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Old 07-09-2007, 11:45 AM   #1
DeusExMe
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A Question on ethics

Forgive me if this has already been discussed at length. I am quite recent to these forums and my first e-book device, the Sony Portable Reader has not even arrived at my house yet.

Anyhow....

Supposing a person such as myself made an honest effort to live his life humbly before the God he serves, trying to do the right thing. This person would be adverse to downloading files of copyright material which he had not purchased. However, suppose the person owned a physical copy of a book and desired the book in Electronic format. In that case, is it ethical for the person to download the electronic text without purchasing it?

Also...

In preparing for my Reader to arrive I have perused the selection of books which many of you have done such wonderfully hard work in making available on this site. I noticed that some (i.e. David Copperfield, Pride and Prejudice, etc...) are illustrated. Now I know little about copyright law...only that the book must be at least 95 years old or published before 1920something to be Public Domain. So do illustrations (which presumably came after the text of the work itself) negate the copyright free status of the book? I desire to download many of these books but I need to know more about how the whole system works legally. Please help.
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Old 07-09-2007, 11:55 AM   #2
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Most of the books here have come from Project Gutenberg. And they do take grate pains to make sure the copyright is no longer valid. So I do trust that a book on PG is ok to download.
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Old 07-09-2007, 12:07 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeusExMe View Post
Supposing a person such as myself made an honest effort to live his life humbly before the God he serves, trying to do the right thing. This person would be adverse to downloading files of copyright material which he had not purchased. However, suppose the person owned a physical copy of a book and desired the book in Electronic format. In that case, is it ethical for the person to download the electronic text without purchasing it?
That is for you to decide. It's certainly illegal. Whether or not it's unethical is a question that only you can answer. My personal view - and I'm certainly not condoning piracy - is that where an eBook is available commercially, one should purchase it. In cases where no commercial eBook is available, but one has purchased a paper copy of the book, it's down to the moral values of the individual to decide whether any "harm" is done to anyone by downloading that eBook, but don't kid yourself that it's legal - it ain't.

Quote:
In preparing for my Reader to arrive I have perused the selection of books which many of you have done such wonderfully hard work in making available on this site. I noticed that some (i.e. David Copperfield, Pride and Prejudice, etc...) are illustrated. Now I know little about copyright law...only that the book must be at least 95 years old or published before 1920something to be Public Domain. So do illustrations (which presumably came after the text of the work itself) negate the copyright free status of the book?
In the case of the Dickens, the illustrations are original (all except two of Dickens' books were originally published with illustrations) and hence contemporary with the text. In the case of the Austen, the illustrations are not contemporary with the text but are from later out-of-copyright 19th century editions.

All the books in the "Downloads" section of this site are out of copyright SOMEWHERE in the world. One can easily check (from the date of death of the author and the date of publication of the book) whether they are in the public domain for you personally, should you be concerned. Certainly, however, the Dickens and the Austen are out of copyright for everybody.
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Old 07-09-2007, 01:37 PM   #4
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Thank you so much for your replies. I am attempting to become educated on this subject matter. Please do not become impatient with me if all of this is second nature to your understanding.

From the Wikipedia (bold, mine):
Quote:
Copyrights are more complex than patents; generally, in current law, the copyright in a published work expires in all countries when any of the following conditions are satisfied (except Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Samoa, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, on all these countries are fair use):[2]

* The work was created and first published before January 1, 1923, or at least 95 years before January 1 of the current year, whichever is later;
* The last surviving author died at least 70 years before January 1 of the current year;

* No Berne Convention signatory has passed a perpetual copyright on the work; and
* Neither the United States nor the European Union has passed a copyright term extension since these conditions were last updated. (This must be a condition because the exact numbers in the other conditions depend on the state of the law at any given moment.)
Does this mean that a book published in 1930 is no longer under copyright if its author died in 1932? (These year markers are only examples and not representative of any actual book).
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Old 07-09-2007, 02:55 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by DeusExMe View Post
However, suppose the person owned a physical copy of a book and desired the book in Electronic format. In that case, is it ethical for the person to download the electronic text without purchasing it?
Well ...
When I was a little kid parents, teachers and everybody else has been explaining to me how appropriate, befitting, chaste, correct, decorous, ethical, fitting, good, honest, honorable, immaculate, mannerly, moral, nice, noble, proper, pure, right, seemly, suitable, virtuous and worthy it is to go to the library and borrow (AND read!) a book is.

It is so confusing ...
First they teach you that borrowing a book from a friend or a library is the most virtuous thing ...
... and then you find out that if you use internet to "borrow" a book you are a person that commits robery and/or murder on open sea (pirate).

Please remember that in most jurisdictions it is not illegal to download a copyrighted book. Uploading (or sharing) is illegal.
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Old 07-09-2007, 03:03 PM   #6
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his life humbly before the God he serves,
... I do not serve any god....
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Old 07-09-2007, 03:27 PM   #7
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... which has no bearing on DeusExMe's service to his ....
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Old 07-09-2007, 03:51 PM   #8
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Yeah the same question comes up when you have an DRM ebook in another format that you want to read on the reader.
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Old 07-09-2007, 05:07 PM   #9
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Yeah the same question comes up when you have an DRM ebook in another format that you want to read on the reader.
Well... from an ethics point of view, that might not be exactly the same question.

In one circumstance, there might be a book for which a legal ebook version does not exist. It's an interesting ethical question of who is harmed by downloading an unauthorized ebook version of such a book, especially when one has already supported the author (and publisher!) by buying a copy. As Harry points out, it's probably not legal (I think it's not cut-and-dried if you own a physical copy, at least in the US, but it might be more clear in some countries). In particular, when the book is out of print, it's hard to see who is being harmed by this activity.

Let's say that in another circumstance, the ebook version does exist. Then, even if one has already bought the paper version, one might want to encourage publishers in their conversion of their existing catalogs to ebook versions by paying for an authorized ebook edition. After all, making nicely formatted ebooks does take work. However, if one has already done this by buying a DRM version which one now wishes to read on another format or device, I think that is a different ethical issue than trying to support the general conversion of books to digital format. (One might also want to support publisher's claims by buying multiple DRM'd copies in different formats as needed, but that is a different motive than simply wanting to support digital conversions.)

Another situation is this: suppose one has a physical copy of a book, but bought it used. Do the ethics of downloading an unauthorized digital copy change in this case? The purchase of a used book has not helped the author or publisher directly. But the new owner is holding a token copy of the work, and the person who did originally buy the book no longer has it, so the original purchaser did pay the publisher, author, et. al. for this copy (unless it's a stripped copy).

Finally, suppose one has bought a book (lets say, for talking purposes, bought it new). The purchaser downloads a digital copy, then gives the original book to a local library. What happens with the ethics of the situation then?

I don't know the answers, but I think this is a more complicated area than the simple answer of "it's illegal" generally provides.
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Old 07-09-2007, 05:50 PM   #10
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Heh. And we haven't even touched on the ethics involved in simply breaking the law (even though it may be a stupid law).

I took one of those 'values' tests in a career exploration class about 16 years ago (ulp! where does the time go?),. and one of the questions it kept asking in several different ways was: which is more important, rules or ethics, laws or morals?

I always chose the etics/morals to be more important than the rules/laws, because to my thinking, it's primarily a person's ethical/moral standards that determine whether they care about rules and laws -- beyond the 'getting caught' stage, anyway, nobody wants to get caught.
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Old 07-09-2007, 05:55 PM   #11
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I remember discussions like this back when cassettes came into wide use. Was it ok to record your albums on cassettes and then play cassettes in your car? (Yes, there were 45 rpm changers for the car for a brief time.)

John Lennon came out and said that you should tape your albums and listen to the tape. When it wore out, make another copy. This whole time the record companies were also selling cassette tapes of the same albums.

When CDs came along they wanted everyone to buy new versions of the same music. Many people made cassette copies of the CDs and played the cassettes in their car.

I have no problem with any of the above. I have thousands of albums and CDs in the basement to prove it. I have also converted the entire collection to electronic form and built my own music server. (Version 2 was just completed recently.)

In the US I believe that if I own the book it would be alright to have an electronic copy under the fair use provision. I do not seek out ebooks except at MobileRead, Project Gutenberg, Feedbooks, and the multiple Black Mask sites.
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Old 07-09-2007, 06:11 PM   #12
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A similiar dillema is Do you support Sony and the PRS 500 and buy BBeb DRM'ed books, or do you buy another popular DRMed ebook format that is susceptible to being unlocked?
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Old 07-09-2007, 06:29 PM   #13
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Ethical discussions are always quite varied and interesting to read; but you can sum it up as simple as this: Ethics are defined by the societal customs and mores in which they are followed.

In my opinion, you can either chose to obey the ethics provided by those around you and your upbringing or follow your own moral compass based on what you feel your conscious can stand. While it's easy to argue either side; i.e., people can come up with reasons not to do something as well as reasons why they should, ultimately it is up to you.

Now from a legal standpoint... that's another matter and while a lot of it is black-and-white, there are many grey areas depending upon your pursuits.
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Old 07-09-2007, 06:31 PM   #14
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It is indeed a deep issue. I've thought through some of these issues and reached as many confusions as I have conclusion.

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A similiar dillema is Do you support Sony and the PRS 500 and buy BBeb DRM'ed books, or do you buy another popular DRMed ebook format that is susceptible to being unlocked?
In my estimation, if I buy the intellectual property "Ender's Game" (as an example) from the Microsoft Reader store (continuing the example, or if Microsoft has a promotion and gives the thing to me for that matter) I now have the right to enjoy my purchase in any manner I see fit. Certainly I can purchase a Microsoft Reader if I so desire and read it that way. However, to take actions with my own personal file, which is legally mine, which makes that file readable on my Sony Reader, seems well within my rights. I am not certain if the U.S. law governing such things would back me up, but I am fairly certain that it is the right thing.
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Old 07-09-2007, 07:02 PM   #15
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In my estimation, if I buy the intellectual property "Ender's Game" (as an example) from the Microsoft Reader store (continuing the example, or if Microsoft has a promotion and gives the thing to me for that matter) I now have the right to enjoy my purchase in any manner I see fit. Certainly I can purchase a Microsoft Reader if I so desire and read it that way. However, to take actions with my own personal file, which is legally mine, which makes that file readable on my Sony Reader, seems well within my rights.
I agree. Actually the point I raised was not truly an ethical one. basically it was, do you buy it from Sony in BBeB or in .lit format. If one buys all their ebooks from Sony as opposed to .lit, it enhances the success of the Sony Reader division, which may cause them to market more, as well as to support the reader more.
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