Publishing News: Hacking DRM is now illegal in Canada

New Canadian copyright legislation takes effect, an author helps pirate his book, and studies show computers topping preferred ereading platforms.

Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.

New Canadian copyright laws make breaking DRM illegal

New copyright reform legislation, Bill C-11 (PDF), took effect in Canada this week. Michael Geist pulled together a roundup of the reform in what he calls “the most significant changes to Canadian copyright law in decades,” which included the controversial “digital lock rules.”

Joanna Cabot explains at TeleRead that the provisions make it illegal to circumvent DRM in ebooks, “even for purposes specifically allowable under the new law.” Cabot notes there are some “loopholes” to the provision: Exemptions are given for users who need to “modify computer software for interoperability” and for those with disabilities who need to alter files for readability, and the provision states “specifically that in non-commercial cases, liability is limited to actual damages incurred.” Cabot argues the rule may be self defeating:

“If breaking a digital lock on your legitimate purchased copy for your own personal use is now just as illegal as downloading a free copy off a torrent site, what incentive, from a practical standpoint, will users have to make the legal purchase?”

Geist points out in his post that though the legislation has some flaws, it’s infinitely better than the copyright legislation proposed in 2007 “that contained virtually no user-oriented provisions.” He notes Bill C-11 “creates some of the most expansive copyright user rights in the world.”

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Authors helping pirates

Mike Masnick at TechDirt caught on to a story of an author helping to pirate a translation of his work. After publishing his first novel, A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, author Peter Mountford came upon a Russian reader who was seeking assistance on a forum as he attempted to translate the novel. Describing the situation in a post at The Atlantic, Mountford explains that he at first didn’t realize the Russian reader (“AlexanderIII”) was trying to formally translate the book — he just thought the fellow was “a fastidious Russian reader with a loose command of the English language.” AlexanderIII posted a response to another forum user, though, clarifying that he was translating the work for a publisher. Mountford wasn’t outraged, however. He writes:

“In the U.S., book piracy is a growing problem. But Russia, I learned, has a remarkably mature black market for literature — particularly for ebooks, no doubt in part because the overhead is so low. Pirated books reportedly compose up to 90 percent of Russian ebook downloads. According to Rospechat, the state agency that regulates mass media, Russians have access to more than 100,000 pirated titles and just 60,000 legitimate titles, with illegal downloads costing legitimate vendors several billion rubles a year.

“Of course, I wish one of Russia’s two major ebook publishers had given me a couple thousand dollars for the rights, but neither did. Like many novelists I know, I’m just happy to have people reading my work, whether they’re paying me for it or not. I’m also heartened that Russians care enough about reading to sustain a robust literary black market. In the U.S., you get the feeling that hardly anyone is creating pirated ebooks because — well, who’d buy such a thing?”

Mountford goes on to explain how he ended up partnering with AlexanderIII to help him translate, and notes that he still doesn’t know who AlexanderIII is working for and that no Russian publisher has contacted him seeking rights to his book. You can read his account here. Mountford is in good company, however. Masnick notes in his post that author Paulo Coelho helps to create pirated translations of his works as well — the first time, actually, was in Russia; the result was a huge increase in sales, “from less than 1,000 to over 100,000.”

Desktop/laptop leads as preferred ereading platform for young readers

Jay Yarow at Business Insider highlighted some key statistics from a recent Pew Research Group survey showing the most popular devices for reading ebooks. Survey says: if you’re younger than 30, your most popular ereading platform is a desktop or laptop (55% of respondents read on this platform). Cellphones came in second, with 41% reporting their phone as the preferred reading platform. Ereaders were first for those older than 30, but the desktop and laptop were a close second (46% to 38%).

Mitch Joel at Six Pixels of Separation cites additional statistics from the Pew survey that point to an increase in reading due to the rise of ebooks. He notes: “What’s interesting is that as more and more people are saddened by the disappearance of the book in its physical form, it could well be that the digitization of the book is what will save reading and potentially give it a whole new life.” Of the chart highlighted above, Joel says it validates his argument that “we should never be a market of one.”

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