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“The books will stop working.” (twitter.com/rdonoghue)
1044 points by _Microft on June 27, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 439 comments

Can you imagine someone trying to start public libraries if they didn't already exist now? I think it's safe to say it would never ever happen, at least in the US. Between lobbying and the general disdain for most things run by any type of government here, they'd never have a chance.

Luckily we still have places that still purchase printed books (along with ebooks) and you can go borrow them any time and they never stop working.... just ignore the damage from fire, water, rips, loss, bed bugs... maybe they do actually stop working for other reasons now that I think about it :-)

If we merely had the same copyright we had when the country first formed, this entire "your books turn off thing" would possibly be completely acceptable: a subset of works would be onerous and somewhat annoying for 28 years, after which you could literally do whatever you want with them. Key here is that this means that within your lifetime this would quite possibly be the case. This also means that a very large variety of still-somewhat-recent works would be public domain, and thus creating tools to read them would be profitable. Right now, a "public domain" Kindle would be for what, works that are over a hundred years old or something? Few people will ever encounter public domain works they want to read so it's as if everything fits the rent model.

The crazy thing is that everything is more amenable to "sharing" today, it is merely legal structure that prevents it now. Arguably the true utility of a library is that it would be (or would have been) absurd to duplicate a physical book for every person that wants it, and then when no one was actively reading them they'd take up a crazy amount of space. This is still true today! This world should be strictly better than the past. But instead we have nostalgia for libraries, not due to any essential reason, but because we've created an artificial environment where it is more appealing to potentially wait for a copy of something to become available vs. instantly duplicating it.

It could be longer than 100 years. I recently tried to find a copy of an article published in 1932. I can't find any version online and the nearest print version is in a library 1,000 km away. I asked the library if they could scan it and email it to me and they said no, it's still covered by copyright. This work was published early in the author's life; she died in 1983. So the Berne Convention would protect this work for 101 years after publication, and the domestic copyright will last for 121 years. I will be in my 60s before the copyright expires on a work published when my grandfather was born.

Similarly, works published in 1935 & 1941. For at least one, nearest copy is 1000km away.

They should be out of copyright by now. They are not.

Well I can’t even read my own research paper (lost my tex source and final digital copy when both hard drive and backup drive failed within the same hour). I know for a fact that it is archived and basically exactly where but it’s beyond either one of an abusive layer of bureaucracy or a paywall, whichever I would choose to go through. Not that it’s worthy of anything or even remotely interesting but it tells a lot about the absurdity of it all.

Count yourself lucky. Most of us developers cant even read the code we wrote in a professional setting once we leave a company.

This idea that the original authors of the source code don't have any right to that source code (they're not even listed as authors most of the time), seems like a contradiction. If copyright is so important, why is it so easily stripped from its authors in some fields?

It makes more sense when you understand that copyright was hardly ever about protecting authors, but about protecting the interests of the more powerful middlemen.

I think it fits in with the general idea of factories where you work for a salary and the work product you produce isn’t something you can take away. The problem with words or code is they are easy to copy, so one could easily make a copy and take it away. I guess that’s why they make you sign away the copyright

The factory analogy is pretty good. Profit doesn't really goes to the workers, it goes to the owners. And one critical property of capitalism is that owners and workers aren't the same people at all.

Having programmers sign off their copyright has the same effect as classical capitalism: it separates whoever owns the code from whoever works on it. The owners can then enjoy the full royalties, while the programmers are limited to their salaries —just like the factory workers.

Factory workers could walk away with the fruits of their labour, if only they owned the factory. Programmers could walk away with the fruits of their labour, if only they retained the rights to them. And in my opinion, they both should. The means of production should be owned by the workers, not the capitalists.

If on the other hand you agree with capitalism, it makes perfect sense to have programmers sign away their rights.

Can you get it off SciHub?

> when both hard drive and backup drive failed within the same hour

That is basically the horror scenario of backup'ing, since you don't usually protect against that kind of failure: the probability of it happening just seems too low. It's similar to having a limit to your attack model when securing your data/accounts/... against attacks: you can try to protect against a governmentally funded cyber attack on you personally, but you probably won't succeed and it's very surely not worth the trouble if you're not a very influential or otherwise important person.

In this case, the usual retort would of course be "why didn't you have a backup in 'the cloud'?" I have for part of my stuff, but not for all. I feel you.

Turns out this guys was right:



FYI if you click that link and the referrer is hacker news it redirects you to a nice picture of a testicle in a cup, first thing in the morning.

(it redirects to : https://imgur.com/32R3qLv )

The link is fine, just don't click it from here -- well, unless cup-testicles are your bag. Pun intended.

I knew about that and tried beforehand to see if I needed to put a warning, but it doesn't trigger anymore for me so I thought this article was exempt, or he removed it. Maybe it's Safari that properly strips the referer.

Firefox on Linux: no trigger either. Clicking was safe for me.

Firefox on Linux: I get the redirect every time.

That is the best use of a referrer I think I have ever seen. Off to boil an egg now.

I’m guessing an inter library loan wasn’t possible?

What are you looking for? There’s a decent chance someone here lives near a copy.

The article is Joan Robinson, 'Economics is a serious subject: the apologia of an economist to the mathematician, the scientist and the plain man' (1932). It's footnote 1 in Coase's 'The nature of the firm,' which I was prompted to read in more depth by a recent HN comment, so it's not an especially obscure document! The university library I spoke to does do inter-library loans, but I need to find a local library that will take one out for me. I haven't got around to doing that since I moved states 18 months ago, and I'm no longer affiliated with a local university. It's a pain, but something I probably would have resolved sooner if there weren't so many books digitised in the various proprietary databases!

> If we merely had the same copyright we had when the country first formed, this entire "your books turn off thing" would possibly be completely acceptable: a subset of works would be onerous and somewhat annoying for 28 years, after which you could literally do whatever you want with them

Also, the US didn't respect any other country's copyrights or patents so anything published outside the US would be free immediately.

Yes, I believe Charles Dickens was the first to near simultaneously publish in both the UK and US.

Cant imagine the US letting other countries get away with that now.

A story I heard about Dickens was him landing in the US and finding his latest book already in print there, unauthorised.

That's what I heard, so for his next book.....

>>>a subset of works would be onerous and somewhat annoying for 28 years, after which you could literally do whatever you want with them.

Unfortunately, what would probably happen is more like what is happening to video games now; they are no longer profitable to publish, don't exist in an easy-to-backup, easy-to-share format (like an epub file with no DRM, for example), and so are essentially lost to time. If an ebook that no one can access is suddenly in the public domain, that doesn't help anyone one iota.

The AAA-class games with a budget of a blockbuster movie? Well, I'm fine with them following the movie locked-up route.

New and original indie games? New Portal? New Monument Valley? Maybe even new Doom? I bet they would live with shorter copyright; Doom was released as free software much sooner than after 28 years.

The Doom source code was released, the game itself (notably, the IWAD files) was never released as free software.

Surely then you want them in the public domain sooner to prevent that. Sourcing a 28 year old pc to read some 'ancient' format is workable. Finding a 100+ year old pc to do the same seems less workable.

I thought all the console games get dumped so they can be emulated?

If/when Stadia and the like take off, and streaming-only games appear, we can forget about that too.

By the way, this is just one of the many reasons why I think that streamed games are very much an anti-consumer move and should not be paid for in any circumstance, to prevent normalization.

That could easily be extended to "streamed media" in general - or, more accurately, Media as a Service. Going further, Software as a Service - or at least the part that falls under FSF's "Service as a Software Substitute" (SaaSS) - is an anti-consumer move too. Related, the trend of tying physical products to Internet services in a blatant attempt to turn ownership into renting is a hugely popular and a hugely anti-consumer practice too.

Some anecdata to counter that idea: A significant part of German movie piracy is done through streaming as it allows the uploaders to monetize through ads.

Piracy as a service, so to say.

Hm, interesting. I always assumed people making money on these streaming services (through both ads and premium accounts) aren't the same people as those who upload movies to them (actually, to somewhere else; these services now aggregate links to players, mostly).

I believe they're more popular than Torrents because they shield from responsibility. At least over here at Poland, your legal problems only start when you're actually infringing copyright - reproducing the work, i.e. uploading - which makes Torrents risky, but HTTP streaming fully in the clear for the viewers.

I’ll lease you a thinclient for 2 years.

You can thank Disneys lawyers and lobbyists.

It took the richest guy in the world funding them like crazy to start them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Carnegie#3,000_public_l... The one in Philadelphia cost the equivalent of $15,000,000 - and that didn't include the land, operation, or maintenance.

I've found this website very useful:


My favorite part: It has actual scans of centuries-old books taken from many major libraries (NYPL etc).

I can read something printed and published in the 18th/19th centuries, on my iPhone. And I often do.

The question is what will stop working earlier: archive.org or the 18th century book?


Books have lots of failure modes too. Wide distribution is one way to protect them.

Shift the balance: https://archive.org/donate/

The one in Washington DC is now an Apple store.

Wow ... that's .. is that irony? I don't even know.

It's straight up dystopian that's what it is.

The yearly ALA (American Library Association) conference was in the conference center across the street from that library last weekend. I wonder how many noticed the metaphor to what is happening to libraries in general?

Ha! Walked by it when I was there, I thought the same thing.

To be fair, it’s not like DC doesn’t have public libraries. Also, the original DC Carnegie building sits on some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

What better way to signal the importance of libraries than to have one on that expensive real estate?

Or what better way to signal a change in values than to stop having one on that same real estate.

Not the one in Mount Pleasant!

Different countries obviously have very different founding myths about this.

Here in the UK it took the Public Libriaries Act to start them - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Libraries_Act_1850 - Andrew Carnagie would have been 15 years old at that point, having only recently migrated to the US with his parents, due to grinding poverty back home.

Nice shout-out. Truly, the world owes railroad magnate Andrew Carnegie a huge debt.

My own hometown (only 15,000 people) had a Carnegie library.

Andrew Carnegie owed the world a huge debt.

Exactly, dead tree books aren't a solution. I mean if a tiny library at my home or town burns up, there would be serious loss of a unique collection with that too!

IMO, a more robust and resilient solution would be to bring native experience of books on the web. And tie it up with open source and paid model both in two separate states: of a manuscript and that of a book. If a processor of books dies (like in this case Microsoft), there'd still be a manuscript to fork and re-process into book again through an alternate channel. That's my 2 cents.

Personally I find that I just don't get as much out of digital books. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but the closest I can describe is that it feels like I'm looking through a window at a book rather than actually viewing it directly.

I found that for certain types of books, digital works fine, while for others it is a disaster. For novels, poems, and other non-textbook books without tons of graphics, ebooks are great. For textbooks or other materials where you are expected to flip back and forth through pages trying to digest the material, as well as for books with tons of graphs and diagrams, ebooks are indeed suboptimal.

My personal rule is that I read most of the books in digital, and then buy a hard copy if I end up liking the book a lot. This way I don't have shelves filled with a ton of dead tree books that occupy precious space in my dwelling, I have all the books I care and love in a physical format that will never go away or get DRMd, and the authors (of the books I ended up liking) get rewarded more than if I just bought a single digital or a physical copy.

P.S. Same for me with music. Listening to a ton of stuff in digital, buying vinyls and concert tickets for artists I end up liking a lot.

> For novels, poems, and other non-textbook books without tons of graphics, ebooks are great.

E-readers suck for poetry. They are often incapable of maintaining the same graphic layout that the poet had in mind when creating the poems. Even when the poet is not one of those poets who intentionally makes the visual formatting a part of his work, e-readers cannot display the text according to the conventions for breaking lines that have been around for ages. Some poetry ebooks are in fact preceded by a publisher’s warning to this effect.

Most very recent editions of poetry or plays have decent formatting. It took publishers a while—roughly a decade?—to figure out css. :/

Agreed generally, but this one is on the publisher or whoever is in charge of making a digital copy. I was recently reading some of Bukowski poems on kindle, and the "weird" formatting intended by the author was relayed just as well in digital as it was in paper.

Interestingly, I find I'm the other way. Reading for pleasure, I want a physical book. Anything where I'm flipping back and forth, I prefer an e-book, so I can quickly make bookmarks and have a clickable table of contents/index.

Relative niceness of ebook vs. physical book depends a lot on the actual ebook hardware. i.e. An ereader is much nicer than a tablet/PC for reading text, but nearly unusable if you need to flip around or do anything interactive other than turning pages from front to back.

For me textbooks are best consumed as a pdf. I don't kill my back, I don't kill my wallet, and I can ctrl-f through the entire book and annotate as needed. I throw it on a flashdrive on my keys and I can pass it around to classmates.

Any other kind of book and I'm reaching for print. It's much more satisfying to bang out 50 pages in a novel and see the bookmark move deeper into the book than to scroll scroll scroll through an ebook.

I find the opposite. If I just want to read, I prefer a book. If it's a text, I want to be able to read and search, and I want to be able to scale the graphs and footnotes. Not all eBook formats support color and scaling, but some do.

It's nice although our preferences are reversed to find someone else who has preferences for both in different circumstances.

I really like the books that include an eBook with the print copy.

Any kind of book is possible on web. Here's a photobook (only graphics) by Satyendra Sharma, for example:


Disclosure: I'm the developer behind the project.

It's the interface and interaction of physical books which is lost.

I can keep my hand between two sections and flip between them, insert colored post-its, or bokmarks or index cards. Dog-ear pages, make marginal notes, star, underline, or (shudder)highlight.

The one thing missing is full-text search, though a good index is a 90% solution (and so: not optional).

Text and other element placement is static, so spatial memory works. Fluid layout is great for screens, but lousy for recall.

And the interface is consistent across books, authors, publishers, and centuries. Whilst, yes, various ebook formats offer facsimiles of many of these features, they are just that, and mediated to bot. Want to highlight? Better hope that's a rendered or OCRd (and reliably) PDF, or you're SooL.

Source; A tablet with over 5,000 epub-type docs, of various sources and provenance, from single page to multi-volume book length. I appreciate the weight and space savings, but miss much physical books deliver.

> Text and other element placement is static, so spatial memory works.

Exactly! This results in _referential accessibility_ [1].

You might want to look up for the Superbook format [2] perhaps? Though not everything physics is required to be solved with it.

[1] https://bubblin.io/blog/referential-accessibility

Disclosure: I'm its creator.

No, spatial.

I remember roughly how far into a book, or chapter, passages are. Where on a page, or with relstion to other elements, how or where a line breaks (especially if that's awkward). Where the book itself lives within my collection. Where I was when first reading (or later re-reading) it. Etc., etc.

Spatial associations.

Consistent pagination is useful, but it's a small subset of the whole.

I generally print out research articles because I can write all over the figures and take it with me to lunch and not be bothered when I spill on it, or fold it up into my back pocket. I feel like I get better comprehension too. For textbooks that's a no go for me and probably most students, because this thing is getting resold once I'm through.

I agree with this sentiment when using a paperwhite tablet (glowing screens with stuff formatted for paper is painful). Serial reading, ebooks are fine.

There are a few cases where a PDF/djvu textbook with strategic bookmarks can also be used. When I'm on the road I have a decent reference library in a rooted Kobo H2O running koreader. Not an ideal solution; something with an 8x12 screen would be much closer to it, but nobody makes these any more, and if I need to look something up in Golub, it can be done.

FWIIW the only thing that makes this doable is koreader does reflow on columnated text.

I find retaining information in digital books much more difficult. I think the lack of a tactile third dimension when reading eliminates a search index in my memory and it really effects how I parse the book. I tried reading the most recent GoT book in digital form and I just could not keep track of everyone (admittedly it had been several years since I read the previous installment in dead tree form, so I didn't have a current index of all the characters fresh in my memory). I gave up about 1/4 of the way through and just watched the tv show :)

Honestly, and I dislike admitting it, but paper books instill the same feeling as any other "collection" hobby for me. I take more pride in reading them knowing that my bookshelf is growing.

Fair point. I agree that the incumbent digital avatar is more of a file and less of a book, a classic enterprise solution for a consumer category of products.

And yes, experience of relaxed intake with page turns in between does open a portal to another dimension!

That's just familiarity. You could get used to digital books if you had to.

Have no idea why you're downvoted. Books are quite fragile and very difficult to duplicate in book form.

If you actually want to preserve something, it is valuable to have production of both digital and hard copies.

IDK, 15m of early 20th century dollars for a sound like it could finance buying a lot of books.

> Between lobbying and the general disdain for most things run by any type of government here,

I’ve grown to distain the government because of how often it pushes strict bills like DMCA which are quickly out-of-date and ripe for abuse.

It’s not just lobbying congress either, there have been some very strict cases coming out of prosecutors offices such as the case against MIT student David LaMacchia in 1994 who put files up on an encrypted BBS. Which resulted in congress passing a bill to fix a “loophole” where people uploading files on the internet without any commercial intent couldn’t be sent to jail. So the bill (predating DMCA by a couple of years) allowed up to 5yrs +$250k fines for online piracy, regardless of commercial intent: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._LaMacchia

Every subreddit or Youtube channel or whatever online community I’ve been a part of has had to deal with people abusing DMCA takedown notices and having things that clearly fall under fair use, or even the person’s own content, being taken down.

> Every subreddit or Youtube channel or whatever online community I’ve been a part of has had to deal with people abusing DMCA takedown notices

Are you sure you've seen DMCA abuse on YouTube? They have their own system for handling alleged copyright violation that has little to do with the DMCA takedown procedure, and almost all complaints I've seen about abuse on Google have been due to that system.

> They have their own system for handling alleged copyright violation that has little to do with the DMCA takedown procedure

That system is such a scourge. No fair use, no distinction between different countrie's legislations, no appeal.

If you make an educational video, no matter how much effort and skill you put in, if you use some musical excerpt or images or scene, it doesn't matter how short it is, or what you're using it for. Your video will be "claimed", and any add revenue you used to have will go to whoever owns the rights to the excerpt. And if you didn't enable ads, the claim will do it anyway.

I wonder what happens when you use 2 excerpts from different major copyright holders…

> I wonder what happens when you use 2 excerpts from different major copyright holders…

That is a technique that's been used in the past, though I'm not sure if it's still effective. As far as I know, it was popularized by Jim Sterling who named it the "copyright deadlock"[0].

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YouTube_copyright_issues#2015%...

Eh, Google's system is born out of a compromise because of the DMCA. Simply put most large publishers dropped their suits and do not file actual complaints with this compromise.

Ok, but if it wasn't for private interests pushing those laws, I really doubt a government would pass them. So saying that it's the government fault is true, but not the whole picture. You should feel disdain for both the government and the lobbies, if you have a problem with absurd copyright laws.

The whole point of his comment is that the government is what's enabling that kind of lobbying. There's no such thing as a government that is free of private interests pushing for their preferred policies; the closest you can even get to that is strict constitutional limits, restricting what the government can do in the first place. (And even those seem to have failed quite badly in the case of copyright or patent protection, which were originally supposed to be "limited in time" and to promote knowledge and the useful arts - none of which is the case today!)

My library has the option of "checking out" ebooks. They will "purchase" them and have a set "number of copies". I put all of these things in quotes as I'm not sure how its handled for essentially a digital file vs a physical paper book, or how the author/publisher/etc makes money in this deal.

Penguin Random House charges libraries $35, $45, or $55 for each "copy" and then expires them after two years. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/l... Hachette also expires their e-books after 2 years. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/l... See also the drama about "Controlled Digital Lending", where a library makes their own scan of a book and lends it out.

That's plain naked rentseeking. I'd get them charging a nominal sum to prevent abuse (like "why I'd buy any books if I can just check out everything for free in the library" - virtually nobody ever says that but maybe they're afraid of it) but $55 is way over the cost of an average book, let alone ebook, and expiring them makes zero sense since popular book stops bringing substantial income quite soon so they literally lose nothing allowing the library to keep it.

Wow that is repulsively scummy.

It's surely competitive with physical books, including the cost of storing and handling them, otherwise libraries wouldn't buy them. A random on the internet says about library books: "Very popular hardcover books have a lifespan of around 20 circulations, which is around a year or less, depending on how well bound they are and how well the patrons treat them." Other books are regularly thrown away because they're not popular enough. So I presume publishers account for the short life of a library book in their pricing, and if they actually lasted forever, they'd cost more.

Having seen some of the contracts -- there are publishers which sell them with a lifetime measured in reads, and others with a lifetime measured in years (and you buy N copies), and a very very few who don't impose a lifetime.

In all cases the author gets paid through whatever royalty arrangements they made with the publisher -- but that might contain a lower or zero payment for library and/or educational purchases.

The idea is that a physical book has a lifetime before it has to be discarded due to wear, so they want the e-book to be the same. I think that's dumb, and don't feel we need to be tied to the durability of paper books, but that's their justification.

By that logic we could have made every maker happy by selling a buggywhip with every automobile.

I think mine also allows you to watch movies online, but I never tried it yet.

I think most libraries offering this are doing it through Hoopla. It works fine though you can only play them in a browser and the video quality is roughly at the level of a DVD.

As I understand it, the number of copies is enforced using DRM (which isn’t the best, of course), but the books are free and there’s usually a pretty wide selection.

I'm super, super grateful to our public libraries and the amazing resources they offer— coming from an immigrant farm-laboring family in a tiny (<1000 population) town, our equally tiny library introduced me to computers in the 8th grade (which later got me in trouble for, um, "exploring" our police and school district's networks) thanks in part to a grant they received by the Gates Foundation. I wouldn't have the career I do now, or honestly even been aware of it, if it were not in part due to it.

My local library now is much, much more well endowed with resources from different media types and they're even getting a makerspace soon! I thankfully can afford my own books and toys to play with, but as a father of 2 young boys, I make sure we utilize the library often and even volunteer our time teaching the occasional workshop on new media/tech/design.

I think they're woefully underutilized and I'd be worried that they'd start to go away.

Project Gutenberg is really a modern day equivalent and is one of the better things created on the internet.

I prefer Library Genesis.

Don't forget sci-hub, too.

NB: LibGen has all Sci-Hub content as well. Searchable by author, title, journal, etc., and not just DOI / URL.

THANK YOU! I lost the name of the web site and was having trouble Google-ing the right phrase to find it again. Much appreciated.

I recommend bookmarking the Wikipedia page, people keep it updated with working domains.


PG has the advantage of being legal.

Much of the material on LibGen would be legally accessible under the copyright terms in which it was originally published, but that their exclusivity has been retroactively extended.

Except in countries where copyright terms are longer than in the US: https://cand.pglaf.org/germany/index.html

Meh, as long as their servers aren't in those countries, they can't do anything except censor the website. And most countries with long copyright terms don't censor websites.

Project Gutenberg self-censored themselves to all German users in protest of the lawsuit.

If they did not have servers in Germany couldn't they have just ignored the lawsuit?

They can make it illegal for Germans to use the site if they wish, but they can't go meddling in foreign media content. If Saudi Arabia serves you a lawsuit because you have a picture of a woman's face on a webpage without hijab, would you fly there to go to court? I'd just trash their lawsuit and never go there. They can block my site if they want -- same goes for Germany.

They explain all this in the notice I linked above:


Because PGLAF operates as a legitimate non-profit organization, however, it is appropriate to act as the German Court ordered - pending appeal - even though it disagrees with the order.


The decision to acceed to the German Court's order to make items inaccessible from Germany is intended to be a temporary appeasement, while the appeal occurs - this is because the German appeal Court will likely look disfavorably on PGLAF if it shows contempt for the German Court. Ultimately, PGLAF seeks to establish that any complaints about copyright must be brought either to the US Courts (where PGLAF operates) or WIPO processes (as guided by international treaties).


That's one of my go-to examples as well. I mean, even excluding porn and soft porn, the vast majority of Western media is likely illegal in Saudi Arabia.

> they can't go meddling in foreign [thing]

... GDPR? Granted, extraterritorial enforcement can be quite difficult.

That's arguably more of a limitation than an advantage.

If your OPSEC is adequate, legality is irrelevant.

And if that seems shocking, consider that legality <> morality.

For what it is worth I love my local libraries.

I'm able to hold any book online so as soon as I hear about a book I place a hold on it. They have most books even new ones and if not I can request it for free through all libraries in North California.

I stop by the library once a week and pick up all the holds of that week (typically 3-4). I love to have the physical medium around.

I typically renew my loans 2 or 3 times and as such I keep the books close to 3 months. It allows me to fully read the ones I find interesting and just go over quickly the ones I don't care about.

Once a month I bring back all the books I got.

And all of this is completely free. I love my local libraries and cannot believe it took me that long to find out about this wonderful service.

From now on I go out of my way to never buy a single book again and avoid all DRM and other nonsensical digital medias like that.

On the flip side, people all over my neighborhood have put considerable effort into building awesome tiny sharing libraries. Perhaps without the issue being "solved" we'd see even more and varied institutions formulate organically.

So yes, I can imagine, but who knows whose imagination is closer to "alternative reality"?

Tiny Libraries are cool but they aren’t even a pale shadow of traditional public libraries that come with commitments to levels of service and access to people of all backgrounds and locations and incomes.

Sure, but in a community where there wasn't an actual public library, I do believe one would inevitably come into existence as the effort of the community, in the same way those tiny libraries do. "People have spare books; community centres exist; so why not put the spare books in the community centre?"

In the alternate reality where public libraries didn't already exist, I suspect the law would make it illegal to loan books. It would be a direct response to these small informal libraries trying to share books and "violate the license."

But you'll be constrained to the old spare books of that particular community. Public libraries have a much broader selection, and they also buy new books.

Also I'm not sure they'd actually come into existence everywhere, even if the internet is a poor substitute for a library it is cheaper and may be enough for many.

But only a certain kind of book; government approved books.

Definitely nothing interesting.

Very possibly, yes. The original modern libraries in the west were effectively subscription libraries, as in, they weren’t free to use, you had to pay to become a member. It was only later that they were run by the government. That said, there is a vast gulf between them and a little box people put outside their homes with some books inside.

Further reading: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Except communities that under-privileged will be unlikely to have the bandwidth or know-how for activism at that scale.

Unfortunately reality does not "inevitably" progress towards utopia, any more than the life of any individual does.

Wouldn't the small sharing libraries also be at risk under a system with more power held by copyright owners?

No copies are being made, so no. Keep in mind we're talking about physical books, not filesharing.

Of course there are no physical restrictions with books, but legal restrictions can be created at any time.

Just imagine physical books suddenly having EULA-like first pages that would forbid you from loaning them out. In fact, this has been tried before: https://law.stackexchange.com/questions/2059/why-were-books-...

Insofar as copyright owners are empowered by the system currently in place (e.g. DMCA) a system with less authoritarian power available to lobbyists may have the exact opposite effect. Same caveats as above apply.

Do you use these libraries? I see them around from time to time, but I've never been tempted to borrow from them. Usually there's nothing more than a random selection of popular novels from the last 20 years.

I wasn't really trying to make a qualitative point, but to that notion I have had considerable trouble in some public libraries as well.

The first memory I have of a library was in school where I wanted desperately to find out how one "writes" software. After lots of probably very annoying begging, I was given a book on either COBOL or FORTRAN from the ~60s. It wasn't super helpful.

The last book I borrowed (Alan Cooper's The Inmates are Running the Asylum on UX design, which I found compelling) was lost after I dropped it in the bin. I was fined $104, and upon contacting them was given customer service rivaling comcast's. Until I pay that ridiculous cost I can't borrow from any city library, and can't get a card anywhere else that I'm not a resident. So for me, the tiny libraries are already way over a very low bar.

I've had some generally good experiences, too, but nothing that's convinced me that the current model is either the only way or the best way.

> The last book I borrowed (Alan Cooper's The Inmates are Running the Asylum on UX design, which I found compelling) was lost after I dropped it in the bin.

This frustrates me no end. After several such incidents, and comparable customer service, I now take pictures of myself returning the books. I'm sure it'll do no good when it comes down to it, but it lets me feel that I have some agency in the matter.

What really frustrates me is that our library just re-jiggered its return system so that it's metered, counting how many resources have been returned, perhaps in an effort to address (for them if not for me) concerns like this; but there's still no way to get a receipt indicating that you have returned any particular resource. When I try to get one from the front-desk staff by returning it in person, I'm told I have to drop it in the metered chute and, basically, hope.

the only reason they exist now is because they're grandfathered in. We could have the exact same thing, just digitally, but due to copyright that will never happen.

The state I'm from has its libraries funded by the county (not sure if that's true elsewhere in the US). the more people in a county, the greater property tax base, and thus the greater (potential) for public library funding. So theoretically there's no reason they can't cut or reduce their physical presence and publish their entire library online. Except instead of knowledge, it's now "content", and instead of readers, its now "consumers". Everything is a "market" that needs to be "captured" and libraries are a threat to this corporate model. From a purely informational standpoint, pages-bound-with-glue are just low-tech forms of hardware dongles.

There are a lot of things that wouldn't exist if they weren't grandfathered in.

I think (relatively) inexpensive private planes wouldn't exist without grandfathered componements like say lycoming engines.

And it's been said many times cars that people can drive wouldn't exist if they were invented today.

And then there are guns.

At the risk of sounding too conservative for HN, this 'grandfathering' is an invaluable means of insulating societal infrastructure from the tyranny of cultural value shift.

I'm mulling over "cultural value shift".

Maybe some of it is that. But a lot of traditional rights of the general public are too easily overcome by dedicated funded interests via lawmakers and regulators.

Like or hate trump, but his "to make a new regulation, you first need to repeal two regulations" thing was pretty interesting.

I think there need to be more checks and balances than simple grandfathering architected into things when rights are lost.

general disdain for most things run by any type of government here

Why should that have anything to do with it? Government-run libraries are a much more recent development - the first libraries in America were set up by the churches, and later became private entities such as Ben Franklin's Library Company of Philadelphia.


Just because it's good for some people or used to be worthwhile doesn't mean it's good overall that it exists. If you could buy a cheap license for time limited access to DRMd copy of any book, to me, that would be better than a library because it would be cheaper in principle, as long as copyright owners cooperated and it didn't suffer from monopolies and things, and far more books would be available to far more people without the physical constraints.

My library does that but the range is quite small and I guess they're paid for by the local government instead of the readers, which doesn't seem right. Shouldn't private goods be paid for by the users and public goods paid for by government? It's good that information is freely available to the public, but we now have the internet for most of that, and physical books would always be more expensive than ebooks so the financial burden on individuals would have been higher long ago when public libraries started before even paperbacks existed.

Idk, some hackerspaces are like public libraries. cf noisebridge which is open to the public at no charge and has a library:


The thing you can find a book that is hundreds of years old that is still readable, how long would data in a hard drive last in the wild?

And who is to say you can even open the file? Not many ebooks are being written in plain text or pdf after all. Usually it's something clunky and proprietary with DRM.

Yes, this. I'm surprised they're not labeled as scary "socialism" and replaced with public-private "partnerships" with commercial ads, membership fees and overpriced concessions. It seems the public commonwealth is being cannibalized for vampiric exploitation at every opportunity. You can't sit down anywhere, because it's been replaced with a sterile multi-use zoned commercial areas with a Code of Conduct* without buying something. Remember water fountains and public parks? Not anymore.

*I ate at this food truck in Austin that was in a mixed-use commercial area that had a 12 term CoC. These places typically have control-freak power-trip mall (wannabe) cops.

Today libraries would be decried as socialist, when in fact they are a public good. The idea of a public good is malleable, so perhaps the way for left leaning policy makers to advance certain types of legislation is through re-branding as a public good.

This isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened, either. Amazon, before they introduced the Kindle, used Adobe DRM for ebooks. I lost a book I'd bought through them when they switched to Kindle.

The thing that really gets me is I had to register my book to buy it, with my email address. They had my address, and couldn't even be bothered to send me an alert, telling me that the DRM servers were being decommissioned, so if I wanted to license any new computers to use the book I should do so then.

I've not been able to replace that book either, so it's not like the refund they finally begrudgingly gave me could be put towards a replacement - that book has never been republished in any form that I have been able to find (Vinge's annotated version of his book A Fire Upon the Deep).

I have 300+ books purchased and read on iOS Kindle, after buying Neal Stephenson's latest recently I discovered it has an obnoxious popover Audible ad on the page browse screen which must be re-dismissed each time you open the book. I was shocked how quickly it totally ruined the experience of reading a book. I haven't read more than about 10 pages on Kindle since, and I can't bear to buy another kindle book knowing this could happen at any time. It has been a couple weeks, it is probable at this point I will never read another book on Kindle (the only device I care about is iOS). I had sort of the opposite reaction, if there is some other entity mediating my experience with the text, I genuinely don't care what happens to my "library". Luckily these are mass produced and distributed books that are essentially immutable, so it isn't like I've lost anything that isn't available elsewhere.

Wait... you bought the book and still got ads? That's unacceptable.

Ask for a full refund and never ever buy anything from that company again.

Yeah, I mean for context this is what it looks like: https://imgur.com/a/Ngcsa3q

It isn't uncommon for books to promote other books before/after the content, but something about having it in the page movement is so distracting. And it is slow to load in, meanwhile it is just a big white square blocking the book title with an animated spinner.

There isn't any company I would "trust" to provide an uniformly excellent experience so I don't really hold it against Amazon in toto, I still think their ability to do the long tail of retail is excellent. I didn't refund the book because I still borrowed it and read it, and I feel that the author and publisher still deserve their share since they've done nothing wrong.

You can now pay $200/mo for cable and still be forced to watch un-skippable ads for on-demand programming.

You _rent_ cable service. He _bought_ a book. Not the same thing.

Actually he 'rented' the book as well. Some years ago companies all found they could use the TOS against us for digital purchases. His 'purchase' was actually a license to view X content on Y devices Z times.

This enrages me as they charge us money for a virtual good which as soon as we purchase is considered worthless by the selling company. They can ban you- effectively closing your account and blocking your access to your 'purchases', or they can, as discussed here, decide to remove your purchase for 'insert_reason' without making you whole. This incentivizes companies toward hostile consumer attitudes in the name of profit.

You have my sympathy. I have been searching for the annotated version for years now. Any readable versions seem to have disappeared.

This is a good reminder for me to make backups of the ebooks I do have.

Is this the version you have been searching for? It is "A Fire Upon the Deep" and it looks annotated.

[0] https://i.imgur.com/260sH2V.png

That might be it. The annotations look like the kind of thing I remember.

I got it from a private tracker but it looks like you can find it on libgen fiction too [0]. The 1.7Mb epub one is the one I got.

[0] http://gen.lib.rus.ec/fiction/?q=A+Fire+Upon+the+Deep

>O site a que pretende aceder encontra-se bloqueado na sequência do cumprimento de ordem judicial ou administrativa.

(The website you want to reach is blocked due to the execution of a judicial or administrative order).

Ah the World Wide Web, less world-wide every day. I guess now if you don't use a VPN you're a second class netizen in many places.

Don't worry. You're a second class netizen with a VPN too. You'll just spend half your time solving Google's ReCaptcha instead of being blocked outright.

No need for a VPN yet, thankfully it's just a DNS block.

I didn't even consider that, I'll just switch my DNS then, thanks.

And for rare, out of print books, you can put them on libgen if you want to save someone else the time

Note that I probably have a backup of this book (I'm sure it is on one of my old decommissioned backup drives), it's unlocking it that is the problem.

...This isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened, either...

This is technically the 3rd time, with just Microsoft alone.

They turned off eBook authentication servers for "Microsoft Reader" (.LIT) format years ago... (2012?) Then, after they launched their also-now-dead store on Windows Phone which had some eBooks, well... that went away too...

Next - how many subscription/Music services has Microsoft launched and then abandoned? More than one, but I remember: PlaysForSure" - DRM servers turned off 11 years ago...

So - unless it is Xbox, don't think Microsoft is going to be a reliable source for your digital media.

Principle of the thing aside, is the annotated version worth reading? I read the book and it was quite good, curious what the annotations add to it.

I am interested in how authors actually work, and the annotated version gives some insight into how he works. You can get an idea of how he works by reading this interview with him [1]. I also got some of this from another interview I cannot find at the moment, but basically he writes in Emacs, just a plain text file, but with some markup conventions that let him distinguish between the text itself and various comments to himself about the text.

The interview I linked to includes a screenshot of Children in the Sky whilst he was writing it. The character of the draft you see there is much like I remember this annotated edition of A Fire Upon the Deep was - in other words, it was really the text of the book itself but including all of the notes to himself that he put in to help himself correlate bits of the story that should be correlated, help him make sure that the first time various things are introduced he actually introduces them properly, includes feedback from his early readers, etc.

I would not actually read the annotated version when I wanted to read the book, but would read it to see his thought process at various points, how he decided to do things, etc.

[1] http://www.norwescon.org/archives/norwescon33/vingeinterview...

I am also very curious! A Fire Upon the Deep, in my opinion, is one of the best books ever written. The idea of the "zones" really fascinates me, I wish Vinge did more with it.

I wouldn't rank it among the best ever written, but fascinating enough in its own right. I've read it several times, and loaned/given it to friends too. Now I'm wondering about the annotated edition!

My grandmother is in her late 90s, has dementia, and is in a care home. My mother sent me this update last week:

> Went to see Granny yesterday, was quite cheerful, read though the poems in "When we were very young"[0], her original copy[1], given to her in 1928, how about that. She knows them off by heart and joins in when you read them to her

Q: When we're in our late 90s, how many of us will be able to consume 90-year-old-content that way?

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_We_Were_Very_Young [1] It was first published in 1924

I love reading. I resisted ebooks until we had a baby at which point my reading time shrank to situations (bed w/the lights out, on the bus) where my Kindle is more convenient than a paper book. I buy/acquire ebooks that are the sort of thing I'd probably purchase, read, and then sell. For books I think (or know) I want to keep, I buy a paper copy, even if I've gotten an e-copy. I want my kids to have lots of book around, not _an extensive ebook library_. There's too much joy in happening across a new book at random on the shelf; Amazon recommendations can never recreate or supplant that.

Yes. The one feature I want from Kindle is the ability to buy a digital book and "upgrade" to a print version if I want to own a physical copy.

I much prefer real books but after having a baby it's just impossible to have two hands for reading during what now counts as reading time. Now it's mostly 0 hands where I just balance the reader on something.

Audiobooks and podcasts are the go-to for those seasons of life.

My wife an I don't seem to have any problem reading paper books with the baby. Accidentally dropping them isn't much of a problem either.

I'm pretty sure I'll happily recite The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny.

The real tragedy of this is that nobody will know who Mister Rogers is by that time.

Good guys, bad guys, and explosions as far as the eye can see.

And that is why I still buy my all my music. Digitally, but lossless, DRM-free and forever mine. Another concern to me is the limited selection on streaming services, particularly when it comes to rare and old releases.

I've been hoping this nostalgia trend will end. It's time to move forward. Instead of teaching kids about Shakespeare, we should be teaching about Super Mario for cultural history. Why should anyone care about poems or poetry? It was the entertainment of the early-print society, it has comparably little value today.

Unfortunately schools often fail to teach the message behind the works we view as classics.

Shakespeare wrote not just to entertain, but to inform and comment on what was happening at the time. Unfortunately many teachers don't do a good job, or don't have the time, to explain the background of the works. Students often don't know or understand that his works were often directed at specific royalty or other influential people. And so when we first read his works, we don't get the insults, slights, and compliments that would have been obvious to people back then.

Other classics speak about what it is to be human, and evoke imagery that most works never manage. What we consider to be the classics are only a small percentage of novels, poetry, and essays created in their time. There are works being written today that will become classics, but they have to be shown to be meaningful to future generations, just like the current classics have.

There are some games telling wonderful stories, and maybe they'll come to be regarded as classics in their own right. But the Super Marios, Warcrafts, and even Assassin's Creeds are not going to be among them. They're pioneers in their own right, but they don't actually have anything to teach us about the human condition, politics of their day, or have a timelessness that help towards enlightenment.

We should treasure poetry and literature because it's about the experience of reading, just like video games are about the experience of playing. Describing Super Mario Bros (You jump on, over, and around things, sometimes throwing fireballs, until you rescue the princess) doesn't do the experience of playing the game justice. Describing "i carry your heart with me" (I love you so much that all I do is by and for you) doesn't do the poem justice.

And here is the poem:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

                    i fear  
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

-ee cummings

Because our collective western culture is still the direct product of Greek philosophy no matter how many mario kart games are released.

The books in the western canon are important because they are good and went on to influence everything you consume today, even the narrative in super mario. Take some time to read a good chunk of these books and you will be wiser than most people you know on all sorts of topics.

My view is quite different. They're just stories that anyone could have told and don't contain any unobtainable wisdom. The people that told those stories simply existed before us. In many ways the stories are inferior to their modern counterparts.

> In many ways the stories are inferior to their modern counterparts.

This feels to me like a slightly tweaked form of an "appeal to novelty". The most insightful people alive today are not automatically more insightful than everyone who has died. Just because we are alive now doesn't discount the importance of previous works (and this is ignoring that today's society is based on our ancestors' philosophy and views).

Not to mention modern stories are often based on older stories, and those who write modern stories by definition were informed by older stories.

If you're only in for the fun, maybe (and only maybe). But this kind of limited fun is really a puny part of life.

Those stories that "anyone could have told" went through the ages through these specific people, in this specific form.

When you have knowledge of history, of old texts, your self is equipped to be free from manipulation of those that pretend that "things weren't this or that way, but my way" for their own benefit, because you know, because you have something material that holds together, that went through the trial of time, that says otherwise.

The modern counterparts, for instance, pick hugely on old stories, old arcs, and old myths.

But you only get that when you care to read and appreciate old stuff.

The argument here is not about quality. It is about relevance. Specifically, these old works have largely determined our current culture. If you want to understand the current culture, it pays to have some knowledge of what it was based on.

I know it's about relevance. I'm making the unpopular argument that these ancient works aren't really all that relevant, and definitely aren't profound. Simply because something is old and was the first to do something, doesn't make it important.

We have our own culture now, we spend far too much time worrying about what the dead did with their limited free time.

Modern human history is more than 50 years old. While I do appreciate that more modern examples of media might get children more interested in critical analysis, claiming that all of the "valuable" thoughts made by humans only started 50 years ago is incredibly narrow-minded.

Hamlet talks about the human condition and coming to terms with your own mortality. Where in Super Mario does that come up? Before or after world 4?

> Hamlet talks about the human condition and coming to terms with your own mortality.

So? Who cares? I don't think I ever read Hamlet. It was just entertainment, no different than a television show today.

There are definitely very good and thought-provoking television shows today. I would definitely be in favour of students watching them in class too.

But that doesn't mean that books and other creative media made more than 40 years ago are useless. For one thing, books written in the past give us insight into our history (I hope we can both agree that learning about our history is a good thing). For another, some of the greatest thinkers are already dead -- the only way we can learn from them is by reading what they wrote. Our society is built on the foundations of our ancestors, and it's ridiculous to say that their thoughts have no worth. For one thing, history has a tendency to repeat itself -- so maybe learning a bit more about our history would help avoid future problems.

I can't imagine anyone trying to apply this logic to any field other than literature. "What's the point of learning calculus and kinematics? Newton died 300 years ago!"

> I can't imagine anyone trying to apply this logic to any field other than literature.

It's about going obsolete. We don't teach people how to use an abacus anymore, or even write in cursive.

I'm not saying there's not a place for history, but it's time to stop fawning over things that happened 200 years ago and focus on more modern things.

Ignoring the provocative/trolling part, studying digital design from a cultural-historic PoV might turn out to much harder than reading books written centuries ago because of lost sources, formats, and devices. Even HTML, with its deep roots in the digital humanities (SGML), has been brittled to death because $reasons.

If you ever feel inclined, take some courses in any cultural or art history department at a somewhat reputable college or university.

You will see professors are already tying "classics" to current cultural products. Drawimg parallels, discussing patterns and influences.

We jumped from Nietzsche to Japanese manga.

It's not either/ or, it's both.

I was at SFSU and Amsterdam uni. YMMV.

This is why DRM isn't just anti-consumer, it's also morally evil using the same logic that says libraries are a good thing.

This is also why I buy games on gog.com instead of steam if they both have them.

> This is why DRM isn't just anti-consumer, it's also morally evil using the same logic that says libraries are a good thing.

It's also simply an inferior technical solution due to its unnecessary complexity and dependence on servers, corporate entities/departments/decisions.

We need legislation that only affords copyright protection to DRM-free works. Works protected by DRM should not be afforded any more protection than normal trade secrets.

We desperately need a way to pay most/all authors directly

Paying authors directly doesn't mean the book will not have DRM nor using an intermediate book selling service mean that they will have DRM.

The problem is having DRM, not how the book authors are paid.

Perhaps authors would be more inclined to distribute content DRM-free, and consumers to pay.

Some use this model already, for example Nine Inch Nails and Griz (may be wrong)

Diane Duane sells her books directly, as DRM-free epubs [0]. Was quite happy when, a decade after first reading it, I found out So You Want To Be A Wizard wasn't standalone and wanted to continue the series.

[0] https://ebooksdirect.co/

Pretty much all paid music downloads are DRM-free now. There is usually a distributor like Bandcamp that takes a cut, but that's because most artists aren't going to host their own payment system and file servers.

Have you found a solution to piracy that doesn't involve DRM? What was its success rate? I'm sure the publishers would love to switch to a better system if it exists.

Are you implying that DRM is a solution to piracy? If anything, DRM is a big driver for piracy, and its success rate is near zero. Virtually all major DRM-"protected" works are available on thepiratebay shortly after release. Sometimes before release.

The "better solution" is to treat your customers with respect and let them own their bought goods. Gog.com is a good example here, in my opinion.

What definitely doesn't work is to burden your paying customers with digital locks and hurdles to enjoyment, that the pirates will shortly find a way to remove for the non-paying audience.

Its fine to have an opinion on how things should be, but some of your assertions are not based on facts.

>Virtually all major DRM-"protected" works are available on thepiratebay shortly after release. Sometimes before release.

"Virtually all Server OSs get hacked/have had security bugs. Nobody should use them to host or store anything."

All you're saying is that DRM isn't perfect. Nothing is perfect, and it isn't exactly a revelation.

If it were impossible to pirate Windows, would all the pirates switch to Linux or another Free OS? If the answer is No, then a non-zero number of people will go out and purchase Windows. From a sales standpoint, preventing piracy is definitely going to drive sales. Also, if your answer is Yes to the question, then all the Free OS advocates should be making it impossible to pirate Windows. :)

>The "better solution" is to treat your customers with respect and let them own their bought goods. Gog.com is a good example here, in my opinion.

If we accept your premise that DRM == disrespecting customers, then you'll have to account for why people are still selling stuff with DRM, and continuing to make millions and millions of dollars. Do customers like being disrespected?

>What definitely doesn't work is to burden your paying customers with digital locks and hurdles to enjoyment, that the pirates will shortly find a way to remove for the non-paying audience.

The success of DRM'd products refutes your claim, entirely.

>All you're saying is that DRM isn't perfect. Nothing is perfect, and it isn't exactly a revelation.

DRM and servers are fundamentally different in that securing a server is an achievable goal. There is nothing fundamental that stops you from exposing an interface without any holes in it, even if it's quite hard. DRM is the polar opposite. Where servers are physically isolated from attackers in a manner that allows for perfect security* DRM is physically colocated on the attacker's machine in a manner that explicitly denies perfect security.

Servers are also broken into fairly sporadically for short periods of time and many of them never at all. Data stolen from servers usually slowly goes stale as people change their passwords and so on. On the other side of the fence I cannot think of a DRM that wasn't compromised relatively quickly and excluding anti-cheats once DRM is compromised it stays that way forever.

You can even see the discrepancy in the availability of files. I can pirate basically any game almost immediately after launch but if I want background production files lifted from server, even for an ancient game, the Half-Life 2 beta is almost the only example. One of them is certainly more niche but not enough to explain the size of the gulf.

Both are examples of imperfect things but there's always going to be a line between "imperfect" and "too imperfect to bother with" and personally I feel DRM falls on the "too imperfect" side of that line.

* = Assuming breaking into the data center is outside of the threat model, which it usually is.

Breaking into the data center is NOT outside of the threat model. We spend considerable amount of time detailing what can be done With physical access and various levels of physical access (for example, can I open the box versus being at the terminal vs having access to ports).

If you’re not doing that with your data centers then you are not even close to doing security right. And if you think it is close to feasible to completely lock down a server then you’re probably not being realistic.

> If it were impossible to pirate Windows, would all the pirates switch to Linux or another Free OS? If the answer is No, then a non-zero number of people will go out and purchase Windows. From a sales standpoint, preventing piracy is definitely going to drive sales.

What your not counting is the number of people who would be happy to purchase it because it's more convenient but get the pirated version because it's superior, being unencumbered by DRM.

As a firefox or chrome user for instance I could pay for netflix, but the will only deliver the 720p version, why would I pay for a worse product?

> "Virtually all Server OSs get hacked/have had security bugs. Nobody should use them to host or store anything."

Your comparison is flawed. Most server installations are not broken into during their lifetime. But it only takes one copy of a movie getting onto thepiratebay to make it accessible to everyone who wants it. So if DRM cannot prevent every attempt at circumvention, it's useless and can only serve to hinder legitimate use of the product.

> If we accept your premise that DRM == disrespecting customers, then you'll have to account for why people are still selling stuff with DRM, and continuing to make millions and millions of dollars.

No, I don't. The fact that some people accept the deal doesn't prove that there's nothing wrong with it. In this case, the seller unilaterally went back on the deal without the customers being involved at all.

I'm not a DRM fanatic and I do use DRM services on a daily basis. But if a vendor pulls a trick like in the OP, they can't then turn around and ask why some potential customers are pirating the product instead. Their addition of DRM has made the service less convenient than piracy. Remember, it's only your legitimate paying customers who have to deal with your DRM. The pirated version has no DRM.

> The success of DRM'd products refutes your claim, entirely.

The purpose of DRM is to prevent piracy. This has mostly been a failure.

>But it only takes one copy of a movie getting onto thepiratebay to make it accessible to everyone who wants it.

Unlocking the DRM on that one movie allows you to pirate that one movie, not all movies. Finding a security bug for one OS allows you to exploit that particular OS.

>So if DRM cannot prevent every attempt at circumvention, it's useless and can only serve to hinder legitimate use of the product.

No, if something even serves as a mild hurdle, it is still beneficial.

>So if DRM cannot prevent every attempt at circumvention, it's useless and can only serve to hinder legitimate use of the product.


Given the abundance of hundreds, and in some cases thousands of vulnerabilities, it seems securing any OS is an impossible task. To take smartphones phones as an example, a vast vast majority of phones have had vulnerabilities which let you root/jailbreak them.

>No, I don't. The fact that some people accept the deal doesn't prove that there's nothing wrong with it. In this case, the seller unilaterally went back on the deal without the customers being involved at all.

You do, because I don't accept the argument you made. Your broad claim that DRM == disrespecting consumers doesn't seem to be borne out by the market. So it seems we've reached a bit of an impasse.

>The purpose of DRM is to prevent piracy. This has mostly been a failure.

You have to actually demonstrate that it is a failure. Whats plain to see for anyone is that products like adobe photoshop for e.g. are going from 'little league' DRM to 'major league' DRM + subscription and are making even more money. Its fine to lament at how the world sucks, but its important to be realistic and fact based when doing so.

> Your broad claim that DRM == disrespecting consumers doesn't seem to be borne out by the market. So it seems we've reached a bit of an impasse.

So Comcast customers feel respected? Feeling respected isn't the only variable at play.

FYI, Bill Gates has explicitly stated he prefers pirated MS Windows use to unencumbered Linux converts:

"[A]s long as they're going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."


I don't see what point you're trying to make? Microsoft continues to protect all their commercial products with DRM. They clearly see value in doing that.

Not exactly. They've basically accepted that a huge portion of the world will never pay for Windows: https://time.com/3749434/microsoft-windows-10-pirates-free/

That the hypothetical case of OS piracy was false, explicitly acknowledged by the creator of the OS in question.

Microsoft's DRM on their own software is quite intentionally weak. Enforcement via audits (through its proxy arm, the BSA, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSA_(The_Software_Alliance)), has been the preferred method.

I hope you realize that "more" vs "less" DRM, is not the same as DRM vs no-DRM. In any case, I don't see anything I can respond to.. so.. thanks for the comment.

Again: not the point I'm addressing.

That's probably why they don't put up much fuss anymore if you never register windows 10.

That and it has ads.

This is a very old debate. It was settled a long time ago. Restrictive copyright protection measures hurt sales. Because it prevents potential customers from trying your products. Anyone arguing otherwise is motivated by something other than facts, history, logic.

Companies are not dummies, they know what works and how to make money. DRMd content is a billion+ dollar industry. But yeah, if you believe that it doesn't work, you're free to believe so.

>Anyone arguing otherwise is motivated by something other than facts, history, logic.

Its easier to ask, rather than assume.

"DRMd content is a billion+ dollar industry."

Of course it is.

Who made most of the money during the Klondike Gold Rush?

(for just one such example)

Apple, Inc. did - they sell all of their music without DRM for the last, like, 10 years. Meanwhile the music industry is alive and well.

The key is convenience. When it's convenient to buy, people buy.

Don’t forget IP laws. The threat of lawsuits is larger than the benefit of free music.

DRM is a means of protecting IP by technical means. When legal means are more effective then DRM isn’t necessary.

If you take the legal recourse off the table then I think free Napster like services proliferate.

Oh? I thought Apple Music was encumbered with DRM in their M4P format. I'm not super familiar with their service though. Maybe I'm wrong..

Edit: Looks like the M4P format was mainly on older songs pre2009. Though I see forum threads with people saying that they have to re-pay Apple w/ itunes match to get the drm-free version.


No DRM for iTunes Store where you can buy music.

Apple Music a streaming service, and that is DRMed (I believe).

Apple music is streaming service. But the downloaded files are DRM protected. I know this tool (https://www.audfree.com/drm-audio-converter-win/) can bypass drm easily.

The whole digital music industry has left DRM behind - I buy my music losslessly and from a number of stores without any strings attached. Of course this can only apply to purchasable content - streaming service obviously need to rely on DRM.

Apple Music (the streaming service) has DRM IIRC. But iTunes used to sell DRM-laden music in the mid-2000s and about 10 years ago they stopped. You can download all of your iTunes songs as MP3s right now.

For movies? Netflix. For books? Piracy is irrelevant. (See far too many articles from Konrath, who at one point uploaded all his books on a torrent site AND advertised that on his blog... to no effect on his sales.)

I don't know if you know this, but DRM is a core part of Netflix. No studio would ever have signed up with them if they couldn't control distribution.

>See far too many articles from Konrath, who at one point uploaded all his books on a torrent site AND advertised that on his blog... to no effect on his sales

I am not familiar with that example. Any link to the data?

- The DRM of Netflix is irrelevant. The people who want to download the movies will do it anyway, but their number got way lower once Netflix (and probably Hulu and others like them) got a large enough catalog. People like convenience and are willing to pay for it.

- I couldn't immediately find the article where he announced that HE uploaded his books (as an experiment), but here is one of the many articles where he dismisses the issue:


The number of people willing to download movies and TV shows is going to only get higher now that the movie streaming space is getting balkanized, and Netflix in particular is shedding its catalogue faster than my cat sheds its fur.

I pay for Netflix. I'm probably going to reduce my plan in the next month or two, to buy a subscription to HBO. Sure. But there's no way in hell I'm going to pay for Netflix and HBO and Hulu and Disney and CBS and whatever other fly-by-night streaming service that happened to inherit rights to the particular show I wanted to watch. Not even because it's too much money (though frankly, it is), but because it's a hassle. Hassle with managing accounts and subscriptions. Hassle with dealing with everyone's bullshit web UI that's different from everyone else's bullshit web UI. Hassle with dealing with VPN and getting a US CC somehow, because I'm willing to bet region restrictions are only going to get worse.

Compared to all that, BitTorrent just works. And between PopcornTime and Radarrr/Sonarrr, I hear it even works better than the streaming services now. I might need to look into it.

Exactly this. I pay for Netflix, YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime, and BT TV. Recently all of my friends were talking about Chernobyl. It's not on any of these services (Sky TV exclusive in the UK). I take pride in paying for my entertainment and software but I'm not signing up to yet another streaming service just to watch a 5 episode miniseries.

So I torrented it. Same goes for the movies that I can't legally watch any other way.

No company has ever gone out of business because of piracy. How is adobe still going in that case? I doubt the average user of photoshop was willing to drop hundreds of dollars to purchase a software license off them over the years.

If someone is willing to pirate one game no matter the cost, then they are very likely to pirate all games they play. That doesn't translate into lost sales, they are stopping people who have no interest in making a purchase to begin with.

From the music industry to software industry, you have to ask, are big companies trying to protect their revenue, or profit? I find it hard to sympathize with companies that are disappointed with making only tens to hundreds of millions in profit. Exponential growth is not realistic, it means more monopolies over products and services.

Yes. Make good content, sell it at a fair price, and trust your users. iTunes music store has been DRM-free for years.

I recall an author flooding the relevant network (Bittorent) with an incomplete "pirate" version of her own book.

It did have a measurable (and positive) impact on sales. Not sure how much of a solution that is, but at least it worked this one time.

Have you found a solution to piracy that does involve DRM?

Isn't the underlying problem sufficient and predictable pay to authors, artists, and other creators?

Seems to me DRM addresses this exceedingly poorly.

Morally evil? They’re giving full refunds on the books.

This type of hyperbole makes it hard to take anti-DRM arguments seriously. “It’s a less desirable technology choice” feels more like the right level of angst IMO.

Giving refunds isn't sufficient.

The reason why trades happen is that both sides value what the other party has more. So I value a book more than I value the money the seller wants to charge for it, so I buy it.

So that means that I would lose out with a unilateral unwinding of the trade.

Imagine the outcry if this happened in the financial world: "Yeah, we sold you that stock, but we're taking it back now, you'll be OK because we're giving you the money back." Isn't going to fly.

GP wrote DRM is morally evil, not Microsoft. That MS is giving refunds is nice of them, but doesn't invalidate the problems with DRM in general.

I don't want a refund. I want to keep my books.

"yeah, we take back your transplanted heart but don't worry we will give a refund so it's not immoral"

Every piece of DRM'd content will end up like this. Every book, movie, show, album, and game will be dead in a few decades (or sooner) if it relies on some company maintaining it's servers.

It's good that there's alternatives, but it seems like the alternatives are slowly diminishing.

Take this with a grain of salt, but Steam support says there are "measures in place" to ensure users have access to DRM'd games when steam dies [0]. (Not to mention that it's trivially easy to remove Steam DRM with existing tools)


Unfortunately we'll have to see it to truly believe it. I don't doubt Valve would do that, but it's easy to say that now.

Luckily, we still have torrents to help backup old games.

right... like what if Valve actually even intends to do it, but it requires someone to throw a switch and the last guy that knows how to (or even just to) do that dies suddenly just before Valve suddenly goes bankrupt.

Not even that - what if they're bought out by another company who doesn't share their philosophy? (EA?)

> there are "measures in place" to ensure users have access to DRM'd games when steam dies

What about when Steam gets gobbled up by $other_industry_giant?

I wonder how this can even be legal in Europe. If someone sold you something, its yours. AFAIK, There is enough consumer protection to stop most EULA bullshit. So it seems it only needs someone to sue and some proof microsoft used the word 'sold' when you bought it.

I doubt the law requires anything more than the full refund which MS is providing.

Similarly, if someone sells you a physical product that is faulty, the seller is not required to produce a replacement, they can just refund you instead.

> the seller is not required to produce a replacement

As well they cannot demand any such thing - the country's money is legislated to be accepted as a settlement for any kind of debt. It's the "legal tender" thing.

Defective instances are a random (though not unpredictable) event occurring independently between instances, with no influence by the manufacturer, designholder, or vendor.

Hitting the Molly Switch on a DRM service is the exact opposite.

The UK Consumer Rights Act (CRA) appears to anticipate this as it has no absolute date beyond which goods should remain suitable for purpose.

Digital goods should last infinitely, so a digital good that 'expires' should be fixed or the cost fully refunded (fully as there are still an infinite number of years of use left available; and that should be accounting for inflation too).

They are fully refunding all purchases, though.

I don't understand how publishers are going to continue pushing DRMed media if they have to keep every sale as a liability on their books.

I feel the legality should surround the description. This isn't "selling" it's "lending".

You probably only obtain a license to read a book and don't actually own it, similar to streaming movies & music.

"and you will receive a full refund of the original purchase price."

Seems fair enough to me.

That's like saying the car factory is allowed to take an old timer from you if they refund its original price.

Can I use the money to buy the same book? Is my time lost searching for this replacement worth nothing? If I added annotations, do they end up in the new book? If you answer any of these questions with 'no', its not fair enough.

That analogy is loaded because classic cars appreciate. Ebooks don’t. Toyota can feel to take back my 03 4Runner for the original purchase price.

Ebooks can appreciate.

You could have originally bought it on sell and that sell is no longer available.

You could have added value to the ebook by way of adding annotations.

The ebook could have had better display than its competitors, if it and all other equal quality displays vanished, they are now very rare. Someone would be willing to pay more than your original purchase price if they could now get that display experience.

So can I reverse any contract at anytime or is this something only large companies are allowed to do and only to consumers?

What's the definition of "fair" here? There are many scenarios under which that makes no sense. Is the price inflation adjusted? What if the currency in question tanked in the mean time? What about actual labor done on the copy (annotations, notes, ...). Not faulting Microsoft, but we really need to rethink this model.

Only that I wanted the books, not the money.

Use the money to buy the book again.

Let's just wait for who's it gonna be! And how will it look when "books stop working".

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