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message 1: by Brenna (new)

Brenna Lyons (BrennaLyons) | 93 comments Mod
It’s MINE, And I’ll Do What I Want With It:
The Fallacy of e-book Lore!
By Brenna Lyons

The question comes up every so often. Why do people make such a big deal about someone reselling or giving away an e-book? It’s just a book!

Yes, and no. An e-book is, by definition, an electronic book. Aside from the formats it’s offered in, it varies little from a paper book. They come in fiction, non-fiction, educational… They are undeniably books, meant to be read on a desktop computer, laptop, handheld reader, smart phone or PDA.

But they are electronic medium. That means that, in addition to the Intellectual Property Laws such as copyright that protect them, e-books are covered by the electronic media laws and the Millennium Act (if they are DRM-protected).

The law for e-books is clear. You license the copy you buy for use on your machine. Now, the fact that I can use an HTML copy or PDF copy of a book and put it (additionally) on my own PDA is not a problem. You are allowed to make a boot copy of Windows as well. It’s licensed to you, and that is fine.

Now, think about Windows for a moment. If I buy a copy of XP and install it on my machine, I cannot take the install disks for 95 and hand them to my sister, so she gets 95 on her machine, even though 95 is no longer running on my machine. Why? It was licensed to me. Not to her. And MS knows that.

But she can come to my house and use my machine with XP on it, because who I choose to let use my machine is my choice. In the same way, I cannot give my copy of someone’s e-book to her, because I licensed it, but she can borrow my PDA and read what is on it the same way she can borrow a music CD from me for a car trip. You guessed it. The trick is in making copies.

Copies are constrained even in print books. If you take a print book and make a photocopy of the whole thing (or even a large amount of it) and distribute it, IP law steps in. If you take that book and cut the binding, use a recognition scan and offer it, for free or sale, as an e-book… Well, you are breaking both copyright laws and electronic laws.

The reader does not own the right to either reproduce or distribute copies of an e-book. With any book, e-book or print, the author initially owns those rights. He or she contracts those rights to the publisher and no one else. The publisher and author may agree, in that same contract, to allow a reseller like Fictionwise, ARe or Mobi/Kindle to reproduce and distribute for them, much as print publishers would contract to allow Barnes and Noble to distribute for them or contract with BookSurge or LSI to do POD reprints of their paper backlist.

Buying a book of any type, paper or e-book, does not give you the right to reproduce it. In the case of e-books, it does not give you the right to reproduce or distribute it. If you have not entered into a formal contract with the author or publisher of the book in question, you do not have these rights, save in cases where the author has given Creative Commons license to the work.

Okay, that may sound like a double standard. You can resell a paper book. No one has ever argued that. You cannot ever resell an e-book, unless it is a disc copy, unopened and in its original packaging. In other words, you can resell an e-book that was never opened but no other way. Well, that hardly seems fair on the surface, but let’s look at why that is. Remember copies? Copies are what it comes down to.

Now, here is where it gets sticky and some people don’t understand it. Just because I wipe the original from my machine does not make it the same thing as trading a used paper book. For one thing, unless you have a garbage overwrite, you cannot ever permanently delete something from your machine…and even then, a hacker can retrieve it in some cases. For another, the digital laws assume you have a copy. If you sent it by e-mail, there is a copy in your sent files, even if you deleted it from the hard drive. There is a temporary copy saved by your server. On the opposite end, there is a temporary copy saved by the receiver’s server, the e-mailed copy, and the copy he/she ultimately saves to the hard drive.

And, to put it bluntly… Who among us doesn’t back up our hard drives? (NOTE: If you say you don’t, I will lecture you on the possible loss of your WIP or your personal files!) If you have backed up your drive while the book was on there, chances are you captured that in the save as well. As will the person you sent it to.

Now, that is a fun portion of this act. It assumes you are guilty! It assumes you have kept a copy, with or without your knowledge. It is your burden to somehow (hint…it isn’t possible) to prove you haven’t. By sending it on, you have already made a copy of the original, because for that moment at least (when the book has been passed from your machine and not deleted from your machine yet), there are four copies, at least. That is against copyright laws and against the acts in question. You have created an illegal reproduction of the book.

In addition, paper books have a useful life. There are only so many readings before they wear out. The electronic media laws take this into account, since this is not the case with e-books. Making copies of copies of copies or passing a book on electronically doesn’t wear a darned thing out!

So, it’s electronic media! Someone out there is postulating, at the moment, that it should follow the same rules as a music CD. In other words, that person is postulating that you can buy a CD, listen to it and resell the opened case CD at a swap meet. By that argument, someone is thinking that you can buy a CD copy of an e-book, read it and resell it without breaking the law. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re still not in the clear.

A music CD is made to be enjoyed from the CD. You slip it into a player and listen. Though it is technically possible to make a copy of a CD on your hard drive, if you have the software to break the protection (which isn’t really hard to come by but breaks Millennium Act, in itself), it is not the usual way to listen to a CD. A copy isn’t expected. Selling the CD is assumed to be selling the only copy in existence.

When you purchase a CD copy of an e-book, you don’t read it from the CD. Well, you can do it, if you are reading on a desktop or laptop and don’t mind lags in updating, but it’s not the way it is usually done. You usually buy the CD and save a copy of it on your system, at least long enough to read it before deleting the file, much as you would install that copy of Windows. As such, the law assumes that you have made that copy.

So…that is the law. If you want to know more, ask.


message 2: by Rowena, Group Owner (new)

Rowena (rowenacherry) | 685 comments Mod
Thank you for an excellent explanation, Brenna.


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