Dutch eBook Readers Being Reminded They Don't Actually Own Those eBooks They Bought

from the used-and-abused dept

I really do hate that most of the time we've spent here talking about eBooks, a digital technological advance that should be all about the wonderful expansion of knowledge and reading, is instead spent talking about that purchasing minefield eBooks have created by not actually allowing for true ownership. Whether it's retailers' DRM efforts to restrict access to already-paid-for books or the inability to get at the books you've purchased simply because you've moved around the world a bit, it's been made abundantly clear to the average reader that they do not own the eBooks they've purchased.

Well, folks in the Netherlands are having that point driven home to them at this moment as well, though there appears to be some mystery over who is actively teaching them this lesson. It seems that many citizens are getting emails accusing them of illegally selling unwanted eBooks.

In an email titled “Illegal dissemination of digital books”, sellers of pre-owned eBooks were warned, apparently by Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN, that their activities were illegal.

“The Brein Foundation acts against piracy of music, film, interactive software and digital books on behalf of rights and stakeholders such as authors, performers, publishers, producers and distributors,” the email begins. “We’ve detected that you are distributing digital books without permission being granted by the copyright holders. This practice is unlawful towards the rights-holders and if you infringe you are liable for the damage they suffer as a result.”
The email goes on to state that the fine for this "infringement" is roughly $20k and up to six months in the clink -- all, keep in mind, for selling eBooks that had been legitimately purchased. Part of the problem here, though, is that nobody has sussed out who exactly is sending these letters, because BREIN has indicated it ain't them.
However, according to BREIN chief Tim Kuik the emails are nothing to do with his organization.

“We are concerned,” Kuik told nos.nl. “Someone is stirring up weird stuff.”

While BREIN are hardly supporters of people selling used product, the anti-piracy group says it only usually targets those attempting to sell large quantities of illegitimate products online.
So, essentially: people selling their legitimately purchased eBooks is totally illegal, we just aren't the clowns sending out these threat letters. Which gets us nowhere, of course, because it avoids the key issue at hand: do people who buy eBooks own those eBooks or not? As both a reader and a writer, I'm frankly tired of having this question even come up. If eBooks are not owned upon purchased, and are instead licensed or rented, then that's a fact that needs to be made extremely clear to the buyer. And I don't mean that it gets buried in a Terms of Service document that nobody reads. I mean abundantly clear.

But that won't actually happen, because sellers know that as soon as they get in front of buyers and tell them they aren't actually buying what they're paying for, those purchases will dry up faster than a spill at a paper towel convention. So, who is threatening Dutch readers with jail time for selling a thing they bought? We don't know for sure and it really doesn't matter. The important bit is getting someone on the side of the consumer in this insane fight.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 7:54am

    'The best way to get rid of a bad law is to enforce it fully'

    I can't help but think that the one(s) sending the threat letters out might be doing so in an attempt to point out just how screwed up the law/system is.

    It's entirely possible that they are breaking the law selling their ebooks, and the penalties are that high, and those sending out the threats are doing so to get some attention to those facts.

    If eBooks are not owned upon purchased, and are instead licensed or rented, then that's a fact that needs to be made extremely clear to the buyer. And I don't mean that it gets buried in a Terms of Service document that nobody reads. I mean abundantly clear.

    As for this? This is something that absolutely needs to be put into affect. If the only thing that the customer is 'buying' is a limited license, then the seller should be forbidden to mention 'Buy' anywhere during the transaction, and be forced to replace it with 'License' instead.

    'Buy/Buy Now' becomes 'Purchase License' or 'License now'.

    If you don't actually own what you paid money for, what you were told was a purchase, then you didn't buy the item, you paid money for a limited license, and sellers shouldn't be allowed to lie or deceive you and claim that you actually purchased anything more than that.

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 16 Dec 2015 @ 5:32am

      Re: 'The best way to get rid of a bad law is to enforce it fully'

      Can we make this comment First Word please?

      If eBooks are not owned upon purchased, and are instead licensed or rented, then that's a fact that needs to be made extremely clear to the buyer.

      To do otherwise is to commit fraud, but good luck with getting a pro-copyright advocate to admit to that.

      This is the EXACT reason why I find myself increasingly sympathising with the "abolish copyright" faction. It's getting increasingly harder to do otherwise.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 9:46am

    add on to that, what else do people pay hard earned cash for, only to find out that they haven't bought the item or goods, just licensed it? i cant think of anything. also add in what the heads of the entertainment industries/media industries would say if everything else where to follow the same format. i'll bet they would be the first to kick off if they or a close relation were put into the same position! they are the ones that started this crap, ably assisted by corrupt politicians and equally as corrupt judges!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 9:47am

    I really do hate that most of the time we've spent here talking about eBooks, a digital technological advance that should be all about the wonderful expansion of knowledge and reading, is instead spent talking about that purchasing minefield eBooks have created by not actually allowing for true ownership.
    I, for one, am only here to get mad about people doing stupid stuff with copyright. Everything else is just fluff.

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

  • icon
    crade (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 9:55am

    I just had an unfortunately experience where I "bought" an ebook, supposedly it was downloadable in epub format, but then I found out it was actually locked by some kind of adobe DRM. I'm only mildly anti-DRM, but this was garbage. You have to register to use it, it's locked to certain devices and certain apps, they keep track of how many times you "install" it.

    Fortunately, Google gave me a refund.. but my options for buying ebooks are really limited. Does anyone know any other than the humblebundles that don't have DRM or at least have DRM that is not very intrusive?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 10:16am

      Re:

      There is always Baen Books who sell DR|M free ebooks. mainly SF and Fantasy. They also have a free library, and their CD's (iso's) of free ebooks are also available the Fifth Imperium (with Baens permission).

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 10:23am

      Re:

      It was only due to the widespread "piracy" of MP3s that forced the music industry to finally drop their insistance on DRM-infected digital music in order to match the quality and convenience of bootleg DRM-free tunes widely available through illicit channels.

      Perhaps a lasting epidemic of e-book piracy would have a similar effect on the book publishing industry -- and serve to eliminate DRM from ebooks permanently.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 10:57am

      Re:

      Whenever I purchase an eBook, the first thing I do is strip the DRM.

      Is that illegal? Depends on your location I'd guess, but if I actually bought something, I expect to be able to transform it how I see fit for my own personal use.

      I've seen too many DRM schemes go under in the past 30 years (remember floppy disks with physical holes punched out of them?) to trust content I've purchased (or purchased the right to access for an unlimited time) if it stays in any DRM'd format.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 11:13am

        Re: Re:

        "Whenever I purchase an eBook, the first thing I do is strip the DRM. Is that illegal?"

        Probably illegal. Per the USA's Digital Millennium Copyright Act (17 U.S. Code ยง 1201 - Circumvention of copyright protection systems):

        (A) No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.


        http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/1201.html

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

      • icon
        crade (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 12:39pm

        Re: Re:

        Illegal or not, I'm not willing to go through a bunch of extra work to help prop up vendors using this kind of policy.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 7:12pm

      Re:

      Give Smashwords a spin if you're looking for non-DRM infected ebooks. None of the ebooks available on the site are DRM infected, and though like any other market you've got to wade through a good amount of not so good stuff, there's plenty of real gems to find.

      If you want, and depending on which genres you typically read, I could probably pick out a few that I've purchased and point you to them.

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

  • icon
    Nate (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 10:05am

    "It seems that many citizens are getting emails accusing them of illegally selling unwanted eBooks."

    I've only seen the one email. Do you have any additional sources?

    Also, this story isn't nearly as simple as you make it sound.

    When the resale of ebook was legalized in the Netherlands in a ruling back in January, the judge attached conditions to the resale which were intended to reduce the chance of piracy. These ebook(s) were being sold through the Dutch equivalent of Ebay, and so the sales may have been illegal.

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

    • icon
      crade (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 10:33am

      Re:

      No one said or implied it was legal, in fact the whole point of the article is that is it illegal to sell your legally purchased ebooks.

      Pretty sure the text you quoted is intended to mean each person got an email, not that each person was getting multiple emails.

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

      • icon
        Nate (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 10:58am

        Re: Re:

        let me clarify:

        We only have evidence of a single person getting an email, so "many citizens" is inaccurate. One person is not "many".

        And no, it is not illegal in the Netherlands to resell your legally purchased ebooks. You just have to comply with certain conditions.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 12:36pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm not sure where you even get the source for 1 email. The linked article is quite clear that is claims there are many emails, but it doesn't list any specific sources of the complaints that I can find.

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

    • identicon
      Klaus, 14 Dec 2015 @ 11:29pm

      Re:

      From the linked article:

      "Last year the Amsterdam Court dismissed complaints from book publishers, concluding that selling used eBooks sits in a legal gray area." A legal grey area. No-one should be threatened with huge fines and jail time for something that's legally "grey". This is the Star Wars bar scene, all over again.

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

  • icon
    br3n (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 10:11am

    printed text

    if i cant hold it in my hand and write in it and highlight my favourite passages then it is junk i dont want nor need
    br3n

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 10:13am

    The "licensed not owned" policy might be perfectly fair if e-books were sold at a huge discount to printed-paper books (Ditto with digital music). But sadly, that's not the case. E-books are typically priced at only a nominal discount to paper books, despite being infinitely cheaper to produce, and ebooks generally cost more than used books (either hardback or paperback) -- often substantially more.

    The widespread adoption of ebooks may potentially have another unintended consequence: the ultimate demise of public libraries.

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140330/16413526737/everything-old-is-unavailable-again -how-copyright-has-ebooks-operating-1800s.shtm

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

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 10:15am

    BREIN has a reputation for using a sledgehammer-response to even the slightest indication of IP infringement.

    It will be interesting to see what action they take against those abusing the BREIN-brand in a blatant and illegal attempt to intimidate a legitimate second-hand bookseller.

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

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 14 Dec 2015 @ 10:21am

    If It Ain't BREIN...

    ...then it must be PINKY.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 11:16am

    ...If eBooks are not owned upon purchased, and are instead licensed or rented, then that's a fact that needs to be made extremely clear to the buyer. And I don't mean that it gets buried in a Terms of Service document that nobody reads. I mean abundantly clear...

    Abundantly clear as in a price that does not approximate, equal, or exceed the price of a 'dead tree' version. I don't "lease" a dead tree book; why would I pay the same price for an ebook version and not be the owner?

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

  • identicon
    Steve, 14 Dec 2015 @ 12:44pm

    In Germany at least, anyone can sue on behalf of someone else if a law is broken. It's not clear that there is any violation of law in this situation, but if NL has a similar rule a third party could file suit on behalf of the publisher.

    Which is *also* kinda crazy but anyway, just to point out that it could be some independent entrepreneur (or exploiter).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2015 @ 3:42pm

    I have given up on Ebooks

    They aren't cheap enough to put up with the hassle. The dead tree books I buy I can keep forever. I can lend them to my friends & neighbors. I can resell them after I am finished. I can buy them used. I can check them out of the library. When all this is true of Ebooks, I will reconsider.

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

    • identicon
      Klaus, 14 Dec 2015 @ 11:50pm

      Re: I haven't given up on Ebooks

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/10/24/amazon_unwipes_previously_wiped_kindle/

      I'd made inroads into eBooks and then the above happened. I repeatedly asked Amazon what was going on and was ignored (no big surprise). From that point to this day I steer clear of proprietary devices like Kindles. And legal or not, I make sure that every eBook I have is purged of DRM.

      Project Gutenberg, and the sheer convenience of eBooks is just too compelling to leave it's future in the hands of corporations and dolts.

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

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 14 Dec 2015 @ 10:23pm

    If I don't own it, then I'm not buying it.

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

  • identicon
    Concerned Citizen, 14 Dec 2015 @ 11:13pm

    I've been cleaning my room this week... for the first time in several years. A proper sort through everything, organize stuff cleanup.

    I am finding books I got over 20 years ago. Not books handed down to me or anything, but books that came in from Christmas gifts, or with my allowance back when I was a kid.

    Books you would NEVER see on an ebook!

    Anyone else remember Where's Waldo?

    I figured it out. He's hiding in corporate ToS agreements.

    No-one will ever find him there.

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

  • identicon
    Richard Stallman, 15 Dec 2015 @ 10:56pm

    eBook end user licenses

    I never accept these "end user license agreements", since they are unjust. I share copies of published works with my friends, so I will never accept an agreement saying that I won't do so.

    I also reject ebooks that have Digital Restrictions Management, and I won't ever identify myself to get one.

    See http://stallman.org/ebooks.pdf for why we should reject today's typical commercial ebooks.

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


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