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eBook Piracy

This latest stuff about eBook piracy has the potential to really blow up in libraries’ faces. It reminds of the debates over the years about the right to lend books without payments. Video rental stores are supposed to buy special rental copies that cost more. In Canada, the government pays fees to authors under something called the public lending right. (That still doesn’t stop some big name authors, including those that are paid a lot under PLR, from complaining that public libraries steal royalties from them.)
Anyway, here’s a recent collection of links that show that this pot is simmering again over the e-book issue.
NYT: Print Books Are Target of Pirates on the Web
““If iTunes started three years earlier, I’m not sure how big Napster and the subsequent piratical environments would have been, because people would have been in the habit of legitimately purchasing at pricing that wasn’t considered pernicious,” said Richard Sarnoff, a chairman of Bertelsmann, which owns Random House, the world’s largest publisher of consumer titles.”
Teleread: E-book piracy keeping pace with e-book popularity
“John Wiley & Sons, publishers of the “Dummies” books, employs three people full-time to do nothing but search out unauthorized postings.”
Teleread: Harlan Ellison will cut off your hand
“Authors have a variety of points of view. Harlan Ellison, who has sued over the issue, said he continues to pursue people who post his work illegally. “If you put your hand in my pocket,” he said, “you’ll drag back six inches of bloody stump.””
Tools of Change for Publishing: Ebook Piracy is Up Because Ebook Demand is Up
“This is a good time to revisit Tim O’Reilly’s seminal Piracy is Progressive Taxation, which includes the following lessons:
Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.
Piracy is progressive taxation.
Customers want to do the right thing, if they can.
Shoplifting is a bigger threat than piracy.
File sharing networks don’t threaten book, music, or film publishing. They threaten existing publishers.
“Free” is eventually replaced by a higher-quality paid service.
“There’s more than one way to do it.””
And the most scary post?:
Should libraries have ebooks? I’m not sure they should.
Some of the scarier, salient soundbites:
“One solution is simply to keep ebooks out of libraries, other than for archival purposes. This is an option that the industry should give serious consideration to.”
“Another option is to severely restrict the terms under which ebooks are supplied to libraries to minimise the harm that can be caused.”
“On the payment front, instead of a one-time purchase at standard (usually discounted) retail rates, publishers could be reimbursed on a per loan basis, or via a much higher initial purchase price.”
“So, measures such as these could work to reduce the potential harm digital library lending could cause.”
“My own feeling is that the lending library, except for specialist research and archival libraries, probably has no place in the emerging digital world. What public benefit would arise from maintaining an expensive digital library system… ”
Get ready for a big debate, again. We went through this with magazine and newspaper digitization. Now the sleepy book publishers are catching up with the same fear based, ‘potential damage’ comments as opposed to any damage. The scariest part is that some publishers are in denial that the library market is often their biggest customer.

Posted on: May 14, 2009, 1:05 pm Category: Uncategorized