Friday, May 7, 2010

E-books and the new copyright bill

As the Canadian government prepares to unveil its new "anti-consumer" copyright bill, there is one relatively new problem that should be considered: e-books. Consumers want to be able to use their e-books over the years as technology changes. They want to use the e-books they buy today for their Kindle or their Sony E-Reader on the next generation of e-readers. Many ebooks are not only in today's format, but they are also locked by DRM to their current e-reader units. This is usually not advertised when the e-books are sold, so many consumers will be in for a surprise when they try to replace their e-readers in a few years.

The new copyright bill could potentially make it illegal to break those digital locks in the future when it's time to transfer those books onto future devices. The new bill is said to be based on bill C-61, which made the ability to format-shift your own content (froim an old format to a new format) illegal if the content had DRM on it, like most ebooks sold today do.

For many books, and especially academic ones, the price for the ebook is the same (sometimes hundreds of dollars) as it was for the print edition. Canadians shouldn't live in a world of expiring and disappearing books. Consumers should have the right to use books the way they're used to doing - i.e. to buy them and have them for life, and to use them for years to come on future generations of devices.


  1. Many people with a visual impairment or other disabilities also buy ebooks because this is the only format they can access. The new law could potentially make unfair access to people with disabilities.

  2. When I read some of the articles by publishers on this topic, I note that they aren't intending eBooks to be anything like books. They want them to be treated like software which you personally use for a short period of time and then throw away.

    People own books in the tens of years, and they sometimes last into the hundreds of years. They create large bookshelves, and treat books as an important part of their identity.

    I can simply ask you what browser you were using 20 years ago and whether you plan to hand that down (same version, etc) to your children or grandchildren? This is a joke of course, given you will find it hard to find hardware outside a museum that can run software more than 20 or 30 years old. For software, life+50 is infinite, and no usable software falls out of copyright.

    I doubt software people are using today is more than a few years old, most often replaced with later editions on a daily or weekly basis (Hopefully at least every Patch Tuesday for Microsoft Windows users). People don't think twice about this, and don't think of software as something they would put up on shelves or have any sort of personal identification with.

    We need to realise that this transition from the sale of books to the short-term licensing of software is a deliberate and massive transition.

    See: Cory Doctorow on Copyright vs. Universal Access

    This is only part of Dishonest Relationship Misinformation (DRM). I've written about how non-owner locks on devices (the key part of a "DRM" system) dishonestly tries to mask a rental-like relationship as if it were a sale.

    See: When consumer choice is not enough: Dishonest Relationship Misinformation (DRM)

  3. web 2.0 -> web 3.0 (there's a reward for that)

    you BOUGHT that? hello, renters! All your dvd players belong to us! (we changed the def of property when you weren't looking.)

    AND your e-book, dynamic editing versions are mine too.. (freedom of speech took a low blow and it didn't get ref'd)

    PLUS presumtion of guilt, (that mp3 is a copy of a pop-tart song. So We'll just bust you for porn, child molesting, smuggling, counterfeiting ... just to be sure, eh?)

    hey, you also have an alligator on that shirt pocket...


  4. If they want me to "rent" books, that's perfectly fine with me... just cut the price to $2 per book, that will be fine.

    But if they want me to pay full retail price for a "rental" They've got another think coming; I will be voting with my feet.

    The sad irony is that when sales don't live up to their wildly-optimistic expectations, they'll probably blame "Piracy" and try to tighten the screws a little more in an attempt to wring a little more blood from a stone.