Originally Posted by John F
I'm not sure how ebooks/libraries fit intio the whole copyright issue. Aren't there some publishers that don't allow their ebooks at libraries? Why has this been allowed?
The situation involving ebooks is a mess.
For regular books printed on paper, it's very clear.
This varies in other countries around the world, but in the United States, libraries have the right to buy books anywhere and lend them out under any terms they please.
A librarian could literally stock up on some bargain basement books at a local K-Mart and have the books on the shelves the same day.
Traditionally though, they have tried to maintain a better relationship with publishers by dealing with them directly.
But they are not required to do so, because here in the U.S. we have a general legal principle called the first sale doctrine
that says that, with few exceptions, if you OWN a legal copy of a copyrighted work you are free to, sell it or give it away, or lend it out freely or for payment (thus the mom-and-pop DVD video rental industry)
For E-Books it gets a little complicated, because of DRM issues and the fact that publishers and book sellers like Amazon are trying to assert that you can't 'buy' an ebook at all, you have to 'license' it.
Never mind that Amazon uses advertising like "buy
it once, read it anywhere" which clearly implies and outright sale.
This could get Amazon in trouble, because in 2008, in Timothy S. Vernor v. Autodesk Inc.
the judge ruled that because the software company sold the product an a way where the transaction resembled a sale and not a temporary licensing arrangement, first sale doctrine applied, and the user was free to re-sell the software.
Right now, this is a REAL MESS, and if the Publishers and Authors persist in this type of marketing model, I think the appropriate way to deal with it is to have our U.S. legislators revisit the copyright laws in their entirety.
The copyright clause
in our constitution, the one that allows the federal government to restrict your right to copy a book any time you want once you buy it, reads like this -
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
If the publishers and authors want to market their works under these new 'license only' terms, it clearly effects the public good, and the "Progress of Science and useful Arts" so it's time to revisit the issue of just what kind of rights the government will grant them.
I think it's time for congressional hearings. Call in the heads of Harper Collins, Doubleday, Amazon, B&N, plus any authors who are interested, since they have a big stake in this, then ask them some tough questions like -
"Since you not do not seem to want to sell copies of your works outright as in the past, but rather expect to 'license' them, we are reconsidering a reduced copyright period for any work initially marketed in this manor. How would you feel about 5 years?"
One of the publishers leans forward and asks, "So we could only use restrictive licenses for 5 years after publication, and then we would have to start selling works under an outright sale contract for the remainder of the normal author's copyright term?"
One of the Senators leans forward and says ominously, "No, I'm afraid you misunderstood. What we are proposing is that any electronic publications marketed in this fashion would only remain protected by copyright for 5 years THEN REVERT TO THE PUBLIC DOMAIN."
This is not as crazy as it sounds, for time-sensitive material like newspaper and magazine subscriptions, the publisher might prefer a shorter protection term in exchange for greater licensing control.
But for traditional books, if given the alternative of only a 5 year copyright term, or keeping the current life+70 term, and introducing an enhanced DRM technology that let's ebooks be traded and sold like normal books, and purchased and added to library collections like normal books, I'm guessing that the authors and publishers will reconsider their current practices.