Nice Idea, Yes. But Get Your Hands Out Of My Pocket, There’s A Good Chap…

Richard Stallman on e-books and the restrictions they don’t share with traditional books:

I love the novel The Jehovah Contract, and I’d like everyone else to love it, too. I have lent it out at least six times over the years. Printed books let us do that. I couldn’t do it with most commercial ebooks; it’s not allowed.

And that’s not the only issue.

Many other habits that readers are accustomed to are not allowed for ebooks. With the Amazon Kindle, for instance, you’re not allowed to buy a book anonymously. Kindle books are typically available from Amazon only, and Amazon doesn’t accept cash so users must identify themselves.

And anyone wondering why that might be an issue, well, look no further:

In a country like Britain, where you can be detained for downloading a forbidden book, this is more than potentially Orwellian.

He’s referring, it seems, to the infamous trial of Ahmad Faraz.

Any one of these encroachments on our freedom is reason aplenty to say no. If these policies were limited to Amazon, we’d bypass them, but the other e-book dealers’ policies are roughly similar.

Then bypass them altogether by…sticking to old-fashioned books.

The reason publishers give for their restrictive e-book practices is to stop people from sharing copies. They say this is for the sake of the authors; but even if it did serve the authors’ interests (which for quite famous authors it may), it could not justify DRM, EULAs or the Digital Economy Act which persecutes readers for sharing.

I do like the way the evidence that it may suit famous authors is just dismissed. Who cares about them, eh, Richard?

In practice, the copyright system does a bad job of supporting authors, aside from the most popular ones. Other authors principal interest is to be better known, so sharing their work benefits them as well as readers. Why not switch to a system that does the job better and is compatible with sharing?

Because the biggest hurdle is who is going to pay for it and build it and get everyone signed up to it?

But Richard has a cunning plan:

A tax on memory and internet connectivity, along the general lines of what most EU countries do, could be used to do this.

Whoa! Step away from the bong, there, hippie!

A tax on memory and internet connectivity would hit everyone who uses a computer. Not just e-book readers!

Why should the chap down the road, who uses his PC to shop at Tesco online and Facebook with his kids in Australia, pay an extra supplement so that I can download the latest Stephen King?

And that’s not his only crazy idea:

To support them well, two points are crucial: the money should be divided among all authors and we mustn’t let companies take any of it from them; and the distribution of money should be based on a sliding scale, not in linear proportion to the book’s popularity. I suggest using the cube root of each author’s popularity. If A is eight times as popular as B, A gets twice B’s amount (not eight times B’s amount). This would have the effect of supporting fairly successful non-stars much better than they are supported now.

Well, that’s all very egalitarian of you, but do you really think the top selling authors are going to go for that? Because I damn sure wouldn’t!

Sharing is good, and with digital technology, sharing is easy. So sharing must be legal.

‘Must be’..?

Well, push for that by all means, but you’ll find a lot of resistance until you start making your ideas a bit less socialist, and a bit more sensible.

19 comments for “Nice Idea, Yes. But Get Your Hands Out Of My Pocket, There’s A Good Chap…

  1. April 26, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Of course, people could just swap their Kindles – y’know, a bit like swapping books?

    This guy is like the one I quoted in a previous discussion – everything must be solved by the state and businesses cannot have any of the profit derived from their investment in the processes and technology to make the product available. I don’t know what colour the sky is on their planet but it ain’t blue.

    • April 27, 2012 at 7:36 am

      You could indeed just swap Kindle, but at £100+, it’s risky…

  2. Johnnydub
    April 26, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Also this is a debate where the horse has already bolted… On the peer to peer networks, there are literally tens of thousands of books available already.

    I can’t help drawing the analogy to the music markets where the publishers used to be enablers (as not many bands had CD presses or distribution networks) to inhibitors in the digital age (just putting in place restrictions)

    I can already see the book market going the same way.

    • April 27, 2012 at 7:58 am

      I wondered if there was pirated stuff available – I wouldn’t have thought so, given most e-books are very low- priced. But then I only use p-to-p for tv shows not yet here, so maybe I’m not the main target demographic..?

  3. ivan
    April 26, 2012 at 11:21 am

    He obviously isn’t a reader of SF otherwise he would know that Baen give away a lot of their back catalogue for free in almost any e-book form without DRM. They maintain that it has increased their sales and now the company that owns Tor has said it is removing DRM from all their titles.

    • April 27, 2012 at 8:13 am

      Oooh, I’ll take a look at that this weekend!

  4. April 26, 2012 at 11:55 am

    hey say this is for the sake of the authors

    Or for the sake of the cheeldren if no one buys the first excuse.

    • April 27, 2012 at 8:31 am

      Yup 🙁

  5. Tattyfalarr
    April 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Make a new law/rule and someone will find a way around it…or ignore it completely. Will they ever learn. *shrug*

    O/T but a bit odd so must mention…opened Liberty from a bookmark and got a page telling me my computer is infected with a virus (it isn’t) and access to this site restricted unless I gave myself a migraine and figured out the twisted words in a captcha and inputted them correctly so proving I am human. Which I did. Maybe I shouldn’t…who knows.

    Has it happened to anyone else today ? What’s that about then ? 😐

    • April 26, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      News to me.

      • Tattyfalarr
        April 26, 2012 at 4:46 pm

        Hmmm well…I could access the site fine even after closing the tab and reclicking the bookmark but….on coming back just now it’s done it again.

        I noticed a link stating “View advanced details and evidence regarding your restriction”…and on clicking got this “Sorry, no evidence is available at this time.”


        • April 27, 2012 at 8:50 am

          I got the ‘cached’ page on my PC this morning, as if the site was down, but it was running fine on my iPhone. Curious!

  6. Watchman
    April 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Seems to be a standard case of a statist believing that information has to be controlled (in itself a questionable assumption – many of us write or compose for fun, and I am not sure why we expect these enjoyable activities to require to support people – if they are really popular they can seek money to write more/perform songs etc), and that only the state (and not the producers and authors) have a right to assume control. Because so much of our modern flowering of culture of all sorts (from Mills and Boon to the most extreme modern ‘classical’ compositions) is obviously the result of the state’s effort…

    • April 27, 2012 at 8:51 am

      Indeed! ‘State-sponsored art’ is invariably hideous…

  7. stab11
    April 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    I have been to see Mr Stallman speak a couple of times and he is shall we say a character. He came up with the idea of free software in the 1970s and was writing an entire free operating system called GNU. But being a perfectionist never completed it and then Linus Torvalds went and wrote the Linux operating system which rapidly gained popularity. Stallman is a prickly character with few social graces and a way of upsetting allies. He has never had a “proper” job as such spending time as a University researcher before winning various grants that allow him to travel the world as a kind of software guru. The problems he warns of are real but sadly his solutions usually involve a tax on someone or another !

    For more info have a look at Wikipedia ..

    • April 27, 2012 at 8:59 am

      I expect someone will ‘diagnose’ him as being on the autistic spectrum, with those personality quirks, before long!

  8. April 27, 2012 at 2:49 am

    Kindle can read the .mobi format, it’s available all over the place not just from Amazon. Stallman’s an idiot or ignorant, possibly both.

    • April 27, 2012 at 9:10 am

      Most e-readers available seem quite compatible with the various formats. It’s a lot more ‘user friendly’ than any other gadget

  9. Dave_G
    April 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    I’d be interested to see a legal case brought against someone who ‘copied’ (loaned one to someone else) e-books and how the courts would see the ‘precedent’ being set by libraries.

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