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Old 03-23-2009, 01:01 AM   #1
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Should free ebooks be free forever?

Wasn't sure the best place to post this to get actual responses, so I thought I'd try here first.

Basically, a lot of times authors put their ebooks online for free. But sometimes, an author changes their mind later on and removes the book. Or they may start charging more for it. But it was out there on the Internet for free "once", and that means it's free forever... doesn't it?

That's my conundrum. I certainly believe an author has a right to distribute something for free for a while, and then later charge for it. But it seems to me that if you take the step of releasing it to the Internet, you give up any rights to charging for distribution in the future, and people are perfectly justified to "pirate" one of the "free" copies.

Some authors clearly agree with this, or understand that it's a practical impossibility to stop a work from being out there once it's been offered for free online. But other authors don't. I find myself conflicted over which position is the correct one. I respect the rights of authors generally but I'm uncomfortable with the idea of 'free' content online suddenly no longer being free.
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Old 03-23-2009, 01:18 AM   #2
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Just a quick response to this..

I see a freely offered ebook to be like it use to be when an author had a promotional stop and gave away his signed books. If you were there you were lucky enough to have received one for free and if not you had to purchase your own.

I repaid the author by word-of-mouth promotion of his work and purchasing his later works. Kind of like using the paypal or donate button for the e-books.
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Old 03-23-2009, 01:22 AM   #3
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But while it's free, it's also freely redistributable. So he puts up a copy on his website, let's say I grab it, then put it in a torrent or something as well. A year later he removes it from his website; I'm now responsible for knowing that and no longer redistributing it as well? But it's too late; it's already out there and a million other people could be redistributing it too. It seems unrealistic.
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Old 03-23-2009, 01:29 AM   #4
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I guess that I see "free" as being only "free" from where the author offers it. I wouldn't obtain a copy then give it to thirty of my friends. I like to think that I am appreciative of the free offer by the author and wouldn't distribute his work without his approval.
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Old 03-23-2009, 02:20 AM   #5
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But while it's free, it's also freely redistributable. So he puts up a copy on his website, let's say I grab it, then put it in a torrent or something as well. A year later he removes it from his website; I'm now responsible for knowing that and no longer redistributing it as well? But it's too late; it's already out there and a million other people could be redistributing it too. It seems unrealistic.
This may not be so. The author may well have added the condition that the book is for personal use only. In which case, you shouldn't be redistributing it.
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Old 03-23-2009, 02:37 AM   #6
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A free book from either the author or publisher is a gift. If either decides that it's no longer free, you shouldn't continue to redistribute it.

If you miss out on the opportunity to get it for free, too bad. They don't owe it to anybody to make it free for everybody forever.
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Old 03-23-2009, 03:01 AM   #7
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This may not be so. The author may well have added the condition that the book is for personal use only. In which case, you shouldn't be redistributing it.
What I'm getting at is that the Internet's very nature is replicating data. Anything you post on the web is going to get copied by web caches, Internet archives, local disk caches, etc. Back in the USENET days if you posted it on USENET it got distributed everywhere. So I'm suggesting that if you go so far as to put it up on the Internet you've giving up any control over redistribution rights. But, maybe I'm wrong. It's just how I *feel* in my gut at the moment.

Naturally if you attach the appropriate license you might be able to specify such exceptions, but a lot of files are simply offered without any corresponding legal notice.
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Old 03-23-2009, 03:24 AM   #8
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What I'm getting at is that the Internet's very nature is replicating data. Anything you post on the web is going to get copied by web caches, Internet archives, local disk caches, etc. Back in the USENET days if you posted it on USENET it got distributed everywhere. So I'm suggesting that if you go so far as to put it up on the Internet you've giving up any control over redistribution rights. But, maybe I'm wrong. It's just how I *feel* in my gut at the moment.

Naturally if you attach the appropriate license you might be able to specify such exceptions, but a lot of files are simply offered without any corresponding legal notice.
If somebody posts a book for free with no DRM, it will get passed around forever. Just because the author/publisher is naive or decides to not use any DRM doesn't mean that they should lose their redistribution rights. Giving away the book, permanently or temporarily, is usually meant as a promotional tool to get the author's name or story out there. They shouldn't be punished for doing a cool thing.

To answer the first post:

Will people continue distribution it? Yes
Should people continue distribution it? No
Are people entitled to a book if it's released for free then pulled some time later? No!

For example, Saul Williams released his third album with no label support on his website. You could either get it for free or pay $5 for a higher quality download and to support the artist directly. When the numbers came in that only 18.3% of people were paying, they decided to cut off the free download at 150,000. Later when he decided to release it as a CD on a label, he cut the $5 download option.

People aren't entitled to his work because he decided to experiment with distribution. Will pirates use that as an excuse to take it anyways? Yes.

Last edited by Sporadic; 03-23-2009 at 03:32 AM.
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Old 03-23-2009, 04:15 AM   #9
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Well I think pirates will pirate anyway. But I agree making it free makes it easier for more people to pirate it.
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Old 03-23-2009, 04:23 AM   #10
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But while it's free, it's also freely redistributable.
No. "Freely downloadable" most certainly does not mean "freely repostable". Many times one has freely downloadable books that are specifically not permitted to be reposted elsewhere. Eg, the BBC website has (or had, at one point) a number of "Dr Who" books that one was not permitted to repost elsewhere.
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Old 03-23-2009, 05:05 AM   #11
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Basically, a lot of times authors put their ebooks online for free. But sometimes, an author changes their mind later on and removes the book. Or they may start charging more for it. But it was out there on the Internet for free "once", and that means it's free forever... doesn't it?
It depends.

If they say "Here's my book. Feel free to pass it on to anyone you wish" then it's free forever - they have given it to you with permission to copy it to others.

If they say "Here's my book. Please don't redistribute it, but feel free to pass on a link to this page" then it's not free forever - it's free only if downloaded from that page.

The first situation is what the Creative Commons redistributable licences cover.
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Old 03-23-2009, 07:44 AM   #12
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Please recognize that considerable effort goes into creating these ebooks, and I have no wish to harm Tor's ebook sales. Accordingly, please do not post the Sunborn ebooks on other web sites. Thank you.
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Old 03-23-2009, 08:30 AM   #13
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pdurrant and igorsk hit on the same point, which I think I'm onboard with. If they explicitly state it's not freely redistributable, that's one thing, and if they are nice enough to include the right creative commons license to redistribute, that's another. But what if they say neither?

Luckily this only applies to a few books I've collected over the years.
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Old 03-23-2009, 08:50 AM   #14
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pdurrant and igorsk hit on the same point, which I think I'm onboard with. If they explicitly state it's not freely redistributable, that's one thing, and if they are nice enough to include the right creative commons license to redistribute, that's another. But what if they say neither?

Luckily this only applies to a few books I've collected over the years.
That I also sometime wonder. It especially holds for most books here at MobileRead that nothing is said about the status of the book.
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Old 03-23-2009, 09:39 AM   #15
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For me its also a promotional step for any author to make some of his book free in the sites but later on when it gets popular, gets to charge. Its their prerogative. You would be lucky to have got it free but a bit unlucky if you see it later to have a bit of charge if you download it later. Some authors also gives away free access to one or two books but later books which are deemed better and have better reviews are now with certain charges to download.

You win some, you loose some. But just looking at these free ebooks to be blessings.. As they say... better have than none.

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