ENTRIES TAGGED "copyright"
Justices hear first sale doctrine arguments, DRM frustrations reach the mainstream, what the Penguin-Random House merger means.
Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.
“First sale” doctrine arguments begin
The US Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on Monday in Kirtsaeng d/b/a Bluechristine99 v. John Wiley & Sons Inc. This isn’t a sexy case, but it’s a very important one. The case, which I’ve covered here previously, involves textbooks that a student purchased in Thailand and resold in the US. David Kravets reports at Wired:
“The case tests the so-called ‘first sale’ doctrine, which generally allows the purchaser of copyrighted works to re-sell or use the work without the copyright holder’s permission. That’s why used bookstores, libraries, GameStop, video rental stores and even eBay are all legal. But how the doctrine applies to foreign-purchased works — the so-called gray market — has been a matter of considerable debate.”
Kravets provides a nice overview of the case, and notes that though it mainly deals with physical goods now, as digital goods (for various reasons) can’t be resold, court rulings will have far-reaching effects into the future when digital goods can be resold — waters companies like ReDigi are testing.
The immediate implications for physical goods resale are important to note. Joe Mullin at Ars Technica writes:
“Without ‘first sale’ doctrine in place, content companies would be allowed to control use of their goods forever. They could withhold permission for resale and possibly even library lending — or they could allow it, but only for an extra fee. It would have the wild effect of actually encouraging copyrighted goods to be manufactured offshore, since that would lead to much further-reaching powers.”
Washington, DC lawyer John Mitchell, who has defended students in cases similar to Kirtsaeng, wrote in an email to Mullin that the stakes in this case are high. Mitchell writes:
“There are millions of people living in poverty or near poverty in this country. They scarcely buy new shoes or new clothes, instead shopping at Goodwill Industries or other establishments catering to their needs. They buy used cars, used phones, and used computers. For the person who always buys new, for whom price is not a big factor, the next ‘point of distribution’ is probably the trash. (And, yes, there is case law supporting the right to take copies intended for the trash, clean them up, and resell them.) ‘First sale’ protects those downstream individuals who will never buy new and who would otherwise be left out.”
Mullin’s in-depth look at the case, the case history and what’s at stake is this week’s recommended read.
Waterstones and Amazon team up, Google's battle with newspapers continues, and the Big Six to become the Big Five?
Here are a few stories from the publishing space that caught my attention this week.
U.K. bookstore teams up with Amazon
Charlotte Williams and Lisa Campbell report this week at The Bookseller that Waterstones bookstore in the U.K. launched its Amazon Kindle promotion, wherein customers can purchase a Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, or (by the end of the month) a Kindle Paperwhite in their brick-and-mortar stores. Williams and Campbell report that the point-of-sale slogan reads in part: “There are two sides to every story. With books and now Kindle you can enjoy both at Waterstones.”
In an interview with Leo Kelion at the BBC, Waterstones’ managing director James Daunt defends the move against critics who declare he’s signed the bookstore’s death warrant, saying he’s not a “moron” and indicating (without specifics) that the store is making money off the deal. Daunt also argues that you have to look at the bigger picture:
“All that we have to do is encourage people to come into our shops and to choose the books. I don’t frankly care how they then consume then, or read them, or indeed buy them. But if you spend time in my shops, and you really enjoy it, and you come back more often and spend longer, you’re going to spend money in my shops.”
Though Kelion calls the move “a twist no one saw coming,” someone did see this coming — a bookseller, in fact. In a Q&A following The Kepler’s 2020: Building the Community Bookstore of the 21st Century session at TOC 2012, Kepler’s 2020 project leader Praveen Madan said:
“[Ebooks are] something we want to provide; we want to be part of the overall experience. But the solution and the technology has to come from somebody else. I’m very serious about looking at [partnering with] Amazon and just giving away Kindles and telling people it’s okay — you have our permission. Walk into the bookstore, browse the books and download the books on your Kindle.”
Bill Rosenblatt untangles several thorny areas of IP distribution and ownership
Our TOC theme this month is “legal” and I thought it would be interesting to have a conversation with Bill Rosenblatt covering a variety of topics in the legal realm. Bill is a recognized authority on intellectual property in the online world. He’s also an author of the Copyright and Technology blog as well as the founder of GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies.
Key points from the interview include:
- Copyright vs. Creative Commons — As Bill says, “copyright law is a huge mess”, and Creative Commons (CC) is a viable alternative. CC has never fully embraced the commercial content community though. CC also doesn’t really make enforcement of IP ownership any easier.
- Libraries and sales vs. licensing — I feel our industry is overcomplicating the library channel situation but Bill explains how digital content isn’t subject to copyright but rather to whatever licensing terms are being offered. Bill feels libraries are “screwed” unless there’s a change in the law. It doesn’t help that libraries aren’t accustomed to trying to operate like businesses.
- First-sale doctrine — ReDigi is a great example of a company that’s pushing the envelope on sale vs. licensing of content. Bill feels it’s unlikely ReDigi will prevail in the current litigation to resell digital music. (See related TOC article here.)
- Piracy — Bill points out that obscurity is indeed a bigger problem than piracy…until you become famous. He asserts that Lady Gaga doesn’t benefit from piracy but I’m not sure I agree. After all, maybe future paying Gaga fans start off pirating a song or two before they get hooked.
The ebook price war is a "red herring," copyright needs the public's attention, and Wal-Mart (finally) breaks up with Amazon.
Here are a few stories that caught my attention this week in the publishing space.
Publishers, price is a distraction — focus on data control
Suw Charman-Anderson at Forbes took a look this week at Alison Flood’s report at The Guardian on the ebook price wars in the U.K., which are “prompting concerns from writers that the ‘relentless downward pressure on book prices’ could lead to industry ruin.” According to Flood’s report, authors and others in the industry are concerned that readers will get conditioned to these bargain basement prices, thus devaluing ebooks, and expect pricing at levels independent bookstores can’t afford to sustain.
Charman-Anderson argues that readers are smarter than that: “[t]he whole concept of sales, coupons, discounts and price wars is that the consumer gets something that’s worth more than the price paid, and they do so knowing full well that they’ve got a bargain. That’s what a bargain is.” She also argues that all these concerns over ebook price wars are a “red herring” diverting attention from the real problem. Referring to a post by Nick Harkaway at Futurebook, Charman-Anderson writes:
“Harkaway basically says that publishers need to become retailers in order to regain control over customer data, and he’s absolutely right. …. The value of customer data cannot be underestimated. Retail these days isn’t just about buying and selling; it’s about what additional value you can offer your customers based on the information you have about them.”
“The ebook price war is not the problem,” says Charman-Anderson. “The problem is that publishers have ceded the most valuable ground to the retailers.” Charman-Anderson’s piece is this week’s recommended read — you can find it here.
Authors and publishers need to get creative with piracy. DRM isn't the answer.
Mike Hendrickson: "Adding DRM to content to deter theft … are you kidding me? Seriously, think about that. It will take a good programmer about an hour to get past most DRM, or a manual shop somewhere in the world will cut and scan the physical book and away it goes."
Google's Bill Patry on market signals and copyright terms.
In this video interview, Bill Patry, senior copyright counsel at Google, addresses the one-size-fits-all concept and says it doesn't make sense for copyright terms. He also talks about piracy and whether or not we should eliminate copyright.
Apple takes on textbooks, an insider dishes on publishing denial, and how SOPA would affect publishing.
Apple’s big event this week marked the first step in its disruption of education — or did it? Elsewhere, a publishing insider calls it like it is, and (finally) the SOPA/PIPA discussion includes the publishing industry.