Authors Guild Attacks Libraries For Lending Digital Books

from the fair-use-means-something dept

It's been a few years since we last had to write about the Authors Guild -- a group that ostensibly represents authors' interests, but really acts more like a front group for publishers' interests (often in opposition to the actual interests of authors). As you may recall, the Authors Guild spent tons of the money authors gave it for dues on suing libraries. Specifically it sued and lost against Hathitrust (a collection of libraries which were scanning books to make a searchable index), and then had the same result with Google and its book scanning project. In both cases, the courts deemed such scanning and indexing as fair use -- a transformative use of the work.

Apparently, unable to comprehend that maybe it shouldn't attack libraries, the Authors Guild is at it again, threatening the Internet Archive and other libraries for daring to start a carefully designed program to lend out copies of some of their scanned works. The system, called Controlled Digital Lending was put together by a bunch of libraries and the Internet Archive to lay out a system that they believe is clearly covered by fair use, by which digital scans of certain books could be made available on loan like any other library book. The whole setup of the Controlled Digital Lending system is carefully laid out and designed to mimic traditional library lending.

One of the most fundamental and socially beneficial functions of libraries is providing broad access to information by lending books and other materials to their communities. To lend materials more effectively, libraries can apply CDL to their collections in order to fulfill their missions. CDL techniques like those described in this Statement are designed to mirror traditional library practices permitted by copyright law.

Properly implemented, CDL enables a library to circulate a digitized title in place of a physical one in a controlled manner. Under this approach, a library may only loan simultaneously the number of copies that it has legitimately acquired, usually through purchase or donation. For example, if a library owns three copies of a title and digitizes one copy, it may use CDL to circulate one digital copy and two print, or three digital copies, or two digital copies and one print; in all cases, it could only circulate the same number of copies that it owned before digitization. Essentially, CDL must maintain an “owned to loaned” ratio. Circulation in any format is controlled so that only one user can use any given copy at a time, for a limited time. Further, CDL systems generally employ appropriate technical measures to prevent users from retaining a permanent copy or distributing additional copies.

There's a joke that's made its way around copyright circles for years that if libraries didn't already exist, there's no way that copyright interests would allow them to exist today. Indeed, in the past we've seen various attacks on the institution of libraries from certain authors and publishers. And this latest attack is no different, other than cementing the fact that the Authors Guild really hates libraries:

The CDL fair use theory also relies entirely on a completely outdated and misconstrued conception of the contemporary book market, as explained in our recent blog on CDL—as though publishers were the only ones that had copyright interests that potentially could be harmed. Nowhere does the white paper mention the copyright interests of authors—who generally remain the copyright owners of their works, whether traditionally or independently published, and control most non-traditional book rights.

Authors lose potential income from every unauthorized loan made under the CDL theory. The digital reproductions and loans merely supplant the legitimate sale of ebooks, whether library editions that the library would otherwise license, or ebooks that the author or publisher would sell directly to consumers. And for those books not yet available in ebook format, CDL usurps that market before the author even has a chance.

Even if an author is not currently monetizing her book, it is still usually one of her most important assets. When authors’ works go out of print, or copyright termination rights become ripe, authors are entitled to recover any rights licensed to a publisher, and many do. The author may then repurpose the work, update it, or simply reissue it with a new publisher; and, as has become increasingly common today, authors can easily self-publish their older works to bring them back to life. Hundreds, if not thousands, of our members have done so. Stories of older books becoming popular again because of a historical event, or a new film or TV show, for instance, are not uncommon. Authors should be able to profit from that, not libraries or platforms like Open Library.

Got that? Lending books -- which the libraries have legally purchased -- means that "authors lose potential income from every unauthorized loan made under the CDL theory." Say what? Under the traditional library system, there is no authorization necessary. Libraries are free to lend out any books in their possession, which this system is designed to mimic exactly. The Authors Guild is flat out saying here that it believes any lending of library books is bad for authors which is crazy.

The Authors Guild (and the Society of Authors in the UK which has sent a similar letter) are threatening legal action over this. The Authors Guild suggests that the ReDigi rulings that said that a company can't "resell" used MP3s is the controlling case on this issue. And while I think the Redigi case was incorrectly decided on a number of factors, it is difficult to see how that is the same as the Controlled Digital Lending situation -- whereby we're talking about restricted, temporary lending from libraries, of works where the library not only retains the matching physical copy, but also makes sure that if a digital copy is loaned out, the corresponding hard copies cannot be similarly loaned out simultaneously.

If this is another legal fight by the Authors Guild against libraries, it seems highly likely to lose -- as was the case with the Hathitrust lawsuit, which cost the Authors Guild (really, its dues-paying members) big time. Though, it is amusing to see a publishing newsletter where I read about this (1) totally ignore the Hathitrust lawsuit, and (2) effectively pen a love letter to the Authors Guild including this sort of nonsense:

In the States, the Authors Guild has demonstrated more than once that it, too, has a formidable legal department in place, headed by the organization’s executive director Mary Rasenberger, a copyright attorney who has spent part of her career working with the US Copyright Office.

Publishing Perspectives readers will recall that the guild issued an effective and blistering response for Judge Hellerstein’s court at the Southern District of New York in the so-called “CockyGate” case. In that instance, an author had tried to trademark a common word to prevent others using it in titles. The guild was the leading body operating for authors in the incident and achieving a resounding outcome, effectively putting to rest anybody’s hope of capturing a word in common parlance as their own.

It can be anticipated that, should the guild’s legal office become engaged–and such language in its commentary as “We must stop this Controlled Digital Lending nonsense in its tracks” certainly makes it seem that the legal team is poised to move. It can be expected that Rasenberger will lead the effort.

I mean, sure: we wrote about the silly Cockygate story as well, but I fail to see what that has to do with questions regarding copyright, fair use and libraries. Instead, it seems that the Hathitrust case -- which directly involved all of those issues -- is more relevant. And yet, magically, that episode is completely absent from the "Publishing Perspectives" piece, which instead drones on and on about how amazing the Authors Guild and Authors Society are.

Perhaps this case will be different, but... so far it seems this effort may only be serving to upset authors. Take, for example, Aram Sinnreich, who has publicly told the Authors Guild to shove off in response to it pushing its member authors to sign a letter "against" Controlled Digital Lending:

But, really, in the grand scheme of things, if you want to know when you've gone off the rails entirely, "threatening to sue libraries for lending books they've legally obtained" is certainly a good indicator.

Filed Under: authors, controlled digital lending, copyright, fair use, knowledge, lending books, libraries
Companies: authors guild, internet archive


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  • identicon
    GeoffreyPS, 31 Jan 2019 @ 9:49am

    What Happens to the Hardcopy?

    I like the idea, but if the hardcopy is still available on the shelf for use within the library when the digital copy is checked out, then I think there is a problem.

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    • identicon
      Qwertygiy, 31 Jan 2019 @ 9:52am

      Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

      They thought of that:

      "where the library not only retains the matching physical copy, but also makes sure that if a digital copy is loaned out, the corresponding hard copies cannot be similarly loaned out simultaneously. "

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:03am

      Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

      RTFA

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:04am

      Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

      I like the idea, but if the hardcopy is still available on the shelf for use within the library when the digital copy is checked out, then I think there is a problem.

      It's not. As explained in the story, CDL works by saying libraries can only lend out the same number of copies that they have in total. So, if a library only has one copy and someone takes out the digital version, the hardcopy is no longer available. (Of course, some might argue that even this is stupid artificial scarcity, but that's besides the point for this particular discussion).

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:09am

        Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

        Hi yes this is in fact stupid artificial scarcity.

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      • icon
        iPaloosa (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:24am

        Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

        Yes, but what does "the hard copy is no longer available" actually mean? Does it mean that some librarian needs to go to the stacks, and pull the physical copy and place it out of circulation, so nobody can read it, even -in- the library? (and of course return it to the stacks when the digital copy is "returned") Or does it mean that if someone goes to check out the physical book while the digital copy is out, that they'll be denied permission to do so at the desk?

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 1:01pm

          Re: Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

          I suspect the main use will not be libraries where patrons have access to the shelves, but university libraries with large collections that are housed in remote locations; where access to the stacks is limited to the librarian gofers.

          It will likely reduce the cost of intralibrary loans of this nature and further reduce the CO2 emissions associated with boxing and shipping said books.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 4:10pm

          Re: Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

          In most cases, the hard copies are never available for physical lending. If the book is needed for some purpose, it is checked out of the stacks and digital lending is frozen until it is returned.

          So, pretty much the reverse of what you're thinking.

          See, the beauty of digital lending is that the lender can be anywhere. This means that while you may sign a book out via your local library, they don't actually have to hold the book. Instead, it's in a warehouse somewhere and anyone belonging to ANY library subscribing to that CDL can sign the book out.

          And this is the only place that the Author's Guild has any sort of a point: traditionally, if you wanted to sign out a book, you had to be in physical proximity to the library where it was held. Nowadays, I can instantly sign out a book held on the other side of the country. This means that there is less scarcity than there once was for published works, which decreases the relative value of any given copy.

          Of course, I think that just points out that there was artificial profiteering going on before that's now been removed; since the same technology that enabled this novel lending strategy also significantly decreases the costs of developing and publishing works, I'm not too worried about it.

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      • identicon
        ryuugami, 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:30am

        Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

        Ah, but that's about lending copies. What GeoffreyPS was inquiring about is: if someone takes the digital copy out, what happens with the physical copy that's still in the library? Do they remove it from shelf and put it under lock, or can people still read it even if they aren't allowed to take it outside? Inquiring maximalists want to know, I imagine.

        And concerning the idiotic artificialness of this particular scarcity...
        User: "I would like to check out this book."
        Librarian: "I'm sorry, all copies have been checked out already."
        User: "But there's a dozen on the shelf!"
        Librarian: "Yes, all of those have been checked out and are not available."
        User: "They're right there!"
        Librarian: "There are five lights."

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        • identicon
          Qwertygiy, 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:55am

          Re: Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

          This situation already occurs at my local libraries, actually. At least in the main branch of the Greenville Public Library in South Carolina, books that are reserved are just kept in separate shelves towards the front of the library.

          These shelves are still fully accessible to the public, but none of the books on them can be checked out, as they have been put on hold for another cardholder.

          Of course, this doesn't approach any of the same legal questions at play here. The cardholder can't come in and take home a book from reserve while someone else is standing there at the library and reading that same copy of the book.

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        • icon
          BernardoVerda (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 2:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

          In my previous home town (I moved recently), I'm pretty sure that the library generally bought e-books in addition to the more popular physical/"hard-copy" books.

          There was absolutely no reason for anyone to concern themselves with whether the same title was or wasn't on the physical shelf.

          The problem with the e-books was the nasty, problem-prone, proprietary software that attempted to ensure that no one "stole" a book by not deleting the copy from their "approved" and registered personal device.

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      • identicon
        GeoffreyPS, 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:32am

        Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

        No longer available at all or no longer available for checkout. There is a difference. I'm not trying to be difficult. Again, I like the concept, but the entire article discusses checkout as does the CDL position paper. Some people read within the library without every checking out the book. If the book is still available for use WITHIN the library when its electronic copy is checked out, I don't see this approach being legal. If the hardcopy is pulled from the shelf when the digital version is checked out, then it may be.

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        • identicon
          Qwertygiy, 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:47am

          Re: Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

          I would presume it's stored away in the same manner as a book that is put on hold or reserved.

          There may still be an argument to be made for allowing it to remain available within the library, but without knowing the outcomes of any relevant cases, I can't think of any arguments that would not seem like a stretch. I can say with a high level of confidence that "personal use" wouldn't cover it if it was on the shelves.

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          • icon
            iPaloosa (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 11:09am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

            Having worked in a library and bookstore, it's not that simple - Reserved books are not in outside circulation, in the first place, they're always behind the desk, at least for the duration of the class they're reserved for, but can be checked out -in- the library, by anyone. Books on Hold are generally also not in circulation but ,most of the time they're on hold, they're not in the library because somebody else has them out, when the book is returned, then it's diverted from reshelving and the person who requested the hold is notified, and has a few days to get the book. Finding (God help you if it's misshelved) and pulling physical books because a digtal copy has been checked out is a whole new level of both monitoring circulation, pulling, and reshelving and storage.

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      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 1:56am

        Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

        "So, if a library only has one copy and someone takes out the digital version, the hardcopy is no longer available."

        Depending on the country in question this concept sort of goes straight against the initial idea of the library in the first place. Artificial scarcity on knowledge and ideas is a throwback straight into the sort of thinking so prevalent in medieval times.

        And the defense of artificial scarcity is, I should think, the root cause of the discussion to begin with.

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    • identicon
      Paul Brinker, 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:17am

      Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

      The hard copy is put away in storage in the archive.

      In the event someone wants the physical book its then removed from digital loaning.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:39am

        Re: Re: What Happens to the Hardcopy?

        OK. That makes it clearer. I was interpreting it that each copy could be made available as a physical or an electronic loan. If the hardcopies that are associated with the electronic copies are unavailable (e.g. in an archive), then I see it being a viable approach. A warehousing pain, but legally I think it could pass.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:10am

    You missed a closing tag, by the way:

    Hathitrust/a> (a collection of libraries which were scanning books to make a searchable index), and then had the same result

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:14am

    With 'friends' like these...

    Authors lose potential income from every unauthorized loan made under the 'library' theory. The single purchase and loans merely supplant the legitimate sale of books, whether purchases that would have otherwise occurred through a third party, or books that the author or publisher would sell directly to consumers. And for those books not yet available in paperback format as opposed to hardback, libraries usurp that market before the author even has a chance.

    There's something seriously warped about an 'authors' guild attacking libraries, using arguments that would have kept such institutions from ever existing given the 'buy once, loan out until the book falls apart' model of operation.

    It does nicely highlight one thing at least: Whatever they may call themselves, their interests is not in helping the authors that they've conned into signing with them.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 12:37pm

      Re: With 'friends' like these...

      I disagree with this. Libraries are well-established in this country and exist primarily for people who do not purchase books.

      That is not the same as something like Pirate Bay.

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      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 12:27am

        Re: Re: With 'friends' like these...

        ... When the hell did the Pirate Bay come into the discussion?

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 1:59am

        Re: Re: With 'friends' like these...

        "Libraries are well-established in this country and exist primarily for people who do not purchase books."

        I believe that the point is that if these morons had been in charge back then, the concept of the library itself would have been outlawed long before that happened.

        "That is not the same as something like Pirate Bay."

        Neither are kittens, which have about as much to do with the discussion at hand as TPB.

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      • icon
        Ben (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 8:30am

        Re: Re: With 'friends' like these...

        "primarily for people who do not purchase books"?

        Nonsense. They are also used by people who want to find out if it's worth purchasing an author's work. They're used by people who cannot afford to purchase books on spec. They're used by people who can't find a particular book in their local bookstore. They're used by people who have an hour to kill waiting for the dentist. They're used by people who want to study something away from the noises and distractions of home. They're used by people who don't even want to look at books, because a lot of libraries (at least around here) have free wi-fi. And many more.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 12:46pm

      Re: With 'friends' like these...

      There used to be exchange bookstores which resold copies and did far more damage to author revenue than libraries.

      The problem with liberal distribution models is they encourage authors to draft their own licensing agreements, or to pitch the information to whales through tidbits and samples to the masses.

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    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 2:04am

      Re: With 'friends' like these...

      "There's something seriously warped about an 'authors' guild attacking libraries, using arguments that would have kept such institutions from ever existing given the 'buy once, loan out until the book falls apart' model of operation."

      That was the exact way the publishing guilds approached the matter of the new public library back in the 18th century.

      It has to be noted that today the electronic model is usually a far worse deal than the physical copy for many libraries. In Sweden, for instance, it now costs the library twenty times as much to lend a digital copy as compared to a physical one.

      And remuneration is quite obviously no longer the core reason for this. Control is.

      I keep saying that copyright is toxic at almost every level, and one of the most obvious direct reasons for that toxicity is because it relies on information control to work at all. And that tool was NEVER used in a manner positive to humanity as a whole.

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  • icon
    Ben (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:25am

    Let's be real

    If I'm going to buy a book, I'll reads it multiple times; I collect them and put them in my bookshelves.

    Books I'm in doubt of I will borrow from the Library, read and return -- just like Libraries expect to be used.

    If I go to a Library to get a specific book and they don't have it, I am disappointed, the Library is disappointed (they want people reading!), and nobody is happy. With eBooks that should not be a problem. The Library should be able to loan out as many copies as the demand requests: it's just bits.

    Yes, it would probably be nice to prevent the eBooks from being copied, but do they prevent people from photocopying books people borrow? Either their customers are honest or they are not. Treat them with respect and assume they are honest and save the headaches of DRM.

    The Authors Guild are the buggy-whip manufacturers of the information age.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 12:37pm

      Re: Let's be real

      You have to return books to the library?

      I kept several from my youth. I think I owe like a few million dollars by now.

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    • icon
      flyinginn (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 8:00pm

      Re: Let's be real

      The entire argument about author's revenue is total hokum. I don't buy books because of the cover art, I buy them because I'm familiar with the author. And the initial contact in the great majority of cases happens at the local library. I spend $hundreds/year on books in a variety of formats simply because I like the author based on a library loan.

      I do not typically buy books in a state of ignorance - caveat emptor. It's not as if the author or vendor is prepared to guarantee my satisfaction.

      Based on my experience, authors should be obliged to pay libraries for their very effective revenue-increasing free advertising. Or we can move to a no-quibble unlimited returns policy with the vendor paying return costs.

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  • icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 10:58am

    It's as if the Author Guild lives in Bizarro world. If the NRA operated in the same way would be advocating for repeal of the second amendment.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 11:27am

    The guild is so intent on catching supposed missed sales that they do nor see that they are driving customers away. How may people will buy a book from any but an author they trust without reading at least part of the book first.

    If I have never read anything from an author I am not going to but a book sight unseen, at least at new book prices. I might but at second hand shop or car boot dale if the price is low enough, but that sends less money the authors way that a library loan. An Ebook priced the same as paper, well that is a no sale even if I like the author.

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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 11:34am

    I wonder how long it’ll take for major publishers to call for an end to libraries altogether.

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    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 2:07am

      Re:

      "I wonder how long it’ll take for major publishers to call for an end to libraries altogether."

      They never stopped calling for an end to libraries. Only that now, with the digital format moving the game to a new platform, they are digging out all the objections they rallied around in the 18th century.

      Only that todays politicians have become confused enough to accept what was rightly rejected as unrealistic nonsense back then.

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  • icon
    Jak Crow (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 11:38am

    Author Joanne Harris...

    In response to a comment I made criticizing the Author's Guild on twitter, Joanne Harris accused any organization that scans any books still under copyright and makes them lendable online of being pirates, So that means the entire University system of California, MIT, and Yale are all pirates. I'm sure they would be surprised to know that.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 12:36pm

      Re: Author Joanne Harris...

      Google Books is another issue. I'm not thrilled with them but they exist and the courts said they could, so that's the new reality.

      Not a big deal to me anyway and I do sell books I write. Much of what copyright holders complain about has more to do with distribution than piracy. I still think piracy should be eliminated with zero-tolerance policies that do not concern themselves with the cost of compliance with the law. I can see why people are copyright minimalists though, but I think it's bad to disincentivize the creators.

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      • icon
        Jak Crow (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 12:53pm

        Re: Re: Author Joanne Harris...

        I have a real problem with copyright infringement protected by law as much as it is, and penalties being worse than those of violent crimes against people.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 6:23pm

        Re: Re: Author Joanne Harris...

        Cost of compliance with the law is a big deal. It's a large problem with the ACA, for example: complying with ObamaCare was too expensive for most doctors, so they withdrew. Dealing with any penalties for not doing it was still vastly cheaper than doing it right. Suddenly, ObamaCare had next to no providers available.

        It's also why there are still black-market weed dealers in many states and nations where marijuana has been legalized. Getting registered to grow or sell legally sometimes winds up making it unprofitable altogether.

        Separately, I do agree that there needs to be more accountability for publishing copyright-infringing material. But, zero-tolerance policies mean publishers have zero room for error; and as a quick scan of TechDirt can tell you, neither humans nor computers can come anywhere near zero error when it comes to judging whether something is copyright-infringing.

        I've had my own works taken down through completely bogus DMCAs. A huge DMCA targeting adult video fan-fiction of a certain anime swept up some things such as... an 8-bit potato cannon for Minecraft? A wallpaper of a racecar that I drew from scratch in photoshop? Although the site provided a helpful-looking link to "dispute it", there were no options actually given to me to restore my content without lawyering up, because the download site cared more about potentially being sued by the studio than about even briefly checking to see if the complaints had the tiniest remote chance of being legitimate.

        When you can be fined millions of dollars retroactively for allowing illegal content to be put up in the first place, as some of the proposed laws and even passed laws allow, you have to decline anything that has the tiniest chance of being illegal... or you do no moderation at all and allow all the pirated junk to be posted because it's more reasonable to deal with the results of covering your eyes than to deal with the results of missing something.

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        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 2:18am

          Re: Re: Re: Author Joanne Harris...

          "Separately, I do agree that there needs to be more accountability for publishing copyright-infringing material. But, zero-tolerance policies mean publishers have zero room for error; and as a quick scan of TechDirt can tell you, neither humans nor computers can come anywhere near zero error when it comes to judging whether something is copyright-infringing."

          And the problem inherent is that the issue is, in a word, binary. Any ambiguity will be moved by lobbyists and copyright trolling lawyers to the extreme end of what the law allows for - or will have existing laws reinterpreted or redrafted to become something which supports that mess you portray. That leaves us with only two options. Copyright enforcement which will not work, at any level, save by user leniency...and copyright which WILL work, at the customary cost of extremist protectionism.

          Copyright can not be enforced in any paradigm where control is less than TOTAL. And there we find, today, that because copyright fully legitimate publishing is penalized by the chilling effect of platforms fearful of multi-million dollar lawsuits.

          As anyone interested in the technology and methods can tell you, right now and for as long as electronic communication exists at all, copyright will only be respected as far as the common citizenry can't be arsed to circumvent it. And the paradigm stays that way until people are no longer allowed to own computers, program them, and go online.

          I, for one, am not willing to allow for the meaningful protection of a minority industry if in order to achieve that protection we have to abolish numerous basic human rights, civil protections, and most of the world-changing advances we've made in the last thirty years. I don't think many would.

          But those who cling to copyright for a living are sadly often unaware that trying to bring back the good times of old calls for far more harm than merely telling a bunch of geeks to "nerd harder".

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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 11:49am

    Subject: Reading Glasses that aren't rose colored

    Isn't it too bad that there isn't a library free zone someplace where an author might be able to judge differences in sales? I suspect that sales of a particular book might be higher in a library zone, than in a no-library zone (assuming all other factors ie. ecomonics, education, etc., are similar).

    But I keep coming back to Paulo Coelho and the benefits he captured by giving his book away on (OMG) bittorrent. Check this search for other related stories.

    Seemingly, the Authors Guild can't read, or they might have a different attitude. Their attitude seems to be absolute control. For that I recommend their members only sell their books from the garages attached to their houses, or go bookstore to bookstore with cases of books and see how many they can unload at each store. In that process, they can ignore all libraries, unless someone donates a copy of their book to one (which could mean they either didn't like it, or don't intend to read it again, or have no enemies they would wish that book upon). That should propagate the world wide community to talk about their works in a big way.

    Is there a list somewhere of authors who are so profit driven that they contribute to this organization, so that we can avoid them? I used to like Scott Turow's writing, but I won't be reading anything of his anymore, even if borrowed from the library for free.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 12:33pm

      Re: Subject: Reading Glasses that aren't rose colored

      Digital lending has a negligible impact on sales. Those who go to libraries generally don't buy, and those who buy generally don't go to libraries.

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 1:10pm

        Re: Re: Subject: Reading Glasses that aren't rose colored

        I do both. One for discovery, the other for retention. I am fairly certain that others do the same. I don't always finish reading what I get from the library, but I often re-read those that I buy, usually years later.

        I am also fairly certain that the Authors Guild just hates it when I re-read something I bought only once. Think how much they would hate it if I re-read something from the library.

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

      • icon
        Killercool (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 1:49pm

        Re: Re: Subject: Reading Glasses that aren't rose colored

        I question your data. Those who go to the library are readers and readers buy WAY MORE BOOKS than people who don't go to the library.

        That's why I have used my library card so much that my library gave me a VIP card that waives all fines as long as the book is returned undamaged. It's also why I have no less than (10) 7'h x 1'd x 3'w bookcases stuffed full of books to the point of shelves being 2 books deep, with more books piled on top of those. All told, my library, only about 30% of which were purchased second hand, has probably cost more than $15 grand. In addition to reading, I must admit I am also a bibliophile.

        Anecdotal evidence, I know. But, to a lesser extent, the same holds true of most everyone I know. Those who patronize the library have at least one bookcase. Those who don't, also don't have bookcases. Exceptions exist, of course, but are vanishingly few. Readers like to read, and that means they like books.

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

        • icon
          BernardoVerda (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 3:00pm

          Re: Re: Re: Subject: Reading Glasses that aren't rose colored

          Anecdotal evidence, I know. But, to a lesser extent, the same holds true of most everyone I know. Those who patronize the library have at least one bookcase. Those who don't, also don't have bookcases. Exceptions exist, of course, but are vanishingly few. Readers like to read, and that means they like books.

          You know -- I suspect that this could make the core of an excellent PR campaign, for libraries to defend themselves against the ongoing attacks from the likes of publishers and the Authors Guild.

          It could be done as a formal study, or a twitter participation campaign, etc. Libraries might poll their patrons, and compare (preferably in some dramatic visual form suitable for media exposure) the total linear shelf footage of the library to the combined shelf footage of their patrons at home...

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

      • identicon
        Qwertygiy, 31 Jan 2019 @ 6:58pm

        Re: Re: Subject: Reading Glasses that aren't rose colored

        Not only do I disagree through my own significant pile of anecdotal evidence, I disagree through data accumulated through study and survey.

        https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publishing-and-marketing/article/ 49316-survey-says-library-users-are-your-best-customers.html

        "Our data show that over 50% of all library users report purchasing books by an author they were introduced to in the library,” Miller noted. “This debunks the myth that when a library buys a book the publisher loses future sales. Instead, it confirms that the public library does not only incubate and support literacy, as is well understood in our culture, but it is an active partner with the publishing industry in building the book market, not to mention the burgeoning e-book market.”

        http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/06/30/7-surprises-about-libraries-in-our-surve ys/

        "One of the big concerns in the publishing industry about selling e-books to libraries is that allowing free access to e-books through libraries might eat into book sales. In fact, Pew Research data show that those who use libraries are more likely than others to be book buyers and actually prefer to buy books, rather than borrow them. Among the 78% of Americans 16 years and older who had read a book in the previous year, according to a survey we did in 2011, a majority of print readers (54%) and readers of e-books (61%) said they prefer to purchase their own copies of these books rather than borrow them from somewhere else."

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 2:57am

        Re: Re: Subject: Reading Glasses that aren't rose colored

        "Those who go to libraries generally don't buy, and those who buy generally don't go to libraries."

        Bullshit.

        It's been widely studied, ever since the inception of the first library, just who buys books.

        And the answer has always remained the same - voracious readers who visit libraries often are the ones buying the majority of books. People who used libraries as children buy more books once they're adults.

        "Digital lending has a negligible impact on sales."

        Not really. Those who read, no matter the form, are far more likely to purchase more books. Even more so for us bibliophiles who view electronic reading as far less conducive to a good book than the feeling of a hardcopy.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 11:59am

    Digital lending

    How does this digital lending process work, exactly? I expect the copyright holder's main concern would be that once a person has checked out a digital title they will just make a copy to keep for themselves.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 12:32pm

      Re: Digital lending

      They could take the book from the library and snap photos with their cellphones. The only labor required to pirate is to type a few hundred pages. A professional can do about fifteen pages an hour. If they want to scan it OCR it can be done in a few minutes tops. A searchable digital scan that reads the text directly takes longer.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 2:16pm

      Re: Digital lending

      DRM prevents simple coping, often provided by Adobe systems.

      The number of copies is contractual and has little to do with physical books. The lending software tracks the number of books lent at any one time. The Publisher possibly bills the library for the service of handling the lending as per contract.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2019 @ 4:53am

        Re: Re: Digital lending

        Except this is a non interactive media, specifically text. The split second it appears in a format the human brain can recognize, it's game over for the DRM.

        Worse as this is capable of being captured via a screen grabber, or an HDMI splitter, the captured data is in the perfect format for even a cheap OCR program to parse and regenerate the text with. As the captured data is in perfect alignment and lighting so no real preprocessing has to be done on the dumped video frames prior to feeding them to the OCR engine.

        If anything that's the biggest fears of the Guild here, the creation of a legal distribution system that can enable perfect copying of the "loaned" books.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2019 @ 5:59am

          Re: Re: Re: Digital lending

          And the tighter they grasp control over copies, the fewer books they will sell, Not being pirated and not selling many books is worse for an authors income, than having some piracy and many more sales.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 12:31pm

    This is just another example of why "books" are often disguised marketing copy for seminars (which have information that would be published in the books if the authors could get paid rather than be pirated) that are overpriced and run by scammers who make a fortune from relatively few "whales" while the mass audience thinks it's getting valuable information in a book but it's really just an ad

    This "new business model" has made some internet marketers as much as $20 million a year, for effectively rehashing and aggregating information that was culled for years by some e-book author who winds up making so little they don't bother publishing anymore. The people who rely on the information in this marketing copy wind up betrayed and even conned, but no one cares as the internet marketers laugh all the way to the bank. They even brag about it on their own forum communities.

    Techdirt wouldn't have that problem because its content is more timely and perishable. It doesn't take years to develop (like say a self-help book), and the information grows stale in days, while the books could retain value for decades if they weren't chewed up and spit out by internet marketing.

    Digital library copies are just a symptom of this, and another reason the money is now being made by viral videos (a book can be put in video form or the information adapted without the need for actual books), patronage, and personalities. What suffers is the quality of the content but people seem to think all content is created equal.

    Say I have a method for saving gasoline that could save the average reader hundreds of dollars a year (by putting a sail on top of your car, for example). No one had ever thought of it (they did but this is just an example). The second I publish it, others copy it, and the idea is worthless. Say I have a method for doubling your money every four years through stock options. Instead of publishing the method for $30 a copy and making a million off 33,333.33 sales, I write a generalized book that dances around the actual method, then tell the reader that for "only" $50,000 they can attend my seminar.

    $50,000 is not overpriced because if I charge less than that, my customers will become my competitors and resell the information to those who invest millions or billions. This has already happened many times btw.

    Some of the problem here is piracy, but the much larger issue is distribution and the connectivity of the internet, where the content of valuable books winds up discussed to death, even stories wind up told in full in bits and pieces on message boards. I once got an A on a report on 1984 and had never even read the book, just regurgitated all the commentary I had seen over the years. What's the point of reading it if I already know the plot and the ending?

    There's no good answer to this. I say let the libraries do what they want and try to put some type of control over digital lending, but don't obsess over it. Make it slightly inconvenient with format restrictions so that people can benefit from purchasing it. We kind of do the same thing with community health centers, which are free to anyone in a city, but which have waits that are so long that only the unemployed or broke can justify spending the time in line.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 12:54pm

      Re:

      This is just another example of why "books" are often disguised marketing copy for seminars (which have information that would be published in the books if the authors could get paid rather than be pirated) that are overpriced and run by scammers who make a fortune from relatively few "whales" while the mass audience thinks it's getting valuable information in a book but it's really just an ad

      I assume you are simply painting with a wide brush when you say "books" and don't actually mean to include the extremely large body of works that are fiction?

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

    • identicon
      Rocky, 31 Jan 2019 @ 1:10pm

      Re:

      This is just another example of why "books" are often disguised marketing copy for seminars (which have information that would be published in the books if the authors could get paid rather than be pirated) that are overpriced and run by scammers who make a fortune from relatively few "whales" while the mass audience thinks it's getting valuable information in a book but it's really just an ad.

      This "new business model" has made some internet marketers as much as $20 million a year, for effectively rehashing and aggregating information that was culled for years by some e-book author who winds up making so little they don't bother publishing anymore. The people who rely on the information in this marketing copy wind up betrayed and even conned, but no one cares as the internet marketers laugh all the way to the bank. They even brag about it on their own forum communities.

      Most books sold are actually belongs fiction category and the #1 genre in sales is Romance and Erotica and the #1 genre sought after from publishers and agents are Young Adult. Harry Potter alone for example generated at least a whopping $25 billion in revenue.

      Books written for the express purpose of luring people to expensive seminars are not even a bump in the road in comparison. So saying that "books" are often disguised marketing copy for seminars is like saying that water is salty because of the Dead Sea. I guess that's a truism if you happen to live there.

      Writing about a subject matter which contains...let's say "common wisdom" - means you have to deal with people using that "wisdom" to earn money. It's exactly the same as someone going to school to be a teacher, gaining "wisdom" from books and their teachers - do you then begrudge them to earn money as a teacher because the books they read in school is copyrighted?

      If someone straight up copies your book and then sells it - it most likely is a criminal offense. Someone using your book to produce teaching material and selling it to people at a premium not so much.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 1:35pm

      Re:

      Say I have a method for doubling your money every four years through stock options.

      If you had such a method that worked, you would be using it to make money, and not selling books to make money. Selling books and seminars is an almost guaranteed sign that that the book/seminar are the real means of making money, and therefore you are engaged in a scam.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 6:00pm

      Re:

      Again with the self-help book obsession.

      You're not fooling anyone, John.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 2:08am

      Re:

      "This is just another example of why "books" are often disguised marketing copy for seminars"

      What the hell kind of books are you reading? The most recent book I've finished is Clive Barker's The Scarlet Gospels. I'd love you to parlay your nonsense to fit that.

      "What's the point of reading it if I already know the plot and the ending?"

      I'd be willing to bet that there's a hell of a lot in that book that you missed, don't really understand or have misinterpreted. The "A" only means you had an equally lazy teacher, not that you were actually correct.

      But, it does explain your devotion to nonsense, avoidance of primary sources and tendency to make false assumptions, as you apparently learned the wrong lesson from that experience.

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

  • identicon
    TDR, 31 Jan 2019 @ 1:32pm

    This doesn't even get into the ridiculousness of the very idea of renting digital files. Digital files are not physical objects and should not be treated as such. They can be replicated infinitely at virtually no cost and with no degradation. It's like somebody trying to charge money for everything made by a Star Trek replicator and rent out what is really a basically infinite resource.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 2:21pm

    I wonder if say, Amazon, sells a digital book to a library could they take it back like they do on my Kindal?

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 6:13pm

    Typical...

    Author's Guild: If it weren't for the dozens of people using the library, we'd have MILLIONS of extra sales! Shut them down!

    🤦

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 6:17pm

    The Internet Archive is on shaky ground here legally. "But it's on the Internet!" has gotten many a person or organisation on the losing side. Just look at patents.

    Could also be a stunt to get the IA to stop without actually taking it to court?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 7:05pm

      Re:

      I don't see any connection between your comment and the legal questions at play. They're not talking about lending out anything they found "on the internet."

      The Internet Archive is only being used as the intermediary between distant libraries, allowing them with a method to securely and efficiently access each others' digital catalogues in the same way as many libraries already loan physical books between themselves.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2019 @ 8:34pm

      Re:

      Could be you talking out of your ass.

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

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 31 Jan 2019 @ 11:07pm

    New developments in publishing, 2020

    • Printed books are now covered by a shrinkwrap EULA that prohibits lending.

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 31 Jan 2019 @ 11:35pm

    Digital expiration dates.

    On the subject of digital copies only being rented for a short time: Our library's physical materials seem to last for roughly 15 checkouts before they're worn enough that they need to be replaced. (for juvenile materials at least) Limiting a library's license time for how long they can provide digital copies sounds like it could be as an artificial way of keeping the same nuisance limitations of the physical.

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

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 12:00am

    They want to keep the cake and eat it

    When an author signs her rights over to the publisher, they don't have right any longer, they are no longer in equation and have no right to sit at the table.

    The argument that they might regain the copyright under some circumstances is irrelevant: a change in copyright ownership has no effect on books sold earlier or rights granted by the previous owner.

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

  • identicon
    carlb, 1 Feb 2019 @ 12:15am

    publishers are gouging libraries on e-book pricing

    E-books are a great scam perpetrated by publishers; their cost is getting annoyingly close to printed books, while the marginal cost to the publisher to deliver one more copy of a popular title is just about nada. They're also a nightmare of DRM and arbitrary restrictions, such as locking content to one specific device.

    There's a "doctrine of first sale" which was long-established - someone who buys a tangible book or media can then lend that item, or rent it, or sell it, or donate it, or use it to prop up a wobbly table leg - or whatever. They paid for it, that copy is theirs. The online download model is completely undermining this principle, in what is basically theft from the consumer... who pays to buy the item but ends up with restrictions akin to renting it.

    The Canadian Urban Libraries Council (www.culc.ca) has raised serious concerns about the availability and cost of e-books to public libraries. Many popular titles aren't available as library e-books at all; those that are available are often priced a few times higher than the printed book or restricted to limit the number of times they may be read. Some, instead of being sold, are merely being rented to libraries at some excessive price; hit an arbitrary limit in time or usage and the book magically vanishes.

    Perhaps www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/canadian-public-libraries-call-for-more-access-and-better-pr ices-for-e-books-1.4947637 or www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/12/17/ebooks-audiobooks-libraries_a_23620237/ would make the picture clearer.

    The issue is not merely academic; without the doctrine of first sale, there would be no lending libraries, no used bookstores, no video rentals, maybe even no independent bookstores. That's directly contrary to the public interest. Perhaps governments need to require publishers respect these principles as a condition of issuing copyright, much like governments already require auto makers to keep parts available after a motorcar is discontinued.

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

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 1 Feb 2019 @ 6:54am

    Position

    This is the same group that says the used bookstores are theft, right?

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


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