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E-Book Customers Don’t “Own” Their Books

You can “own it on DVD” or you can “own it on Blu-Ray,” but when it comes to books, legally speaking, nobody can say they “own in on e-book.” That’s because use of e-books has more in common with the software that’s running your computer at this moment — which you licensed — than it does with the physical books purchased at a regular bookstore.

We were reminded of this last week (10/29) in a Toronto Star story by reporter Laura Kane.

…When you buy a copy of The Great Gatsby from a bookstore, it becomes your property. And with that comes ownership rights: to loan it to a friend, to sell it in a garage sale, to hand it down to your kids.

But e-books do not come with any of those rights. Instead, the terms and conditions for Amazon Kindle state content is “licensed, not sold.” Amazon, Kobo Books and Apple iTunes state you cannot share or resell the content, and access can be revoked at any time…

…The way that digital books and music are sold is based on the way software is sold, said Mark Hayes, a technology and copyright lawyer.

“In the 1980s, when software started to be distributed widely, there was considerable discussion about the nature of the rights,” he said.

To prevent piracy, software developers began licensing — rather than selling — software to customers with terms and conditions attached.

The issue has come before the courts in the U.S., most notably in a 2010 case that effectively ruled the “first sale” doctrine — a copyright provision that allows buyers of physical books and CDs to sell them later — did not apply to digital media.

But there is no explicit “first sale” doctrine in Canada and no similar cases have been argued, Hayes said

It is rare for a retailer to remotely delete users’ content. In 2009, Amazon erased copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from customers’ Kindles after the e-books were sold without the appropriate rights. Afterwards, Amazon announced it would not do it again….

continue reading the full article



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