If The Public Library Was Invented Today, Would The Gov't Call It Organized Crime And Shut It Down?

from the ah,-the-digital-era dept

We've seen authors in the past complaining that libraries are engaged in book theft, which is an argument that is pretty laughable -- though, has, at times been suggested by various publishing groups. But, in general, most people recognize the public service a library does by helping to educate people. So when some folks in Bulgaria decided to try to set up a user-generated online library of sorts, you wouldn't think that the site would get raided by the police, be declared "damaging to culture," and have its organizers described as an organized crime syndicate. But, that's what happened.

The site, Chitanka.info let anyone upload works for a Bulgarian audience -- so there definitely were some infringing works on the site. However, the site was quick to take down any material upon request. The effort was strictly non-commercial, with no ads appearing anywhere on the site. In fact, many authors uploaded their own works, as they realized what a great resource it was.

However, the Bulgarian Book Association flipped out, and once it flipped out, the Bulgarian government had its organized crime law enforcement group raid the site, and describe the organizers as a "gang." Users of the site also took issue with the claim that the site was in any way damaging. They said it was regularly used like a library, but since you could only read the books on a computer, it likely resulted in more sales (or visits to physical libraries). A user of the site told TorrentFreak:
"I can't understand how any library can damage the the culture of any nation. And, as there are virtually no e-readers sold here, the only way to read the downloaded books, was on the monitors of PCs,"...

"Anybody that has ever read a book on a screen knows that it isn't very comfortable. So, lots of paper books have been bought, because when someone starts reading on the screen, likes the book, but is not comfortable, he goes to the book shop and buys it."
There's a great detailed legal analysis of Chitanka's position, noting that the law is a bit ambiguous here, but the site may have a reasonable defense, and qualify as protected under safe harbors by making its works "publicly accessible" as a library.

Either way, all of this makes you wonder: if traditional public libraries were just being founded today, how much effort do you think publishers would go through to shut them down by claiming they were illegal and violations of copyright law?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 1:39pm

    Ebook readers are coming soon, even to Bulgaria.

     

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  2.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Jun 30th, 2010 @ 1:43pm

    yup

    sometime this year I want to make a real US-based internet archive with the assistance of others. Going to need a lot of space among other things.

    One that doesn't respect copyright or trademark or any of that - because if it does, it's going to have gaps in history.

     

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  3.  
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    Yogi, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 1:43pm

    hilariously sad

    So, I guess that the Bulgarian police at least had the time to download and read Orwell’s 1984 before they decided to take down an electronic library for, of all things, “ruining culture”.

    I think it will be hard to beat that one for irony, or sadness.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Ambrose Thompson, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 1:57pm

    Libraries

    As a librarian it makes me feel terrified of what the big publishing industry thinks of me.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 2:11pm

    If they did in the U.S. that would mean presidents are aiding and abetting thieves.

    You know there is a very long list of libraries founded by each of the American presidents. When will the thieving stop?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 2:32pm

    gee, i dont know. a library either buys or receives their books from people who have paid for them, and only lend out the copy they have at a time. i cant help but think that trying to compare an infinite access archive with a library is a bit of a reach. seems more than anything to be another way to try to slam copyright. congrats mike, you managed to over reach again.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 2:39pm

    Re:

    gee, I don't know, I have these things in my computer that I use to program called libraries, and they have infinite access and are free (as in beer/speech). I can't help but think that trying to claim that a library must somehow have some sort of limiting factor is a bit of a reach. It seems, more than anything, some retarded way of criticizing something just because.

     

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  8.  
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    JackSombra (profile), Jun 30th, 2010 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Re:

    Sorry but going to have to agree with the first AC, comparing a download site to a brick and mortar library is quite a stretch

    By that thinking could literally call a collection of anything a library and be "protected"

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    public service?, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 3:10pm

    wouldn't they label it socialist?

    If invented today, it would be called "socialist" and "anti-American", as would our public schools. There would be a huge outcry "we're stealing the money of people who can afford their own books and using it to subsidize the poor".

    that, of course, is different than this case, but who knows if there's some ultra-capitalists at work there, too

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    public service?, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 3:10pm

    wouldn't they label it socialist?

    If invented today, it would be called "socialist" and "anti-American", as would our public schools. There would be a huge outcry "we're stealing the money of people who can afford their own books and subsidizing the poor" - to pay for it.

    that, of course, is different than bulgaria, but who knows if there's some ultra-capitalists at work there, too

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 3:23pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Sorry but going to have to agree with the first AC, comparing a download site to a brick and mortar library is quite a stretch"

    What is the purpose of a library? To make available works of written art or science to those who want to consult them.

    What difference does it make if it digital or physical? The only difference is that physical libraries have a limited number of copies of the books.

    Digital libraries remove that inefficiency. They always have an unlimited number of copies of the books.

    "By that thinking could literally call a collection of anything a library and be "protected""

    And you can. But if you do something illegal, the law will smack you, no matter what you call it.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 4:02pm

    Re:

    Yes, let's just ignore digital technology and remain with our heads buried in the physical sand.

     

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  13.  
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    Eugene (profile), Jun 30th, 2010 @ 4:21pm

    Re: wouldn't they label it socialist?

    I was going to say the exact same thing. The self-conscious right wing would shoot the proposition down, and it would never happen. Or it would happen in the most neutered way possible.

    God forbid we ever have any useful public service ever.

     

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  14.  
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    The Baker, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 4:24pm

    It would be Illegal and anti American

    Yes, if The Public Library Was Invented Today, the "idea" would be patented by US Copyright group, defended by Dunlap, Grubb and Weaver and proclaimed as illegal by the Authors Guild and many publishers; the MPAA and RIAA would file amicus briefs for the plaintiffs.
    There are many many things that were done to enlighten our society, encourage innovation, enable individualism and improve the quality of life for Americans in our country's history that now impede corporate "America". We will lose this great inheritance as surely as any past empires citizenry has found as more power shifts to the nobility, in our case the corporations who pay for the government. It seems to be the historical way of the evolution of a nation. Many things in this modern world are happening at a accelerated pace, the eventual fall of any current day empire will also happen at a accelerated pace. It took 320 years for the Roman empire to decline and fall to the barbarian hordes, perhaps our 234 years is a amazing run compared to other past empires.

     

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  15.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Jun 30th, 2010 @ 4:58pm

    Re:

    and this has what to do with anything going on right now?

     

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  16.  
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    tracker1 (profile), Jun 30th, 2010 @ 6:55pm

    Netflix for CDs

    I wonder if someone could setup a netflix-like business model for audio CDs? Really push the point home.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    David B, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 6:59pm

    Re:

    My local library has easily copyable audio books and CDs and even has a large library of downloadable electronic and audio books. It really isn't *that* slippery a slope to think that if publishers or the RIAA thought they could get away with it, that they'd be suing public libraries into oblivion.

     

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  18.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Jun 30th, 2010 @ 7:12pm

    Given what happened with Disney and Homeland Security...

    They'd be raided, declared organized criminals and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    Simple, really.

    Then 20 years from now we'll be treated to a serial about some famous Homeland Security agent with an obnoxious, dangerous and often murderous attitude (not that Eliot Ness was like that at all or that J Edgar Hoover was ever gay!) that will try to convince our great grandchildren that he was a hero who saved such cultural icons as Minne Mouse and the 1950s Mousketters!

    Somewhere old Walk is laughing, crying or both at the same time!

     

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  19.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jun 30th, 2010 @ 8:17pm

    Re: Re:

    "and this has what to do with anything going on right now?"

    Lets see ..

    history repeating itself, where the labels went after kazaa, pirate bay, etc and it did no good. Chitanka.info was up again in short order.

    The publicity generated by this raid caused the torrent (Pirate bay - “Static version of chitanka.info as of 2010-05-24″) of the full library of Chitanka.info to be downloaded more.

    You had the head of the Bulgarian Intellectual Property unit taken out to dinner by Bulgarian Book Association who later made the complaint that got chitanka.info raided. Alot like lord Mandelson and the digital economy act. These people come cheap if a good dinner, a BJ, and an award gets them to violate their countries constitutions.

    You see there are some similarities to what is going on right now.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    sa, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 9:07pm

    How this library is ...

    different from amazon, apple store etc? How you can allow this site to make ebooks free to users when publisher are making money. This is against capilism,,,

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 9:11pm

    Re: Libraries

    well apparently libraries are responsible for 50% of all the books read, they can only manage to sell us around 4% of total books sold.

    they are not happy in the slightest.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Wolfy, Jul 1st, 2010 @ 8:00am

    Libraries help educate and inform the Public, and as such, are natural enemies of Corporate America.

     

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  23.  
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    vastrightwing, Jul 1st, 2010 @ 10:29am

    Gutenberg would be arrested.

    Image if Gutenberg invented a device which made copying text and books 100 times faster than before. Imagine the outrage the monks would feel when all of a sudden their services are no longer required. The copy industry would have no recourse but to stop Gutenberg dead in his tracks. Then how about the typesetters union when the Lin-o-type was created. My gosh, this really upset their industry. Almost overnight, a single lin-o-type machine replaced dozens of lead typesetters. yea, libraries are much worse. They'd never get off the ground today.

     

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  24.  
    icon
    David (profile), Jul 1st, 2010 @ 10:45pm

    travel planning

    this sites contain the basic information one needs.
    =======================
    David

    Travel Planning

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    joe brak, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 7:16am

    wth?

    Shouldn't the name of the article be "If the public library WERE invented today.....?" The use of "was" is incorrect because it's an unreal conditional. I hate it when people don't use their OWN language correctly. Maybe you shoul visit the libraries instead of just talking about them.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Kevin, Dec 11th, 2010 @ 5:40pm

    No, the Republicans would call is Socialism. And they' be right. They are. .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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