This led me to complaints by The Authors Guild (as detailed in an article by The Guardian) and three other authors mentioned in an NPR article. Since then I've also discovered a statement by the Association of American Publishers linked from the HN submission.
Some of the focus is on the revenue that authors make from their publications and some of it is on the legality of making the content more accessible.
It is worth reading the original HN submission link, as it contains some useful clarifications around the way the National Emergency Library operates; including, for example, that access to content is on a 2-week loan basis and requires the content to be checked-out from the library
The Internet Archive have also updated their National Emergency Library FAQ in response to the debate.
It'd be good to discover whether the National Emergency Library ends up increasing awareness and access to publications temporarily, and whether they will collect and distribute any funds after-the-fact based on readership.
 - https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/internet-arch...
 - https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/mar/30/internet-archi...
 - https://text.npr.org/s.php?sId=823797545
 - https://publishers.org/news/comment-from-aap-president-and-c...
 - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QjErbouWG7pUlzcxPcRk4YEt...
Summary from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Controlled_digital_lending
> Opponents of CDL argue that CDL is not like lending, which does not require copying, and dispute the claim that only one copy at a time is available for reading. Opponents say that CDL involves first making an unauthorized digital copy of a printed edition of a work, and then making an additional unauthorized digital copy for each "borrower". Opponents also argue that unencrypted digital copies are distributed for viewing in a Web browser, and that these copies can be retained, viewed, or printed from the browser cache even after the e-book is marked as "returned" and is available for "lending" to other readers.
This is based on the vague notion of "creative work" in copyright.
Before the digital age, there was only a close 1:1 relationship between the ephemeral/conceptual creative work and physical copies of that work. Authors - and more specifically publishers - held exclusive control over the latter since the act of copying and distribution was prohibitively expensive.
The game changer in digital technology is that it democratized creating and distributing copies. Not just that, digital technology has blurred the definition of a "physical carrier" as a creative work can be represented as set of constituent bitstreams on a disk but also as pixels or audio on a screen/speakers. The creative work itself is re-generated/re-constructed through digital devices each time it is consumed.
Copyright still applies, the ephemeral conceptual work as was original intended by the author is still protected. But it's become very difficult to apply that protection to equally ephemeral representations in the digital realm.
The hard problem then is that copyright doesn't make a distinction between "physical copy", "digital copy" and the ephemeral "creative work" as an abstract idea or concept which was originally conceived by the author.
This leaves an huge void for interpretations. And so, both the Internet Archive as well as the Authors Guild can make sound legal arguments.
You'll find the "copyright is broken" cry on both sides of the aisle. But I don't think that rings entirely true either. There are enough provisions for publishers and authors to authorize or take down published copies online. The Internet Archive in particular even openly allows for that through their digital front office. The bigger question remains how the digital era shapes publishing and lending business models.
Now where I live the library system is awesome, and I found the selection was way better than Barnes & Noble.
Libraries purchase a lot of books every year and it's no small amount of money. That being said it's also wasteful for many people to buy a book only to read it once. So we need to put more thought into how we can do this so we aren't so wasteful.
Books are not just a throwaway product like a daily newspaper - they have many roles to play.
I am moving away from kindle for exactly these reasons above; I'm sad I don't have these benefits with the many books I read digitally.
Someone who thinks he might read them again.
I remember re-reading many sections of a book before I understood it. Some get read others never and some re-read.
A cleansing fire, perhaps; a deserved reminder that our reality is one of a stone's throw from death. A necessary lesson for an angry but complacent society that has grown fat and weak with comfort and convenience.
I struggle to otherwise explain the near total global failure to deal with a pandemic which was evident as early as January.
Who says there's been a 'near total global failure to deal' with this pandemic? We're dealing with it right now, and countries around the world are taking drastic steps and decisive action. Perhaps we weren't as prepared as we should've been and I think that case can readily be made, but to think that because you can't explain our lack of preparation, it must mean that this virus and the resulting fallout were 'deserved' or 'necessary' seems pretty cold-hearted in light of all the people affected by this who already were struggling from paycheck to paycheck, just trying to get by and possibly improve their standing in life.
The same people will be in charge on the other side. They will admit no responsibility for making our societies this fragile in the first place and blame all ills on unforeseen externalities. Rinse and repeat.
Not only do I support the measure you have taken and feel that it falls within the bounds of pro-social fair use, but I applaud the measures you have taken that are so important in this extreme time.
Furthermore, if any court finds that your action was not appropriate, I will urge my lawmakers to craft a specific exception to copyright law to support the internet archive lending at all times, not just during a national emergency.
I get that it seems generous to give away these works. But they simply weren't theirs to give away to begin with. If you want to lend out 1,000 copies of book, first you have to buy 1,000 copies of said book.
I'm disappointed with Internet Archive. They're opening themselves up to a huge lawsuit, and I'd hate to see their mission derailed because of it.
Not only that - if this goes to court, there's a really good chance that the concept of Controlled Digital Lending (i.e., libraries lending out scans backed one-to-one by physical books, which many libraries including Internet Archive have been doing for a long time before this) ends up in court too, and a judge says, what the Internet Archive did is illegal because the whole idea of Controlled Digital Lending was never legal in the first place.
I think it's foolish to trust that the courts (especially the courts today) are going to be sympathetic to fair use and to narrowing copyright.
The premise that they would be trying to purposefully shove it into the court system to achieve a ruling one way or the other is interesting. That’s how you play hard in the paint!
They gave authors the ability to opt out.
From the FAQ:
"If I am an author and I do not want my book to be temporarily available during this crisis, how can I remove my book from the National Emergency Library?
Authors who do not want their books in the National Emergency Library should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “National Emergency Library Removal Request” as the subject line. Please include each URL of the book or books you would like to have removed. Please allow up to 72 hours for processing as we are a small team."
That's not how copyright works in the US. Maybe it should be, but it's not. The owner of a copyright gets to say how it's used, they don't merely have a right to refuse to uses if they're aware of them.
There are certain exceptions, such as compulsory licensing (e.g., in the US you can get a license to cover a song at a fixed-by-law rate) and fair use, but those aren't opt-out mechanisms either - those are permissions that the copyright holder can't refuse.
Maybe it should, but the law doesn't work that way right now.
> If we're going to talk about the alleged illegality of a controlled process for sharing data, I'd like to start with ad-tracking, since that clearly affects a larger group of people and because its legality seems to rest on a similar premise (at least, to this layman).
Copyright doesn't protect data, it protects the creative expression of ideas. Data itself isn't copyrightable: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_Publications,_Inc.,_v._R.... Therefore, nobody is infringing any copyright I have by tracking my behavior via ads.
Maybe it should (or maybe copyright shouldn't protect anything), but the law doesn't work that way right now.
I'm not sure how Youtube et al.'s situation is different in these regards. In both cases, the takedown process is covered under the DMCA, no?
>Copyright doesn't protect data, it protects the creative expression of ideas. Data itself isn't copyrightable: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_Publications,_Inc.,_v._R.... Therefore, nobody is infringing any copyright I have by tracking my behavior via ads.
As an artist, I'd hold that much of my expression is tied up in my data. Likewise, my data is part of the creative expression that I use to market my works. For example, the websites that I choose to visit are part of my subcultural identity and intentionally signal to others that identity, an expression of my personal creativity; the works that I post are dissected and sold as data to market to me. This is an integral aspect of the interaction model of so-called Web 2.0 platforms.
...I'm sure this hasn't been argued before, but should we decide to open the can of worms of whether or not libraries should "be"...
Ultimately, these issues seem to be unexamined, to some extent. I wonder if there's some hesitation to invite a floodgate-opening should a decision go sideways.
The DMCA (specifically OCILLA / section 512) is about the liability of YouTube as an intermediary who hosts other people's videos. If I decide to post a YouTube video where I do a dramatic reading of the Windows source code, I am still breaking the law - the DMCA merely protects YouTube from liability from making copies of my video and therefore making copies of the Windows source code. In return, the DMCA gives Microsoft an easier-than-usual process to ask YouTube to take my content down. They can still sue me, if they want; they'd have to go to court instead of just sending a letter, so they'd probably decide that it's enough to just get YouTube to remove the video and not bother suing. But they could.
Notably, you can't use the DMCA safe harbor provisions to give yourself safe harbor. I cannot, on my personal blog which I host, post a DMCA contact address and avoid liability for posting copyrighted content. (Probably I'd trick some copyright-scanning bots and get away with it in practice provided I took down anything they complained about promptly, but it's legally meaningless.)
Also, I'm curious to know your reaction to the second part of my reply.
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/504 has some details on damages (but also note https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/412 , that you need to register copyright to get the option of statutory damages). I think (but I am a bit unsure about this) that if I posted some copyrighted content on a blog without permission, I'd be liable for the $750 in damages if the copyright holder had registered it and found it worthwhile to go to court to get it.
Are you certain you know how the law works right now?
Would there be any limits to your proposed exception? Or could they buy a single copy of a book and lend out as many simultaneous copies as readers asked for?
Snark aside, how is this any different than going to your local library and feeding quarters to the photocopier? Scale?
The change the Internet Archive made is that they previously had a model of lending e-books that were backed by physical copies, and now they have a model of letting as many people read the e-book at once, without reference to physical copies. That means they've shifted from the library model to the library-that-photocopies model.
Also, the photocopier at every library I've seen has a sign warning against non-fair-use copying of copyrighted material. So, one big difference is in intent, not just scale. Your average library discourages you from feeding quarters to the photocopier. This one has posted a sign arguing that unlimited copying is fair use for the next few months, and is handing you a roll of quarters.
Often groups of students get together and take turns making multiple sets of copies for the whole group.
A few times I actually had professors that were nice enough to make copies for the students ahead of time.
One professor even went to the trouble of having a local print shop print and bind the copies in paperback. We had to pay something like $10 to cover the costs.
Is any or all of that copyright infringement? Is there an exception for universities? Is this just a case of the law being so disconnected from reality that people don't even know they are breaking it?
Remember: authors have to eat and sleep too. If they don't make money from their work, they'll do something else.
Yes, you're right. Let's do this.
This is more or less what governments are supposed to do in the time of trouble like these: make sure that people who lost the means of supporting themselves at no fault of their own don't starve and are not left in the streets en masse. If that implies giving them free food and free shelter, then it should be done. If your government leaves people to die of hunger in the streets instead - you have a really shitty government, please get a new one.
Heck, even the most right-wing governments, like the US one, are distributing free money (which converts into free food) right now.
Seriously, if you think that letting people read an out-of-print book or two for free while quarantined is somehow bad or immoral, I think you should recalibrate your world views.
I might sound radical here, so feedback is welcome. But this reads to me like anti-free-market: Invent a product, sell product with protections to limit theft of the idea, market evolves and the product and derivatives stop being profitable, no active market for product but protections continue... There's a logic break in the logistics there.
Maybe some protections allow them to transform the original product for a current market, but if that does nothing about the market for the original product, unauthorized distribution is immaterial to the holder. They can't lose revenue on a product they weren't exercising due diligence to earn revenue on at that time.
That all being said, I still agree with you. I really don't care how much money Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony wants to make on decades-old games, at a certain point it becomes a cultural artifact. Snow White and other century-old movie properties should be public domain nowadays as well. At this point we're debating about the core values of trademark law though, and I'm not sure you wanted to do that.
A similar debate revolves around what the law should say about "dead" games. These are games that, for example, rely on a central server that has been shut down. Many of these games were incredibly popular in their day, and some "radicals" (like myself, lol) argue that game companies should be compelled to release the server source code in an effort to preserve the game. Here's a great overview/rant on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUAX0gnZ3Nw
Why does time need to pass for that to be true?
Or, in other words, Rai Stone coins, but books.
I'm not sure how to get from there to "screw copyright." Yes, it's weird that the law requires (at least under normal circumstances, and if the Internet Archive is wrong, also today) physical copies of books as essentially "reserves" for scanned versions of books. I don't think that it follows that it's weird that the law requires that you have to pay per copy.
In the pre-digital world, if a library wanted to lend out ten copies of a book, they'd have to pay for ten copies, and that wasn't weird. And this isn't an argument about zero-marginal-cost products, because a good chunk of the money the library spent would not go to the physical cost of book printing. (In fact most people's intuitions would say it's fairer that there's a profit beyond the marginal cost, because that way the author and editor get compensated more for more successful books.)
Yes, it'd be significantly better if the Internet Archive needed to have one physical copy (or even zero). I don't think it's weird that if they or any other library wants to lend out ten copies, they have to buy ten copies.
(I'm sympathetic to arguments of the form "information wants to be free," but, well, people want to eat, too. If injustice A is mitigated by injustice B, snapping your fingers and getting rid of B without having a plan to deal for A isn't a just action. Whether or not authors should depend on copyright for their livelihood, many of them do. And yes, several don't - so in particular, I'm much more sympathetic to the Internet Archive's action when it comes to textbooks, journals, etc. written by people who have a primary livelihood other than book-writing, such as college faculty, and much less sympathetic when it comes to books written by people who's job title is "author.")
Digital books are not paper books. They are fundamentally different things. Paper books are scarce, digital books are not. Information is not scarce.
In the pre-e-book world, libraries could always copy books on their own. They could say, we're buying one copy of this book at $25, and then we'll print another thousand copies ourselves at $5 each and sell them to other libraries. Quality might have been lower, but it would have gotten books into the hands of more people, right? Why didn't they?
> People have to eat, but having to sell books just to put food on the table is also obscene. Food is a basic human right and should never be staked on whether or not you can successfully sue your audience.
I don't disagree. But that's not the world we live in. Food shouldn't be staked on that, but it is. Let's solve that first, and then we can start taking people's livelihoods away.
This is kind of like saying "Tipping is an unjust and evil and stupid system, so I'm not going to tip." Yes, it is an unjust and evil and stupid system - but the practical effect of not tipping is nothing more than underpaying people who, for better or worse, rely on that unjust and evil and stupid system. Fix the system first (e.g., petition your favorite restaurant to raise prices and have a no-tipping policy, and patronize those that have already done that), then you can stop tipping without hurting people
You can sell them for whatever people will pay for them. You can sell the bandwidth for the eBook for whatever people will pay.
>In the pre-e-book world, libraries could always copy books on their own. They could say, we're buying one copy of this book at $25, and then we'll print another thousand copies ourselves at $5 each and sell them to other libraries. Quality might have been lower, but it would have gotten books into the hands of more people, right? Why didn't they?
Because of the same broken copyright system which is going to have lawyers burning down the doors of archive.org once they're allowed to leave their caves post-coronavirus. They should be copying these books and sending them to other libraries for a fraction of the cost.
>I don't disagree. But that's not the world we live in. Food shouldn't be staked on that, but it is. Let's solve that first, and then we can start taking people's livelihoods away.
I didn't suggest we immediately transition to a copyright free world. I said "screw copyright".
And, for the record, we are already in a world where this works. Thousands of content creators in all fields of media are making a living based on crowdsourced funding and free distribution of content to their audience. This model has been consistently growing and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. A lot of people are making more money with this model than they would be with traditional publishing and suing everyone who coughs on their book and lets someone else look at the tissue.
Hell - all businesses face the risk of needing to pivot. Same holds true for authors. If the current approach isn't working because people are sharing your books, then you need to change your approach.
True, you didn't say that - but that's kind of what the Internet Archive is doing. I'm definitely in agreement with the position that we should work towards a world where a lending library like they're running is both ethical and legal. I don't think the Internet Archive unilaterally running such a library is a measurable step towards that world, and it also seems to have made a bunch of people who previously only cared about their copyrights in theory (because piracy wasn't significant and so they didn't actually ever think about suits or lawyers) start caring about them in practice, which seems strategically like it gets us farther fro that world.
Re crowdsourced funding - yes, it's very promising and I'm excited about it, but I'm a little hesitant of extrapolating to it making copyright irrelevant. A number of people who produce creative works under Patreon-style models still rely on copyright: they produce works that are available only to paying subscribers, and people who say "this is a zero-marginal-cost product, so I can duplicate it" undermine their ability to get subscribers. Or, in other words, there are some creators who are funded by enthusiastic supporters who would pay either way, and there are some creators who are funded by customers who are still paying to get access to zero-marginal-cost products (except that the mechanics of how they pay is a little different), and these look very similar from the outside.
I'm genuinely glad and excited that the model of enthusiasts funding free software development is working for many people (including you), but free software has historically worked on models different from how book/music/article/video/etc. production has worked. For instance, it's already pretty well established (by Red Hat) that you can make a successful free software company by charging for support. I don't think we've figured out what the equivalent of "charge for support" is for, say, books.
First: that's not what they're doing - they're taking emergency measures during a national crisis to ensure that people still have access to books. They have made explicit their plans to return to business as usual once the nation returns to normalcy.
Second: the first step to change is often civil disobedience. I look forward to seeing how this plays out in court, and I commend their bravery in taking a stand for what's right. What "measurable steps" towards this world would you suggest they take?
>A number of people who produce creative works under Patreon-style models still rely on copyright: they produce works that are available only to paying subscribers, and people who say "this is a zero-marginal-cost product, so I can duplicate it" undermine their ability to get subscribers.
I think I'm qualified to tell you simply that you are wrong. This is not how it works. You can give away your products for free and rely on the voluntary generosity of your audience. Many, many people do. In fact, most people do. Those publishing exclusive content for paid supporters are in the minority in this group.
A huge issue with it is that the creative bears all the risks of chargebacks and payment processor issues. Chargebacks can eat up funding tremendously quickly, and can lead to being banned even from the service that manages patronage for you. And using services like paypal is another existential risk; paypal can freeze or ban you. If anything a publisher's check is more stable.
There's also issues with how much earnings can fluctuate for small creators based on whale donors. People who donate large amounts each month can really hurt small creators if they withdraw. Selling books for example kind of limits the impact of any one sale since all are the same price.
Oh, and patron stuff is bad overall for creativity. A lot of it is porn, a lot of it is just rewarding successful people already, and the demands of self-marketing and maintenance take a lot of time away from the artist to make stuff. It's the same with "indie" culture, it wound up being spamming things like harem gamelit or series books, because that's really what the financial system rewards now.
I think eventually it's just going to implode.
I would instinctively agree that the model doesn't work super well for authors / musicians / etc., and being a well-known free-software hacker whom people are willing to support is actually pretty unusual, but I don't have data to back this up.
The fact that CDL is allowed at all is a victory against these greedy copyright types.
That's still not entirely in keeping with the limited domain that libraries used to have, where lending out a book came with a physical cost of getting it to the patron. But it's close enough for reasonable opinions to differ.
So it's about preserving the structure by which book people (not just authors, but editors, publicists, publishers, layout, cover artists, etc) get paid.
Is the answer that it probably isn't legal and they're just hoping for the best here?
I am deeply appreciative of the Internet Archive which is why I probably wouldn't have taken that bet. It would be horrible if their solvency and future relied on the outcome of the inevitable lawsuits to follow, and I don't think the risk (of losing IA) is worth the benefit (and this is why things this important should be government-backed so that they can ignore some laws with impunity in time of need, or at least without risking their very existence).
Personally, I'd have switched to shorter waitlists first (e.g. 24 hours or even 4 hours). But I'm not a domain expert; what do I know?
They will claim that they are lending out copies of books locked up in other libraries. And there are librarians from said libraries willing to testify that they have agreed to allow this. They have ceased tracking inventory because getting a detailed inventory under current conditions is challenging. But they believe that the number of copies that they have available exceeds the number that will get lent.
If challenged, they will have the number of book X lent out on file. As long as they can find more libraries willing to say "We authorize them to lend the copy we can't lend physically because of quarantine" than they lent copies, this argument has a shot.
I wonder if the wheels are already coming off. Otherwise it seems a bit excessive for IA to suddenly bet the whole house on this.
What is the proper and proportionate response to a pandemic? I think that no-one knows, and, if I were in their shoes, then I'd rather history see me as the one who went too far in pursuit of the public good than the one who didn't do what I could have for fear that it was too much.
One potential proportionate response, in my opinion, would have been to lean harder on the existing model of Controlled Digital Lending (where each lent e-book is backed by a physical book), and instead of saying they're going to move to uncontrolled lending, put out a call for people to buy more backing copies for the duration of the pandemic, specifically identifying the books that were in more demand. Then they could have gotten those books into the hands of more people while also paying authors more.
You may as well ask, what damage has sharing food freely during a national emergency done? What damage has sharing housing? Money? All are at least as important as books, and all are worth sharing during certain forms of emergency, but I hope we'd agree it would be quite wrong for me to walk into my local grocery store and walk out with everything without paying, saying "For the public good!", and then give things out. Perhaps we should nationalize the grocery stores and the apartment buildings and the banks - but such a decision should (at most) be made by the government, not by some individual non-profit.
Again, there are less drastic measures that don't cause this. Expanding Controlled Digital Lending would actually mean the authors lose nothing, and gain them readers. (Or, you know, do this except only for orphan works or not-available-in-ebook works or something. That would also meet the stated goals.)
Or simply have the Internet Archive contact authors, say "We scanned your books into e-books, want to make them freely available? You'll lose nothing and gain readers," and then make it their decision.
What people think after you're dead shouldn't outweigh the public good in this.
They have a responsibility not to recklessly take on existential risk; it's in the best interest of their cause that they continue to exist. This is doubly true in a time of crisis where people need stable institutions to rely on.
Companies have tried to create Just In Time (JIT) media services that return digital items to a pool when you are not actively using them. This essentially creates micro loans with a time span of minutes to hours.
I can't remember the name of the company that was attempting this but they were shutdown due to a copyright lawsuit.
EDIT: They actually mention the company in the FAQ. ReDigi lost their lawsuit .
Do they just ignore it, assuming that doing the right thing in an emergency situation will be made legal later?
I'd be really interested in their legal argument/analysis and decision-making (whether it's "the emergency changes what represent fair use", "there are laws that allow extraordinary measures in case of emergencies and we claim it's that", or "screw this paper-pushing bullshit and do what's right").
And regardless of this, I fully support this decision of course.
I pirate stuff too (although I try to limit my piracy) but one difference between me and many other pirates is that I know that I am sometimes hurting people when I pirate. I don't try to console myself with ideological contrivances designed to help me avoid feeling responsibility for causing harm to others.
Question: Is losing a sale when it would otherwise be necessarily a moral harm?
But that’s just not realistic, is it? There are schemes that approximate this, using price discrimination. Libraries are among them, allowing people to read works for free or nearly free by investing the time and/or inconvenience. The staggered release of expensive hard-bound and cheaper paperback editions serve the same purpose.
No, it makes no difference at all as far as I can tell, except in the probably irrelevant sense that my dislike of justifying my piracy might have some small influence upon others.
I made my initial comment mainly because I wished to explore the question of how much anti-copyright rhetoric is actually based on selfish ulterior motives rather than on principled ideology.
I’m not sure what you mean here; how do you try? Pirating content instead of paying for it is rather binary: you either paid the requested charge for it and obtained it in line with the mechanism the author or creator used to sell it...or you didn’t. If you have no option to pay because the creator didn’t make one available to you, that’s still piracy, isn’t it? If you respect copyright, and presumably a creator’s ability to make money off of their creations (within time limits, which I firmly believe are way too long in most of the world), I think there’s not much grey in this area.
As a wise philosopher once said, there isn’t really a “try” here, in my view. You either paid or you didn’t. So, why not not pirating? Am I off-base?
I used to be fairly blasé about pirating software, justifying it with the belief that the prices were just too high. I came to believe that was really a pretty weak justification. I went through a somewhat similar change of belief later when it came to video; it's easy to talk yourself into the belief that copying TV shows and movies for free is somehow a strike against big corporations, but unless you're up for entirely reinventing the way our economy works, at the end of the day somebody really does have to pay for those shows and movies to be created, and pirating them is essentially declaring "I want to enjoy this work, I just want somebody else to pay for me doing so."
There are cases where you might want to give your money to a creator or publisher and you literally can't. Up until a few years ago, no amount of money would have been able to get you the whole series of WKRP in Cincinnati on DVD, especially with the original music, for instance. The soundtrack for The Last Unicorn was never released on CD anywhere but Germany, as far as I can tell, and it's become a rare, expensive collector's item. There are hundreds of TV shows like this, thousands of movies, thousands of records, thousands of novels, thousands of programs -- and I'm probably vastly underestimating each of those categories. Their analog releases, if they were ever made, are long out of print and they were never officially released digitally.
And, I'll admit, in those cases I'm perfectly okay with piracy. The rights holder either can't or won't release it, and you can't get it legally. One can argue in such a case you'd have a moral obligation to buy an official release if and when it's made, perhaps, but that may never happen.
It is time for the publishing industry and novelists to get with the times and adopt a new model.
No matter how noble or justified the cause for copying may be, the poor little darlings just can't help themselves. They've been screaming and whinging over being supposedly hard done by with respect to copyright royalties even before that arch villain, bully and saint to copyright owners, Victor Hugo, bulldozed unfair changes to copyright through the 1886 Berne Copyright Convention.
…And 'bulldozed' is the right word; for in the early days of the 1880s consumers and end-users of copyright material essentially had no representation at the Berne Convention (as obviously one would expect), thus the power imbalance between authors/copyright holders and consumers/users of copyright material was so one-sided in favor of the former group that if the Berne Convention had been convened today with the same terms of reference as those in 1886 then its deliberations and decisions would likely be deemed to have arrived from corrupt processes.
For starters, Berne essentially never touched on matters such as the fact that authors get their ideas, life experience and knowledge mostly from the public domain and that many were even educated or gained their knowledge at public expense, and thus they should have some reciprocal if not moral obligation to the return at least some of their output back into the public domain. Instead, the Berne Convention so favored authors that they had nothing to do to justify or prove their right over the copyright of a work other than the existence of the work itself. That means that the onus always falls on consumers/users of copyrighted works to determine their status (Berne essentially encourages authors to 'double-dip' or take from both sides, it absolves them of having any obligation to anyone but tothemselves).
In effect, Hugo and his cronies used shrewdness and cunning to get every damn thing they wished for out of the Berne Convention—they had carte blanche, as there was no effective opposition to their proposals. 'Unfairness' was the order of the day.
Trouble is, this mob was so successful at Berne that ever since they've assumed that they've a god-given right to take umbrage and raise utter hell whenever anyone takes the slightest liberties with copyright—even if those actions are lawful.
You'll note there's always one theme that perennially underpins their complaints and that's how little the mean income that authors receive from royalties actually is. Well my response to that is if writing etc. brings in so little income then why do they have it as their occupation? Of course, we all know that being an author (with some exceptions) is often more a case of self-aggrandizement and wanting to be immortalized in print forever than it is to inform the world of new ideas through new works.
As Cory Doctorow has pointed out, one of the major problems in trying to achieve equitable copyright reform for everyone is—with the exception of authors and rights holders—that so few people are actually interested in the subject. Despite the fact that copyright is an important issue, the lack of widespread expertise in the subject together with the fact that little serious public debate on the matter is taking place are both significant impediments to copyright reform.
In the meantime, the whiners will continue to bitch and whinge. I reckon it's best just to ignore them.
It's true, they do do that even when the actions are lawful. However, in this particular case, the Internet Archive's actions are almost certainly not lawful, although the whole "public service during coronavirus crisis" angle means that they probably won't be sued for it.
Even with controlled (one-at-a-time) digital lending, although the blog post does cite multiple arguments that it counts as fair use, it has never been tested in court and I'm not particularly optimistic. But what they're currently doing is not one-at-a-time and thus not controlled digital lending. The blog post takes care to distinguish the two things – saying CDL is their legal basis "during normal times", emphasizing the "careful controls" used with CDL to ensure books are lent to "one reader at a time" – yet conspicuously omits any explanation of why their current practice would be legal.
That is, what about the lockdown requires moving away from the established (even if not court-tested) one-to-one basis and making a new fair use argument about uncontrolled digital lending?
It's a huge waste of taxpayer money?
This raises an even more important point: what do citizens do when laws are enacted that do not have acceptance or are not considered as legitimate by a majority of citizens?
This is why enacting treaties such as the Berne Conventions (WIPO etc) are so damned dangerous. By their intrinsic nature, it's quite possible for small non-representative groups to have an international treaty enacted/agreed to by all 'member' states without all states even knowing the full ramifications of the said treaty are—they're forced to sign for some other 'quid pro quo' or special trade-off deal etc. Let's face it, this is how Victor Hugo and his cronies 'won' the copyright war (one must concede they played a masterful game and won outright).
As their champions know full well, once a treaty such as the Berne Convention is up and running then it is almost impossible to change it let alone have it abolished. Savvy operators such as Victor Hugo knew this from the very beginning before even entering the campaign (as that's how international politics works). This is especially the case when treaties are about matters that are not considered truly high stakes such as nuclear disarmament.
It depends on one's political stance how one views treaties that have little or no legitimacy among a majority of citizens. Some would argue that they are technically lawful and should be obeyed, others would say they're morally corrupt and thus should be disobeyed or ignored.
It's this dichotomy that's at the center of Copyright Law/Treaties today. The very fact that the 'Big Boys' consider this treaty little more than a nuisance—just noise in the grand scheme of things—is why disputes over Copyright won't end anytime soon.
The fact that such flaky and unrepresentative international treaties can exist says more about the unhealthy state of the laws in each member state. In recent decades we've all witnessed citizens' growing disrespect for institutions such as democracy and its democratic processes. It doesn't take much imagination to realize that all these problems are interrelated.
When systems of law break down or lose their legitimacy what does one do? Again, this depends on one's politics and worldview. At one end there's disorder and anarchy, at the other one becomes subservient to a corrupt state.
Take your choice. What I know is that I certainly don't want anarchy or revolution as many people die and in the long run they end up benefiting no one. Nor do I want to be subservient to law that's been 'legitimized' by corrupt non-repetitiveness processes.
The idea that the majority of people in the US are dissatisfied with the 1989 changes to US copyright law is a pretty strong one, and is at least nominally at odds with the fact that it finally got passed after a century - how did it finally become time to pass it if people were against it?
(Take care to distinguish opposing the law from being indifferent to it - certainly there are many laws that do not affect me that I'm indifferent to, such as the Railroad Retirement Act of 1974, and even if the majority of the country feels as I do, it would not really follow that that law is illegitimate.)
Yes, it's a serious problem when there are laws that the majority of citizens find illegitimate - but the contrapositive of that is that most of the time the default assumption is that for any given law, it probably is legitimate.
But I'm not within the US jurisdiction nor are many millions of others who use the Internet Archive. (Incidentally, I have been using the IA almost since its inception).
The fact that the IA is US-based and serves the world is a copyright minefield that I won't go into here. Suffice to say (as I'd imagine many in the US would do) one plays off the differences in copyright law across different jurisdictions to one's own advantage. The fallout from this incident, whatever it may be, will likely influence rules and laws in other jurisdictions but it won't be all of them. The somewhat peculiar history of US copyright law and of the US being 'out' of international affairs then aggressively back 'in' them again perplexes and annoys many outside the US (it's been essentially US corporations who have caused most of the nasty disputes over the past two or three decades).
My reference to Victor Hugo is important because he was the principle center point and figurehead at the start of modern copyright law. Whilst copyright law essentially goes back to the British Statute of Anne of 1710, it was Victor Hugo and his French colleagues that got the ball rolling which ended up with the First Berne Convention.
Hugo wasn't alone, around that time there were many others including the English duo Gilbert & Sullivan who were struggling rampant copyright piracy in the US and they went to considerable lengths to overcome the problem, the most notable of which was in 1879 when they took the Savoy Opera Company holus bolus to New York and premiered The Pirates of Penzance. This strategy was only partially successful in that US opera companies continue to pirate their works for years after that.
What makes Hugo stand out was his arrogant and aggressive dog-in-the-manger attitude. He had a superior notions of self as well as a highly tuned Francophone sense of indignity when it came to copyright breaches of his works. Berne became a crusade for Hugo, he set the aggressive embittered tone that's plagued copyright law and negotiations ever since.
> This means that multiple readers can access a digital book simultaneously
So this is just piracy. That's not how book lending works.
I am a mid-list author. I am not so successful that I will do fine whatever happens, nor am I so unsuccessful that writing is just a weekend hobby for me. Like many authors, writing is my career, but it's on a knife edge, and every sale counts. I've sat for an hour at a signing table just to sell four books, and I would again.
I spent five years working on my last book. People complain about 'legacy publishers', but I couldn't have done that without the support of a legacy publisher. Everything that further chips away at my sales reduces the chances that my publisher will be able to support me in the future, and so it reduces the chances that I will be able to put that same time and effort into another book. By 'liberating' the literature of today, these people are strangling the literature of the future.
The most important reason authors should be fine with libraries lending out "their" (the authors') books for free is that libraries lend out their (the library's) books for free.
The linked article mentions Colson Whitehead, Neil Gaiman, and Alexander Chee, and the Twitter threads have other authors, although I didn't recognize any of them.
I bet the usual suspects would still complain. It is very hard to feel for publishers if one looks at all the shenanigans they do around eBook lending. Libraries tend to pay significantly more than other bulk buyers for the same books and there is a limited number of "lends" on the books for example.
Has any normal human being who is not a publisher or an author actually made this claim?
I'd like to live in a world where authors didn't rely on copyright law for their living. I'd also like to live in a world where waitstaff didn't rely on tips to make minimum wage, let alone a living wage. I don't.
You do, mostly. I believe it's just the USA where obligatory "tipping" is a thing. I learnt a bit about the history of tipping from Adam Ruins Everything S01E05 Adam Ruins Restaurants, highly recommended.
Excerpt about tipping, <4mins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_vivC7c_1k
(Yes, his style is a lil in-your-face, but the content is excellent, and often shows onscreen the title and author of papers referenced - how many shows do that?!)
for this, to have copyright weakened, you'd really need to make sure authors get compensated fairly for the small time their work is under that law. The problem is people want the creative stuff for free essentially
This is what I'm unsure of. I feel like most people have used a library at some point in their lives, and most people don't seem to disagree with the concept of a library (at least, they never seem to think they did anything wrong when they visited the library as a four-year-old and read "Pat the Bunny" for free), so I am trying to determine if the qualms are with the particulars of TheArchive's implementation, or if people suddenly change their minds about things when they suddenly have a financial incentive to think otherwise.
From my perspective, the reading experience on TheArchive's lending experience is sufficiently degraded that I am unlikely to choose it over other options. I tried looking up Endymion by Dan Simmons to see if I could check it out and read on my Kobo. Firstly, I can't without a great deal of difficulty, due to the DRM. Secondly, what I check out is not the same designed-for-ebooks format I would get if I actually bought Endymion from the publisher. It's instead an EPUB/MOBI generated from OCR of their page scans, rife with formatting and typographical errors. Yuck. So my only other option is reading the raw image/PDF scans, in the browser. Which I really can't imagine doing for 12 hours unless I truly have no other options.
Which is to say, I don't think the "piracy" claim holds water, because the experience is so much worse than the regular purchase route that I'm not sufficiently dissuaded from buying the book if I can read it on TheArchive instead.
First, authors get revenue from books in libraries. When you read "Pat the Bunny," the library had to actually own a copy - and in particular your local library had to own a copy, meaning thousands and thousands of copies got sold to libraries. For each physical book, only one 4-year-old at a time could read it, so for popular books (e.g., when you turned 14 and had the same summer reading list as everyone in your school district) each library tends to buy many copies.
So, yes, libraries don't implement a strict "each person who wants to read causes the author to get paid" property, but they do provide a meaningful balance between getting paid for writing a popular book and also making books available in a cost-effective way to large numbers of people. Authors get quite a bit more than $0, even if they don't get money from each reader. And I think that's a good place to make the argument that these aren't lost sales - libraries make books available to people who often otherwise wouldn't pay for them and wouldn't read them.
Second, authors know how libraries work. They've been around forever. When you decide "I'm gonna have a career based on writing," you know approximately how the market works. You know that if you write a book that's about as good as this other book, you'll get this much in revenue from purchases by readers, that much from purchases by libraries, etc., and you expect that to be reasonably stable. The Archive is changing the economics suddenly, and at a particularly bad time to have your career's economics change. I know for my part that I'd be upset if some random non-profit said "During this time of crisis, we've found a possibly-legal way to allow companies to not spend money on SREs and we're gonna do it," and I don't think, just because I don't know how that could possibly work, that my livelihood is inherently more worthy of stability than the livelihoods of authors. (And I'd still be upset with the non-profit even if I didn't think it was realistic that my company would go for that option.)
As a consequence, my feelings are a lot different here with regards to works published by someone who makes a living doing something else like being a professor, and happens to write books, than works published by someone who relies on copyright for their living. I'm also okay with, say, Sci-Hub, because while it threatens Elsevier's business model, it doesn't (as far as I know) threaten the livelihood of researchers themselves.
The website for Controlled Digital Lending justifies the practice in two ways (https://controlleddigitallending.org/): one, it preserves the market properties that libraries have previously relied on, and two, it specifically solves the problem of books unavailable in e-book form. I'm fine with both of those, particularly because they both address the question of whether the author/rightsholder needs to consent to this use. (Because it preserves the market properties the impact on an author isn't different, and in the case of abandoned works, the author or published might no longer be around anyway, and unofficial e-books certainly aren't messing with an existing market.) I am also fine with uncontrolled digital lending with the consent of the author - if the arguments you're making about it not affecting the market hold up (and I think they do, to be clear), why not simply invite authors to join on an opt-in basis?
(I suspect I'd even be okay with it if they said, hey authors, you don't have the rights to make e-books of your work, but that's okay, we have this legal workaround we're willing to try. If you want people reading e-books but your publisher isn't cooperating, we'll fight the legal fight alongside you.)
For music, people loved to insist musicians should just get by with live shows. Nothing similar exists for authors, so I’m waiting to see if there’s some other cop-out people come up with.