Publishers And Authors Misguided Freakout Over Internet Archive's Decision To Enable More Digital Book Checkouts During A Pandemic

from the get-over-it dept

It's been said many times over that if libraries did not currently exist, there's no way that publishers would allow them to come into existence today. Libraries are, in fact, a lovely and important artifact of a pre-copyright time when we actually valued knowledge sharing, rather than locking up knowledge behind a paywall. Last week, the Internet Archive announced what it's calling a National Emergency Library -- a very useful and sensible offering, as we'll explain below. However, publishers and their various organizations freaked out (leading some authors to freak out as well). The freak out is not intellectually honest or consistent, but we'll get there.

As you may or may not know, for a while now, the Internet Archive and many other libraries have been using a system called Controlled Digital Lending, which was put together to enable digital checkouts of books for which there may not be any ebooks available. Basically, the Archive helped a bunch of libraries scan a ton of books, and the libraries lend them out just as if they were lending out regular books. They keep the physical copy on the shelf and will not lend out more copies of the digital book than the physical copies they hold -- basically doing exactly what a library does. There are strong arguments for why this is clearly legal. Scanning a book you own is legal. Lending out books is legal.

Of course, when CDL was first announced, publishers (mainly) and The Authors Guild (which, contrary to its name, tends to be a front group for publishers, rather than authors) completely lost their shit and whined about how this was piracy. Remember, the Authors Guild has already tried suing libraries for scanning books and failed miserably. Challenging this effort at lending scans of books would also likely fail.

One important thing to note: the scans of books that are part of the CDL effort are not great. They are images of actual book pages, and not anything like ebooks that are designed to be read nicely on a Kindle or whatnot. No one would choose a CDL book over a regular ebook if given the choice, because the experience is not nearly as good.

The big news with the National Emergency Library is basically the removal of waitlists for checking out these books. They still have DRM and you still only can access the books for two weeks, but unlike with CDL where there was a 1 to 1 ratio of which books the Internet Archive had a physical copy of and those which it would lend out, the NEL removed that limitation and made it so that more people could access those books at once. The reasoning here is sound: in the midst of this pandemic, most physical libraries are closed, so most people literally cannot get physical books. They are sitting there unlendable. To help deal with that, the Internet Archive removed the waitlists on the books it had scanned. As the Archive explained, it focused heavily on making sure books with no ebook-availability (and educational books) were available:

The Internet Archive has focused our collecting on books published between the 1920s and early 2000s, the vast majority of which don’t have a commercially available ebook. Our collection priorities have focused on the broad range of library books to support education and scholarship and have not focused on the latest best sellers that would be featured in a bookstore.

Further, there are approximately 650 million books in public libraries that are locked away and inaccessible during closures related to COVID-19. Many of these are print books that don’t have an ebook equivalent except for the version we’ve scanned. For those books, the only way for a patron to access them while their library is closed is through our scanned copy.

But, of course, almost immediately after this was announced the very same groups that already insisted that CDL was "piracy" jumped on this to scream from the heavens about "piracy" in making these books available to people stuck at home. The Authors Guild flipped out:

IA has no rights whatsoever to these books, much less to give them away indiscriminately without consent of the publisher or author. We are shocked that the Internet Archive would use the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse to push copyright law further out to the edges, and in doing so, harm authors, many of whom are already struggling.

This is false. The Internet Archive has every right to those books -- all of which were purchased or donated. And the Authors Guild already failed in its lawsuit saying that the books couldn't be scanned, so it's just making stuff up now to get even angrier than it was before. There is no more "harm" to authors than there is during the days when libraries are open and people could (as per normal) borrow these books. Again, the real thing the Authors Guild hates here is libraries.

The Association of American Publishers (run by fired former Copyright Office boss Maria Pallante) also freaked out:

“It is the height of hypocrisy that the Internet Archive is choosing this moment – when lives, livelihoods and the economy are all in jeopardy – to make a cynical play to undermine copyright, and all the scientific, creative, and economic opportunity that it supports.”

No, it's the height of hypocrisy for publishers to attack a basic thing that libraries have done for centuries: lending out books that they own for limited periods of time to support the spread of knowledge -- especially given how stingy publishers themselves have been in embracing ebooks and easier access to knowledge.

The National Writers Union also insisted that rather than doing this, we should be spending taxpayer funds on repurchasing all these books that have already been purchased? That's the best I can figure out from this argument.

The argument is that students need e-books while they are staying home. But that’s an argument for spending public funds to purchase or license those resources for public use — not putting the burden of providing educational materials for free on writers, illustrators, and photographers. Authors also need to eat and pay rent during this crisis.

Again, that argument makes no sense. Because that same argument applies to any library copy of a book.

For what it's worth, the Internet Archive lets any author who is freaked out about this digital library lending out their books to opt-out of the system. And while I'm sure some authors will argue that opting out shouldn't be on them, that's again silly. The system works the way libraries work. Should authors also have to agree before a library can lend their book?

This is all a bunch of nonsense. As we've highlighted a few times in recent weeks, the pandemic has really highlighted just how insane copyright has become and how unmoored it is from its original intent of helping to further the spread of knowledge. Instead, it's used as a giant paywall, to lock up that spread. I know that people have bought into the ever growing idea of permission culture, but take a step back and think about how totally messed up it is that people might possibly have access to the world's knowledge, while being stuck in their homes during a pandemic... and to have people start yelling "but you don't have permission to do that." From an outsider's perspective, not brought up in the myth of permission-culture, the whole concept would sound ridiculous.

Filed Under: books, controlled digital lending, copyright, culture, digital lending, ebooks, libraries, national emergency library, pandemic, scanning, sharing knowledge
Companies: association of american publishers, authors guild, internet archive


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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 11:33am

    "Libraries are, in fact, a lovely and important artifact of a pre-copyright time when we actually valued knowledge sharing, rather than locking up knowledge behind a paywall"

    Just a personal note - libraries are indeed the very reason I buy books today. If libraries didn't exist, the industry would be much poorer. Although, I admit that a great many of the books I bought in my life were used, for which the authors got nothing directly, yet that was legal and no publisher or author was losing their mind over that. Strange how we seemed to have all this sorted out 30 years ago before the internet made people think they were entitled to a toll payment on every use, isn't it?

    "The argument is that students need e-books while they are staying home"

    Yes. Are you saying that students don't need books, or that you need to send physical copies for them to be valid requirements?

    "Authors also need to eat and pay rent during this crisis."

    Yes, and most of them have been paid an advance already, if my understanding of the publishing industry is correct. The issue is how the publisher counts contributions toward the advance, not how authors spend the money they were already paid.

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    • icon
      Thad (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 11:52am

      Re:

      Everybody needs to eat and pay rent during this crisis. And also the rest of the time.

      Almost as if there were bigger issues with our economic system and social safety net than people borrowing stuff from libraries.

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      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 11:59am

        Re: Re:

        Well, yes, it's clearly an emotional ploy that's not taking into account the wider picture. Typical for these kind of arguments, along the lines of the stereotypical "starving musician", who is often starving because they signed to a label for a 4 album deal who then refuse to release their 2nd one because it's too uncommerical.

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      • icon
        Samuel Abram (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 12:13pm

        Re: Re:

        I wish these people freaking out could be more like John Scalzi and his love of libraries.

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      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 3:28am

        Re: Re:

        "Almost as if there were bigger issues with our economic system and social safety net than people borrowing stuff from libraries."

        Well, there's a reason i usually refer to the IP maximalists as the copyright "cult". They're the sort of people who, when confronted with a touching story about a dying man being lent a book to read on his deathbed would have the first response of filing a lawsuit against the estate. Or as the OP has it, scream in outrage over the library lending the man that book.

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    • identicon
      Nate, 31 Mar 2020 @ 1:10pm

      Re:

      "most of them have been paid an advance already, if my understanding of the publishing industry is correct"

      your understanding is incorrect

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  • identicon
    Heather M, 31 Mar 2020 @ 11:41am

    Libraries and copyright issues.

    As a librarian I for one welcome the Archive. In fact I was ecstatic. Our library had to close and it really bugs all of the librarians that we can't provide services people need safely. One idea we had was to continue our storytimes on line. We can't the biggest publishers will only let people do a live event and then we are to delete any recording we've made. How is this helpful how is this even reasonable? Do they think that by restricting us people are going to rush out and buy their books. Newsflash That isn't going to happen. It didn't happen before the new plague and it is sure not happening now. But when people ask why we can't and we tell them why I can guarantee the names of the publishers who did this are going to linger in memory far longer than the memory of a book being read on line.

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  • identicon
    cpt kangarooski, 31 Mar 2020 @ 11:48am

    While I have little sympathy for the publishers or authors here -- their response to ebooks has been abysmal -- what's happening is infringing. Ebooks can't be lent under first sale because that only applies to physical copies. Instead new copies must be made with every download and that infringes. The Archive might be ok having made scans for certain uses and having electronically 'lent' copyrighted works pursuant to a license, but this is pretty clearly illegal. I'm concerned with what will happen as a result.

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    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 11:56am

      Re:

      I'm sure there will be court action to see who is legally right once this has all passed. However, I'd like to see the response from the publishers about the question of how since they apparently did this because students would not have been able to access the books legally during this lockdown in another way, why their legal right to profit should trump the very purpose of the books they are selling.

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      • identicon
        RRM, 31 Mar 2020 @ 3:21pm

        Re: Re:

        This argument would hold more water if most public libraries didn't have extensive ebook collections that students can already access for free. My library, which is not particularly large but also isn't tiny, offers access to roughly 165,000 ebooks. Unlike the Internet Archive, we pay quite a lot for these digital copies to ensure that authors get paid.

        So in other words, students CAN access the vast majority (but not all) of books they'd need from home even without stealing from authors and publishers.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2020 @ 9:07pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Missed this part of the article, I take it?

          As the Archive explained, it focused heavily on making sure books with no ebook-availability (and educational books) were available:

          The Internet Archive has focused our collecting on books published between the 1920s and early 2000s, the vast majority of which don’t have a commercially available ebook. Our collection priorities have focused on the broad range of library books to support education and scholarship and have not focused on the latest best sellers that would be featured in a bookstore.

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          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 3:39am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "Missed this part of the article, I take it?"

            He missed nothing. It's just Baghdad Bob, as usual trying to salvage copyright overreach & abuse by claiming there's a moral reason for the publishers hysterics and backing that claim up with disingenious, misleading, or utterly false garbage he presents as "fact".

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        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 9:57pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "My library, which is not particularly large but also isn't tiny, offers access to roughly 165,000 ebooks."

          Cool. What if the book you need is one of the hundreds of millions you don't have in eBook form? You know, the ones that the archive is expressly supplying?

          "even without stealing from authors and publishers"

          Nobody's stealing from them.

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        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 3:36am

          Re: Re: Re:

          " My library, which is not particularly large but also isn't tiny, offers access to roughly 165,000 ebooks. Unlike the Internet Archive, we pay quite a lot for these digital copies to ensure that authors get paid."

          Interestingly what is being paid by the library for each license to lend out a digital copy is usually multiple times what is paid for the privilege of lending out a physical copy.

          In sweden the example is 20 times the cost.

          So yes, we pay MORE for digital copies, whether we borrow or buy books, than we did when there was actual material cost associated with the manufacture of said copies.

          "...even without stealing from authors and publishers."

          You know how we can tell you're a copyright maximalist shilling on behalf of the copyright cult, bro?
          I'll give you a hint - using the word "steal" when neither the language, the dictionary-definition nor the supreme courts agree can apply.

          But nice try, Baghdad Bob.

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    • icon
      TaboToka (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 12:06pm

      Re: Oh Rly?

      Ebooks can't be lent under first sale because that only applies to physical copies.

      You might want to contact whatever law school you got your degree from and demand a full refund for fraud.

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      • icon
        Thad (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 12:19pm

        Re: Re: Oh Rly?

        Huh?

        There's a pretty broad body of court rulings upholding EULAs. It's fucked up, but the publishing industries have been pretty successful in establishing that yes, first sale doctrine only applies to physical goods; digital distribution is covered by license agreements, not the same ownership laws that apply to physical goods.

        Can you cite any legal rulings to the contrary?

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      • identicon
        cpt kangarooski, 31 Mar 2020 @ 2:58pm

        Re: Re: Oh Rly?

        Well, 17 USC 109(a) (the first sale statute) says that "the owner of a particular copy ... lawfully made under this title, or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy."

        Copies are defined in 17 USC 101 as "material objects ... in which a work is fixed by any method now known or later developed, and from which the work can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device."

        So I'm fairly confident that an e-book is not itself a 'copy' for the purposes of copyright law that can be lent under first sale. It may be embedded in a material object like a flash drive, which is a copy, but then you have to physically hand off the flash drive. And you can't copy (in the vernacular sense) the file onto a computer, because that would be reproducing the work, which is the core exclusive right of copyright under 17 USC 106(1). An infringement for sure.

        Obviously, ebooks can be lent by means of a license granted by the copyright holder, but that's not under first sale.

        Now you might be thinking of 17 USC 108, which carves some exceptions out of copyright for libraries, but (a) that's not first sale, and (b) isn't all that applicable here as there are a lot of limitations. The Archive has opened the floodgates and gone way beyond what's allowable under 108.

        But I'm happy to be proven wrong, so please let me know what the mistake I'm making is. Cites to statutes and case law would be appreciated.

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      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 3:45am

        Re: Re: Oh Rly?

        "You might want to contact whatever law school you got your degree from and demand a full refund for fraud."

        No, he's unfortunately likely to be correct - strictly speaking.

        First sale doctrine, introduced as a form of consumer protection, has been twisted into a pretzel by the rent-seeking copyright maximalists who went after the exact wording of First Sale to make the case that a consumer can't really own a digital copy and therefore the publisher can screw the consumer out of their property rights.

        The real issue with his statement is that he presents it as if this blatant abuse of the law is a desirable state of affairs.

        You'd think americans, above all, obsessed with the concept of "property" would be the first to scream in outrage...but they drank that glass of kool-aid with relish.

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        • identicon
          cpt kangarooski, 1 Apr 2020 @ 9:22am

          Re: Re: Re: Oh Rly?

          The real issue with his statement is that he presents it as if this blatant abuse of the law is a desirable state of affairs.

          First, it's hardly an abuse of the law; it's a straightforward reading of the statute. You might dislike the definitions at 17 USC 101, but they are a part of the statute, and the terms used in the statute have be used in the manner defined.

          Second, I'm not presenting this as being a desirable state of affairs. I'd like nothing more than to rewrite US copyright law to better serve the public, and I don't have a problem with the idea of reselling electronic files simply because it necessarily involves reproduction.

          That said, I am skeptical that it could ever be done in a fashion that wasn't simply reproduction (i.e. where the seller keeps a copy) while deterring DRM. Frankly, I think that we'd be worse off with resale and DRM than without resale or DRM, so it's not something I'd actually support. OTOH I also support not having copyright pertain to copying and distribution amongst natural persons where there is absolutely not even a scintilla of compensation, payment, payment in kind, etc., which is a much more radical position, so I wouldn't sweat it.

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          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Apr 2020 @ 12:57am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh Rly?

            "First, it's hardly an abuse of the law; it's a straightforward reading of the statute. You might dislike the definitions at 17 USC 101, but they are a part of the statute, and the terms used in the statute have be used in the manner defined."

            Mea Maxima Culpa. Strictly speaking you are correct. It's more casual ineptitude by legislature that First Sale hasn't had its wording updated to accurately reflect the principle it's supposed to uphold.

            "Second, I'm not presenting this as being a desirable state of affairs."

            Again Mea maxima Culpa. My only defense here is "still being in a pissy mood over Baghdad Bob running his copyright über alles theme song in these times".

            "That said, I am skeptical that it could ever be done in a fashion that wasn't simply reproduction (i.e. where the seller keeps a copy) while deterring DRM."

            It can't. Much like you I don't see the problem with noncommercial copying.
            I personally believe the best way out would be to remove copyright as is completely and replace it with a strict commercial regulation.

            I.e. the copyright holder will be the only one who gets to make copies for profit and claim they are the bona fide representative of the original creator. Anyone else involved in aiding distribution of copies - whether directly, indirectly, or deliberately abetting with no dual-use conflicts involved - is subject to the same audit profile as any other NPO.

            This would simplify matters enormously. The main victims would be the long redundant middleman industry - and honestly, their time passed when the first microchip was invented.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2020 @ 5:13pm

      Re:

      Those "copies" are constantly made anyway, as magnetic media frags things around, backs up, and stuff moves around servers...

      In fact, how can the lender and borrower voth have a copy anyway, and a third copy in transit on the wire? What about the bits stored in swap and RAM while reading?

      This copy argument has always been rather ridiculous, although it tends to have legal legs many times (also ridiculous).

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2020 @ 12:15pm

    Authors also need to eat and pay rent during this crisis.

    So do the families locked down at home.

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    • icon
      Federico (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 12:44pm

      Re: Families locked down

      Yes, but said families and students don't need to read books, the Authors Guild incredibly claimed. If you don't like the books you've already got from the generous publishers, just do something else, like playing videogames or something. Don't ever think of borrowing a book they didn't mean to provide you when you were locked at home.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2020 @ 3:10pm

        Re: Re: Families locked down

        Don't ever think of borrowing a book they didn't mean to provide you when you were locked at home.

        You mean those books that have been out of print for 20 years (and only had one printing), are forgotten by used book stores, and were last seen in a box in your uncle's attic beside the stuffed octopus and the box of 1980's tax documents?

        Jeez, I didn't think they'd be so upset about the 1994 land survey of Maricopa County water rights, or "Flax and you: the businessman's new threads." Both very good reads when you're out of Ambien.

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  • identicon
    Nate, 31 Mar 2020 @ 1:17pm

    "Of course, when CDL was first announced, publishers (mainly) and The Authors Guild (which, contrary to its name, tends to be a front group for publishers, rather than authors) completely lost their shit and whined about how this was piracy."

    CDL wasn't formulated until 2018, yes?

    Well, The Open Library has been in operation since 2011. So for many years, it was piracy.

    Also, CDL is a legal opinion, not a law or court ruling, yes? That means under copyright law, The Open Library was committing piracy, and until it gets a ruling in its favor, it still is committing piracy.

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 3:46pm

      Re:

      The copyright walled garden mindset: it must be infringing until a court says otherwise. I know that's what a former Copyright Office boss believes, but it's wrong.

      Under that logic: no radio, no cable TV, no TiVo, no MP3 players, no VCR -- all of which came about and were incorrectly called pirate offerings.

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    identicon
    Nate, 31 Mar 2020 @ 1:20pm

    Mike, one quick question: If you think this program is so great, why don't you put your money up and fund it?

    Why are you okay with Brewster Kahle forcing authors to give up their income?

    And here I thought people should be paid for their labor.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2020 @ 3:44pm

      Re:

      And here I thought people should be paid for their labor.

      Tell that to the publishers, and all the Hollywood accounting they use to keep money in their hands, rather that passing it on to the authors.

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 3:51pm

      Re:

      Mike, one quick question: If you think this program is so great, why don't you put your money up and fund it?

      What money do you think I have?

      Why are you okay with Brewster Kahle forcing authors to give up their income?

      Do libraries force authors to "give up their incomes"? What here forces an author to give up an income. You kept saying this on Twitter and when I asked you you seemed to move here instead. Nothing here is giving up an author's income. As someone who regularly purchases books after first reading library lending copies, I don't see how your argument makes any sense at all.

      And here I thought people should be paid for their labor.

      Nonsequitor. Especially regarding this. Since you're so interested in what a court has to say, here's what the Supreme Court has to say about that particular line of reasoning:

      It may seem unfair that much of the fruit of the compiler's labor may be used by others without compensation. As Justice Brennan has correctly observed, however, this is not "some unforeseen byproduct of a statutory scheme." ... It is, rather, "the essence of copyright," ... and a constitutional requirement. The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors, but "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts." .... To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2020 @ 5:04pm

      Re:

      Do you think people should pay for books instead of masks or food?

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      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 3:53am

        Re: Re:

        "Do you think people should pay for books instead of masks or food?"

        The reason I usually refer to copyright adherents as cultists is because that's what you call a group of people who believe storytelling entitles them to be guaranteed a living, and anyone who claims otherwise is a heretic.

        I think, looking at prior and present history, that the publishers and distributors have been quite clear that human life, dignity, and common sense isn't on their list of priorities.

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    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 3:49am

      Re:

      "And here I thought people should be paid for their labor."

      Ah, the old "If people can borrow books no one will ever write books again or be able to sell them".

      It wasn't true back in the 18th century and it isn't true now. But good on you for parroting that long-debunked assumption everywhere.

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  • identicon
    RRM, 31 Mar 2020 @ 3:47pm

    Books without Digital Versions? Maybe.

    I was curious about the Internet Archive's claim that they focus mostly on books that don't otherwise have digital editions. While there are still copyright concerns about that, making digital edition of physical-only books does do good things for accessibility, is supported by legal precedent, and would go a long way to bolster their argument that they're making books available that are otherwise unavailable while libraries are closed down.

    I don't have time to investigate all 1.4 million books they offer, and I do think they're right in saying that a good number of their books published between, say, 1920 and 1980 or 1990 do abide by that principle. But it's definitely not true of their most recent books despite what they say about explicitly not focusing on the latest bestsellers.

    A full 78% of the books (85 of 109) they offer that were published in 2017, 2018, or 2019 have digital editions that could have been purchased legally either by the customers or the libraries. So by making these books available for anyone to "check out" with no waitlist, they are possibly harming the salability of the licensed digital editions.

    That is an obvious copyright violation that does harm authors, and I don't think it's justifiable based on the principles they supposedly stand for, because public libraries could simply purchase these books legally for their digital collections. That would solve the accessibility issue without harming authors.

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    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 4:05pm

      Re: Books without Digital Versions? Maybe.

      That is an obvious copyright violation that does harm authors

      [Citation Needed].

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    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 3:56am

      Re: Books without Digital Versions? Maybe.

      "That is an obvious copyright violation that does harm authors"

      Nope. It may or may not be a copyright violation, but the preponderance of all evidence is still on the side that copyright infringement doesn't harm authors.

      Do we have to bring up the various studies showing just how much more "pirates" spend on purchasing culture as compared to others? Again?

      Not, I suspect, that you'd welcome factual reality paving a road through the narrative you keep pushing here.

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    • icon
      Federico (profile), 7 Apr 2020 @ 5:13am

      Re: Books without Digital Versions? Maybe.

      [cherry picks statistic based on 0.008 % of the data]
      could have been purchased legally either by the customers or the libraries

      "Could" is just a fantasy or made up hypothesis. There is no logical, economic or empirical model showing that it would actually happen. The law is not there to compensate people for imaginary potential future non-events.

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    • identicon
      Anon, 7 Apr 2020 @ 7:52pm

      Your stats are bad

      Er, there aren't any books published later than 2015 in the NEL.

      You can verify that here: https://archive.org/details/nationalemergencylibrary?and%5B%5D=&sin=&sort=-date

      So, your claim about there being 109 books published in the last 3 years? Is false.

      Maybe you meant something else?

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 4:22pm

    'I guess I'll spend this money on food if I really have to...'

    Makes sense. I mean obviously the first thing people were going to do when they found themselves isolated at home, potentially out of a job, is to buy a bunch of books, books that they suddenly didn't need to buy because that dastardly library made free copies available.

    Idiot publishers, perfect opportunity to snag new readers by making loaned copies more easily available during a time when more people have free time to read in, and instead they lose their gorram minds when a library does what libraries do, make books available.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 3:59am

      Re: 'I guess I'll spend this money on food if I really have to..

      "...perfect opportunity to snag new readers by making loaned copies more easily available during a time when more people have free time to read in, and instead they lose their gorram minds when a library does what libraries do, make books available."

      Well, it's been that way ever since the Guild of Stationers was created. We're still talking about the bunch of talentless middlemen so shit-scared of actual market conditions they prefer earning money through lobbied-for red flag acts rather than actually doing business.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 31 Mar 2020 @ 5:13pm

    I, for one...

    Thank those who complained about what the Internet Archive is doing. I hadn't heard of it before. Now I know it's there and will happily use it.

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 5:32pm

    In the world of everything should be owned.

    Spin, spin, spin could be taken as turn, turn, turn, which in the world of copyright should give The Byrds, or possibly Pete Seeger a reason to sue. I wonder how much they could get, it seems these organizations have them some deep, deep pockets.

    /s

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

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 5:52pm

      Re: In the world of everything should be owned.

      Well, the Byrds got that from the Bible. No, Really. Who's going to sue them? We Jews? Christians? The Bible belongs to all of us.

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

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 31 Mar 2020 @ 5:56pm

        Re: Re: In the world of everything should be owned.

        Pete Seeger wrote the song, maybe he got it from the Bible. The Byrds might have claim to some copying of their recording.

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 4:06am

        Re: Re: In the world of everything should be owned.

        "Who's going to sue them? We Jews? Christians? The Bible belongs to all of us."

        Don't give ideas to the passing wannabe copyright trolls reading this forums, Sam. They're already looking for ways to get money out of JC "stealing" loaves and fishes from the peddlers and merchants at bethsaida...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2020 @ 8:50pm

    Just defending thier incomes - nothing more.

    Dear authors and writers,

    When most people toil to build a product, it is sold and there is no additional remittance. Please tell me why should you be different again? Convince me that writing and publishing will wither with out copyright.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2020 @ 12:41am

    Mike Masnic is a stupid propagandist

    "It's been said many times over that if libraries did not currently exist, there's no way that publishers would allow them to come into existence today. Libraries are, in fact, a lovely and important artifact of a pre-copyright time when we actually valued knowledge sharing, rather than locking up knowledge behind a paywall."

    This just flat out wrong. For most of human history Libraries served to lock up knowledge behind pay/worthwalls and it only in the recent few centuries that they've become place for the spreading of knowledge to everyone. This is also about the time that copyright laws and the publishing industry started to come into being.

    The publishing industry hates libraries because they represent a symbol of a centuries old loss and want to erase them for that reason. Stop buying into this part of their propaganda Mike and start talking about the victory for knowledge people like you had won back in the day.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 2:04am

      I know all the words in those paragraphs, but your particular combination of them makes no sense.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2020 @ 6:52am

      Re: Mike Masnic is a stupid propagandist

      start talking about the victory for knowledge people like you had won back in the day

      Was that supposed to sound like you're jealous of Masnick? Because if it wasn't you fucked up...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2020 @ 7:45am

    Book Burning

    From the Ars Technica aritcle:

    "At a minimum, the Internet Archive is taking a substantial legal risk.
    The question is whether anyone will actually file a lawsuit. Authors and publishers would likely have a strong case. But lawsuits are expensive, and suing an online library distributing books in the middle of a pandemic could be a public relations nightmare."

    Although I generally oppose the concept, I suggest that should an author or publisher choose a lawsuit, then the public should respond with a mass book burning of said author/publishers books (used books, don't by new to burn). Make such a "public relations" response as public as possible (Youtube, the media, personal websites, streaming if possible). The public should show that the sociopathic levels of greed have consequences, make the nightmare come true!

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

  • icon
    Outward (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 8:21am

    Isn't everyone missing the point?

    I've been a reader of Techdirt for years. I truly believe in what Mike does here....

    That being said...isn't EVERYONE missing the point?

    This is a PANDEMIC. This is not some entity trying to take advantage. This is someone trying to HELP make this experience more bearable.

    Authors, and publishers are in the same boat we ALL are...it's not just singling them out and saying 'to bad'. You say 'don't they deserve to be paid?' How about the workers in McDonalds, or hotel ppl who now can't PAY for books while they are stuck at home let alone food.

    This is a temporary solution. Publishers and authors are entitiled to the stimulus and loans that the government is putting out just like the rest of us. You'd think they'd have a little compassion about cheap, best effort scans of books being lent out for 2 weeks to ppl stuck at home rather than being a bunch of jerks out it.

    Now don't get me wrong...I won't be using this. Not because I can't...but because I can AFFORD to pay for my own e-books and I appreciate the fact that authors need food too....but for ppl who can't pay right now....give them a friggin break!

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

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 8:41am

      Re: Isn't everyone missing the point?

      I certainly did not miss the point that we're in a Pandemic. In fact, the librarian whose comment is the first word didn't miss the point that we're in a pandemic and libraries are inaccessible. I doubt other people have missed that point either, except for people saying that the Internet Archive is somehow "stealing" from authors and publishers despite libraries being inaccessible.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Apr 2020 @ 2:14am

      Re: Isn't everyone missing the point?

      "You'd think they'd have a little compassion about cheap, best effort scans of books being lent out for 2 weeks to ppl stuck at home rather than being a bunch of jerks out it."

      Authors may or may not be jerks.

      The main issue is that the distribution industry consisting only of redundant middlemen is an industry where being an irrational dehumanized jerk is an absolute advantage. The ideal CEO for a copyright enforcement agency is Martin Shkreli.
      Copyright enforcement has, in the past, sued the poor, sued the dying, sued the elderly, sued the dead, and sued the obviously innocent.

      Bluntly put anyone trying to tell the clergy of the Cult of Copyright about humanitarian values is simply wasting his or her breath.

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

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 8:46am

    Authors Guild? Authors Guild?

    It appears they did not pay attention when the U.S. Second Circuit explained to them how copyright works:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Authors_Guild,_Inc._v._Google,_Inc.

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

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 1 Apr 2020 @ 9:42am

    "This is a difficult time when many people are struggling to pay their bills, but we still want them to fork over money they may not be able to afford to our authors."

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 9:50am

      Re:

      Close. I reckon it's more like "but we still want them to fork over money they may not be able to afford to us - and the authors may get a percentage of that as royalties after we've taken a cut, but only after their advance is recouped".

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

  • icon
    Crafty Coyote (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 10:22pm

    The Crazy Part About All of This

    If copyright infringement really is theft, then that means we need a trial to go on in the middle of a quarantine, which also requires gathering people together, getting judges, lawyers, jurors, and the plaintiff himself a risk of contracting the virus. On top of all the issues with trying to enforce copyright, it's dangerous to even hold a trial right now, so what kind of leverage do the publishers think they have? Do they think they can get an arrest warrant signed by a judge when all of society has shut down?

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

  • icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 2 Apr 2020 @ 2:17am

    "If copyright infringement really is theft, then that means we need a trial to go on in the middle of a quarantine..."

    Good thing it's not "theft" then. That part at least is known. Whether it's actionable infringement is still up in the air.

    "On top of all the issues with trying to enforce copyright, it's dangerous to even hold a trial right now, so what kind of leverage do the publishers think they have?"

    Copyright enforcers have always insisted Holy Copyright trumps any and all human values. This is not new. If anything their avarice these days is surprisingly subdued.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Apr 2020 @ 8:02am

      Re:

      And how is it not theft? The unskippable "You wouldn't steal a car" ads I saw as a high school student pounded home the message that breaking copyright was theft. It was only later that I learned about all the rights accused thieves have that I began to wonder how plaintiffs even win a single case. The confusion comes about because ideas are naturally non-exclusive, whereas cars, diamond rings, and apples are not. It seems like a tremendous waste of resources to go after pirates when you need signed arrest warrants. Judges and juries are easily swayed by "You could be in this same situation" appeals and the defendants have powerful due process rights. It's always better to have physical property- and the means to physically defend it- then basing property rights on a legal fiction.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 2 Apr 2020 @ 8:33am

        Re: Re:

        "And how is it not theft?"

        Because one of the fundamental aspects of theft is that you deprive the original owner of the product. Steal a car, the owner doesn't have a car to get him to work. Steal a DVD from a shop, the shop can no longer sell that copy. But, if you copy a digital file, you potentially lose a chance to sell an extra copy to the specific person who just copied it, but your inventory is fine.

        "The unskippable "You wouldn't steal a car" ads I saw as a high school student pounded home the message that breaking copyright was theft"

        Those things just made me realise that the pirates were getting a more valuable product, since the people pirating could get straight into the movie rather than wait 10 minutes through trailers and lectures to access the product you just bought. Nobody who pirated 100% ever saw that ad.

        Not that this stopped me buying discs, but I wouldn't be surprised if such things were a large reason why the mainstream abandoned physical media as quickly as they did.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 2 Apr 2020 @ 4:50pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So my argument would be- in teaching people that breaking copyright was like car theft, the maximalists actually gave infringers more rights in a defendant-friendly environment, which would also require law enforcement to get involved, trial by jury, and Constitutional amendments that benefit the accused. In addition, the damage caps being set to resemble actual damages caused by loss would make a criminal trial over a $10 song, $50 game, or $6 image ridiculous. Why go to all that trouble to prosecute a few freeloaders when the bounty is set to actual loss and the defendant has so many powerful rights? And why do they stupidly think that avarice is the only motivation for creating a work of art?

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

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 2 Apr 2020 @ 6:31pm

            'You want to call it theft? We'l treat it legally AS theft then'

            That would drastically cut down on their eagerness to go nuts over infringement to be sure.

            'Okay, so copyright infringement is theft? Great, punishment on accusation is right out, if you want to punish someone you're required to take them to court and present your evidence, and speaking of court let's talk about the potential fines you stand to get if you win...'

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

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Apr 2020 @ 3:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "In addition, the damage caps being set to resemble actual damages caused by loss would make a criminal trial over a $10 song, $50 game, or $6 image ridiculous."

            It's beyond troubling that your argument makes some sense in comparison with the background of the unhinged "guilty until proven innocent" paradigm copyright trolling.

            However, it's still lunacy to equate copying and theft, or place it in the domain of the penal code. Because what you'll have created is an exact analogue of medieval blasphemy law or ultraorthodox sharia - but backed by the full weight of government law enforcement.

            Better by far to simply insist that it has to be the claimant who needs to offer verifiable proof of infringement and penalize groundless claims with fines.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2020 @ 8:35am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              And of course to prove actual damages. It's one thing for a pirate to devalue an unreleased book or video game by releasing it to the public for free a week before its paid release date. But it's another thing to say that an obscure book, movie, or song that would have been forgotten if not for an infringer should be subject to ridiculous fines. And its sheer lunacy to say that a song that "sounds sorta like" another song should have to be the subject of a suit.

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

              • icon
                PaulT (profile), 3 Apr 2020 @ 9:15am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "It's one thing for a pirate to devalue an unreleased book or video game by releasing it to the public for free a week before its paid release date."

                Actually, I'd argue not. If something is pirated before its release date, then the reason for that is that it was not available to obtain legally at that time. It does necessarily translate that the person who pirated did not then legally obtain the product once it was available. In fact, many people pirate a product weeks before it comes out despite having it on preorder, because they're such big fans they can't wait. But, they often don't cancel the preorder as a result, they just use the pirate copy before they can use the legal one (or use it to bypass the DRM that stops them using the product they legally own)

                "But it's another thing to say that an obscure book, movie, or song that would have been forgotten if not for an infringer should be subject to ridiculous fine"

                Those people deserve the money more than a major blockbuster that still sells millions of copies. But, it could be that the reason it was pirated was because it was so obscure, and therefore the person who pirated either had no other choice, or needed to confirm it was a good purchase before spending the money, especially in the current climate.

                "And its sheer lunacy to say that a song that "sounds sorta like" another song should have to be the subject of a suit."

                Well, of course. You show me something that does not have roots in something that came before, and I'll show you a unique example that's not reflected in the vast majority of art ever created.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 3 Apr 2020 @ 9:01pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "Those people deserve the money more than a major blockbuster that still sells millions of copies. But, it could be that the reason it was pirated was because it was so obscure, and therefore the person who pirated either had no other choice, or needed to confirm it was a good purchase before spending the money, especially in the current climate."

                  Best way to handle it- do it for free. Remove the profit motive and say that you preserved a book/movie/image/song pro bono publico; that might affect your innocence or guilt in a trial.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2020 @ 12:36am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            in teaching people that breaking copyright was like car theft, the maximalists actually gave infringers more rights in a defendant-friendly environment

            Bullshit. If you're trying to hang someone, making the rope longer doesn't mean it makes the defendant's situation better if they're hanged all the same.

            which would also require law enforcement to get involved, trial by jury, and Constitutional amendments that benefit the accused

            When was the last time you saw any of those kick in? Your problem isn't that it's hard to convict people. Your problem is that every time a judge asks to see your proof you throw a goddamn tantrum because your standards of pinky swearing isn't enough to convince most judges.

            In addition, the damage caps being set to resemble actual damages caused by loss would make a criminal trial over a $10 song, $50 game, or $6 image ridiculous

            Literally the same thing happens when you have a trial over a $10, $50 or $6 physical item. Is a full length criminal trial for the above dumb? Probably. Are the potential penalties just as damaging? Fuck no! Why are you IP fanatics so terrified of actually punishing copyright infringement like theft? You have the gumption to call it theft but piss and moan when it comes to actually paying the same kind of penalties.

            Actually no, I think most people know why - it's because putting out a shitty movie or song, claiming losses are attributable to piracy, then suing children and grandparents who can't fight back is your fucking meal ticket, just like any other charlatan and parasite.

            Why go to all that trouble to prosecute a few freeloaders when the bounty is set to actual loss

            Actual theft isn't punished based on actual loss. Someone who steals $6 isn't going to only owe $6 in punishment, but you knew that. You're just looking for excuses to pull in several thousand bucks as payment for wasting the courts' time.

            and the defendant has so many powerful rights?

            Cry me a goddamn river. You want to ruin someone's life, put up the evidence or shut up!

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2020 @ 6:22pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I hate copyright as much as you do, but I was pointing out that applying basic criminal law to copyright cases would actually give us pirates and pirate sympathizers the world. It surprises me that plaintiffs actually do win these cases, as it would only take a modicum of self-sacrifice and generosity to tie the hands of the accuser.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Apr 2020 @ 8:04pm

    So knowing the rights of a defendant can help you out in one of these trials, as can knowing that the penalty is capped to a reasonable amount. That's a lot better than having to go through the "fear tactics" of dishonest lawyers talking about six-figure damages and charging $300/hour for information that I later found out for free when I took a crash course in criminal law.

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


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