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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  1. 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.

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