking about technology, the future and what it means for society.

      Virtually every major science fiction writer is a member of SFWA, as has been the case since the group was founded in the 1960's and began the Nebula awards. That you don't know that speaks volumes about your knowledge of the field ...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        klingens demanded:

        who are behind this SFWA thing? So we can avoid them in the future, cause they obviously suck at thinking about technology, the future and what it means for society.

        Virtually every major science fiction writer is a member of SFWA, as has been the case since the group was founded in the 1960's and began the Nebula awards. That you don't know that speaks volumes about your knowledge of the field ...

        I know this may be difficult for to understand since it doesn't fit into a little black-and-white viewpoint ... but one can be a member of an organization and disagree with some of the policies of said organization. Thus, the most useful metric would be: which writers were active participants in this effort? Which writers, if any, dissented or protested against this move? That would be valuable criteria to someone who wants to decide for themselves which deserve support.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          "Thus, the most useful metric would be: which writers were active participants in this effort? "

          Given the pittances that writers get from publishers, I wonder if writers are behind this at all. Follow the money.
          It just so happens that most of my writing is in the Public Domain, many thousands of pages, and I'm OK with that. Yes, you have to contact the LOC to read any of it, except for the Preprints, that you can get from the University, for Copying fees for Print, or just download for free. But I never int

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        I can understand why they are whiny. I have hundreds of sci fi books but I have not bought any in decades. I do all my reading for free on the internet. Which might sound like I am backing their argument but the reality is, I read no sci fi books on the internet. I read everything else, there are billions upon billions of pages, there are hours of interaction well beyond a whole life times worth on the internet. The only time I touch a sci fi book now, is when I know I will be stuck for sometime in real lif

      • by Salgak1 ( 20136 )

        Virtually every writer, you say ? I find plenty of major SF writers, with multiple NY Times Bestsellers, who aren't members.

        So I did an experiment. I looked at the first 500 names in the SFWA directory. Now, I've been reading SF for 40+ years, and have been to a couple of Worldcons.

        I recognized, at least by name, 24 of those 500 names (and several, I've just heard the name. . .). I've read at least 17 of them. I conclude, that SFWA membership is not an indicator of being a "major science fiction writer

        • by thomst ( 1640045 )

          Salgak1 scoffed:

          Virtually every writer, you say ? I find plenty of major SF writers, with multiple NY Times Bestsellers, who aren't members.

          So I did an experiment. I looked at the first 500 names in the SFWA directory. Now, I've been reading SF for 40+ years, and have been to a couple of Worldcons.

          I recognized, at least by name, 24 of those 500 names (and several, I've just heard the name. . .). I've read at least 17 of them. I conclude, that SFWA membership is not an indicator of being a "major science fiction writer". . . .

          I never said it was. What I said was "virtually every major science fiction writer is a member of SFWA," which is quite a different thing.

          Yes, the membership roster includes many, many minor SF writers, as well as most of the major ones. The same is true of, for instance, the Writer's Guild and, in fact, any professional craft guild or association you care to name. As an example, I used to be a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (the folks who give out the Emmys)

    • by nagora ( 177841 )

      Can we get your employer's name? I'm sure s/he will be delighted to hear of your principled stance against people working for money.

  • Talk About Irony! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tgeek ( 941867 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @06:48PM (#55923743)
    Or is it hypocrisy? Science fiction writers have long history of "borrowing" others' work. Robert Heinlein even made reference to it in Glory Road: "That's the way with writers; they'll steal anything, file off the serial numbers, and claim it for their own."
    • by jaa101 ( 627731 )

      Heinlein is talking about copying the ideas, not the text. Ideas aren't subject to copyright, only the words used to record them.

      • by AJWM ( 19027 )

        Exactly. That's what he meant by "filing off the serial numbers". The characters, locations, actions and dialog are the serial numbers.

        (He was also generally referring to works that would have been out of copyright, e.g. the classics.)

  • by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @07:05PM (#55923787) Homepage

    A court sided with Google on the "fair use" question mostly because Google's scanning process (a) was transformative and (b) did not substantially affect the market for the original work. Google provided a way to search within books -- which was not a capability offered before -- and when Google shows the context from the original work, it does not show all the pages of the book. Instead, it cuts chunks out so that readers have a reason to get the book through an authorized channel. The decision did not depend on whether Google is a for-profit or non-profit enterprise, because copyright law does not inquire about that.

    In this case, the Internet Archive doesn't have either of those copyright-relevant factors on its side.

    The AC who submitted the story also distorts what TFA said "leaves critical legal issues unresolved": It is not the fact that SFWA is raising a hue and cry 10 years after the Internet Archive launched this effort, but rather the fact that much of what the Internet Archive does goes below the radar of content creators in general.

    • by TheReaperD ( 937405 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @08:11PM (#55924033)

      I don't know about how many people here agree with me but, going after an organization whose only purpose is to preserve knowledge for future generations for free really rubs me the wrong way, regardless of the legalities; especially 10 years after the fact.

      • Not entirely. We must first establish what is knowedge to be protected, and haggle over the rest.

        This is part of the haggling process. This IS the discussion. There are merits and complications and things to consider for both sides of the argument.

        Moreover, does protecting previously written works allow for the creation of new works? The copyright extensions issue is of a similar nature as this. It is one thing for an item to enter the public domain, but do we have a right to preserve and maintain acces
      • Legally there is no "rubbing wrong way" concept.

      • by Entrope ( 68843 )

        Perhaps that organization should focus more on its "only purpose", then, and stop providing copies of currently copyrighted works to the current generation. Also, if the Internet Archive is still doing this, now is not 10 years after the fact -- it is 10 years into ongoing actions.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13, 2018 @08:29PM (#55924135)

      In this case, the Internet Archive doesn't have either of those copyright-relevant factors on its side.

      That's because the Internet Archive doesn't need them.

      For one, section 108 "h" of the copyright act gives libraries the power to scan and make available copies of books.
      The Internet Archive is a legally registered and recognized US library based out of California.

      For two, regarding any possible stripped DRM, the Internet Archive is explicitly listed *by name* in the DMCA laws as being exempted.

      This was added to the DMCA laws back in 2003, and while this is up for review every 3 years, I haven't heard anything about that exemption being removed the last time it came up for a vote in 2015.
      There will be another round of DMCA exception reviews coming up later this year, so if it is going to change it will still be a number of months in the future before that happens. But as of right now it is specifically legal for the Internet Archive to be doing this.

      • Something worth researching. Even if that is the case, we need to discuss the intent and consequences.

        The purpose of copyright is to encourage new works. To enhance the public domain, by having content creators benefit from those works for a limited time after their creation.

        A library's purpose is to make available those works to the general public, to enrich and advance our society. However, Libraries have been geographically limited, which limited the impact of profit on content creators, and likely
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Something worth researching. Even if that is the case, we need to discuss the intent and consequences.

          The purpose of copyright is to encourage new works. To enhance the public domain, by having content creators benefit from those works for a limited time after their creation.

          There may be a sticking point with your definition however.

          But first let me just put out there, I do agree discussing the intent and consequences is always a good thing to do, and I certainly do not mean to sound like I am shutting that idea down in any way.
          (I've been accused of worse for saying far less)

          Back to the topic at hand, there are still a number of people out there who still wish to always start with the constitutional definition and go about giving more specific definitions of things from there.

          T

        • I check out e-books from my library at the county seat and have them sent directly to my kindle email address and thus my devices. I can check out e-books from ANY of my county library branches the same way. I did look to see if an item was "off the digital shelves" when checked out and that is in fact true...
          but now that I think about it, there is a copy left on the device after the DRM renders it unusable...
          So in the end how does that vary from the Internet Archive complaint?
      • >For one, section 108 "h" of the copyright act gives libraries the power to scan and make available copies of books.
        > The Internet Archive is a legally registered and recognized US library based out of California.

        This is clearly a result of a deep misunderstanding of the nature of data stored in a brick-and-mortar library and digital library that resulted in this legal equivalency.

        The hardcopy data is not a data-loss copy (copy of the book has lower quality compared to the book) and the copying is not

      • by Entrope ( 68843 )

        (h)(1) For purposes of this section, during the last 20 years of any term of copyright of a published work, a library or archives, including a nonprofit educational institution that functions as such, may reproduce, distribute, display, or perform in facsimile or digital form a copy or phonorecord of such work, or portions thereof, for purposes of preservation, scholarship, or research, if such library or archives has first determined, on the basis of a reasonable investigation, that none of the conditions

        • Amazing how easy it is to throw in 'section 108 "h" of the copyright act gives libraries the power' and appear to be an authority. A quick google search (for an SF author's name and openlibrary) shows that they are lending books written in the 2000s that are very popular, still in print, and have authorized electronic versions, so none of the criteria are satisfied.
    • That's all true, but I know folks who used this search capability to automatically restore the contents by applying searches inductively: search for A, Google Books displays A and B, search for B, Google Books displays A, B and C, etc.

      The fundamental problem is the digital nature of the modern data and zero-loss copying of that data.

      This problem can only be reserved by subscription-based access to all data: one flat subscription fee to all the data on Internet paid by leaf customers with content-providers s

      • by Entrope ( 68843 )

        I don't know what protections Google has against the kind of abuse you describe, but it is reasonably clear that the end user is working to infringe the copyright in that kind of case, just like a library is not liable for people who use the library's photocopiers to duplicate books or currency.

        Good luck convincing everybody involved that your idea of "fair" payment really is, or even that the benefits of requiring a subscription before accessing any data come anywhere close to outweighing the huge drawback

  • Every time I go into my local library and borrow a book for free, I'm depriving the author of a royalty payment. What this does is make these books more accessible, but many other real world libraries are moving to this model of borrowing as well.

    • by west ( 39918 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @07:43PM (#55923941)

      To the contrary - my wife receives an annual payment from the government to compensate her for the possible loss of royalties that libraries might bring. Given that libraries also *buy* the book they lend, I've yet to meet an author who wasn't enthusiastically pro-library.

      This is like saying that because I don't like the idea of being robbed by you, I should hate the idea of paying taxes. Ludicrous on every level.

      • Historically libraries didn't make royalty payments. Yes, one book was purchased, and I imagine that local libraries that have gone down this route buy ONE e-copy which they make available to their borrowers. So the fight is over ONE copy owned by the Internet Archive or not. If the book has to be disassembled to be scanned in successfully then that's one book that is no longer alive, being replaced by one electronic copy.

        I stand by the claim this is merely a quantitative difference; YMMV

        • The copy the internet archive licensed is likely not licensed to be reproduced. Thus this is a copyright violation.

          There is a huge difference between accessing a digital copied stored locally on a library's computer, or computer network, and accessing that copy remotely from any machine in the world.

          The Internet Archive is in violation of copyright.
        • by west ( 39918 )

          > I imagine that local libraries that have gone down this route buy ONE e-copy which they make available to their borrowers.

          Rather more importantly, the libraries only loan one copy of the e-book out at a time, mimicking the constraints of physical copy books. They do, in fact, buy multiple copies of e-books if they feel there are going to be multiple users requesting copies simultaneously.

          Libraries are indeed a balance between the needs of society (which benefits from the availability) and the individu

          • As a visit will reveal. So there's no fundamental difference except that I'm using an internet library, not a local government e-library?

            • by west ( 39918 )

              I'm pretty certain that if the Internet Archive had a mechanism so that an e-book could only be "checked-out" by 1 user at a time, there'd be no issue here because instead of losing (potentially) thousands of sales, you're losing maybe a dozen.

              So in impact, a very big difference. And impact is what matters, not "are these mechanisms topologically identical".

              I'm assuming that your morality is not "if I twist a mechanism to get away with it, then it must be ethical" strain.

              • You can't check out many books - they offer to put you on a waiting list.

                The OP complains that the process leaves a blocked copy of the book on the device of people who've returned it. That's a different issue.

        • > I imagine that local libraries that have gone down this route buy ONE e-copy which they make available to their borrowers.

          No, they buy a license that allows lending electronic copies.

          https://www.boston.com/news/te... [boston.com]

          The pricing structure and attached permissions are completely different.

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        my wife receives an annual payment from the government to compensate her for the possible loss of royalties that libraries might bring

        In what country? I wasn't aware of such payments in the United States.

    • Di the Internet Archive buy a copy of the book originally? Maybe, maybe not. Imagine there was just one universal library, and they only had to buy a single copy of a book and then could loan it to the entire world simultaneously for free. At which point the universal library buys a book for $10, the author gets a single payment of say $0.75 for royalties. After that no copies of the book will sell because everyone can just borrow it for free.

      The way a real library works is that only one copy is loaned

      • A visit to the site reveals that only some books are borrowable: others you have to get in line for, implying they restrict borrowing. The parallel with a library is thus precise.

      • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
        Libraries are a big target for publishers. Authors love to have their books bought by libraries.
  • This way nobody can take them down. The internet is worthless if anybody can decide what can or cannot be posted.

    • The Internet Archive is building or has build a backup in Canada.

      • Canada is no help. They'll take stuff down at the drop of a hat also. I'm thinking it needs to be done in a 'bittorrent' type fashion, with thousands of backups. If we can't make censorship impossible, let's at least make it impractical.

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @08:09PM (#55924027)

    My own local library does something similar. There is and should be nothing wrong with offering books for loan regardless of format at long as the copy is legitimately purchased. Publishers have hated Libraries since they started and they want to use "electronic" as an attempt to license the book instead of buying it.

    The courts will shoot this down, there is a long legal history for Library's loaning books being perfectly legal all the way back into english common law, to rules in the writers favor this the supreme court would need to undo 200 years of precedent. They generally don't do that for anything but the most extreme of situations.

    Libraries exist, they loan books, whether they are digital or paper and it's all perfectly legal.

    • Physical books carry an inherent license within the book itself, and are accounted for as they were printed. Due to the nature of the physical copy, the quantities are also limited. Digital copies are less accounted for, and are much more easily obtained. There need only be one digital copy legally obtained to saturate the market with unlicensed copies, in unlimited quantities, destroying the market for the work itself.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        "DRM is needed to protect our copyrights from thieves!"
        "DRM is so easily cracked its too damaging to our industry to consider it real protection!"

        Seems like they want it both ways depending on the use. Physical copies can be scanned and distributed much easier than cracking DRM, for the lay person. Physical copies can be stolen from libraries and stores as easily as finding the same books online in a format immediately usable by a given reader. Sure you can use Calibre and other software to format-shift, bu

        • Seems like they want it both ways depending on the use.

          Seems like if they're going to take the risk, they want the reward too. I see no conflict there.

      • The courts didn't see it the way you claim. Books are product, they aren't "licensed". You're sold a copy of a licensed work, you are free do what you want with that licensed work including resell it or anything else. You are clearly not aware of the history of the library. Publishers sued the first libraries and loaning groups after putting "license" agreements in the books, the courts shot it down, it was later added into law that the book once sold the copyright on that book was exhausted and the author

    • Circulating libraries buy e-books from publishers, and at least some e-book licenses for libraries only permit a certain number of loans per digital e-book purchased. The justification for this is that paper books being loaned out accrue wear and tear and will be removed from circulation when they get too shabby.
      • And unlike a physical book that has the first sale doctrine behind its loaning, publishers can encumber a digital license all they want.

    • >Libraries exist, they loan books, whether they are digital or paper and it's all perfectly legal.

      You are making a mistake that every single +5 or +4 comment made in this discussion: not realizing the fundamental differences between analog content (hardcopies and photocopies of books) and digital content (mobi, pdf or txt): the latter can be copied without any loss unlimited amount of time, the library that "lends" the latter can lend unlimited number of copies.

      For a brief moment 5 years ago I became a m

      • Had it been a digital library, nothing would have prevented me from downloading it at once except for formality of having programmatically coding "tokens" (at ADDITIONAL cost to a digital library - "normal" way of distributing content is without any token system).

        Maybe, maybe not. The library could very well institute a policy that allows them to only lend out however many copies of the book that they've purchased. It would be easy enough to do using 'tokens' as you indicated, or merely releasing the copy

        • by MemeRot ( 80975 )

          Every library I've borrowed ebooks from does just this. There is a waiting line for new releases on e-books just like there is for physical books, to make the publishers happy

      • I understand the difference, what you don't understand the law.

        There is no limit on the number of copies of a book a library can purchase other than their own limited funds. The reason your local library only had so many copies of the book was a limit of their funding, not a legal limit. My library controls access to the digital publications through a rudimentary DRM system but I see no legal reason for them to do so. Books have special legal rules regarding copyright exhaustion after sale, these laws are v

  • It wasn't until 2010 that the Open Library started lending copyrighted books, and then only to people with library cards from specific libraries. I have no idea when this was opened to the public at large, with no need to be a member of a library.

    Discussion of the legality of this have been around from 2010, and it indeed seems to me a thorny legal issue. One would hope that at some point this will reach court and an actual decision is made or the right to lend works. If that's indeed a right, it could tran

    • The only legal standing for loaning books is the first sale doctrine, except in cases where alternate licensing agreements are made with a publisher. Combine that with fair-use rights to format shifting under copyright law (scanning the book and making an eBook edition). That means you could loan out a single copy of an ebook for every physical copy owned, provided that the physical copy isn't being loaned out at the same time. Something tells me they're not doing this.

  • " ... The Digital Reader blog points out one great irony. "The program initially launched in 2007. It has been running for ten years, and the SFWA only just now noticed." They add that SFWA's tardiness "leaves critical legal issues unresolved." ..."

    I have no idea which "critical legal issues" might exist. Copyright is inalienable ... a copyright owner has no obligation to act when made aware of infringement, and the right does not change simply because infringement was not acted upon.

  • Is it bad that I immediately thought of this? [memegenerator.net]

    Ms Rambo is probably sick of that joke...

  • In my opintion,The library can do it
  • I was not aware the Internet Archive had opened up their lending program. I mostly just use the Wayback Machine. Thank you SFWA. (And Ms. Streisand.)

interlard - vt., to intersperse; diversify -- Webster's New World Dictionary Of The American Language

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