From the Toronto Star:
The Toronto Public Library, the largest in the country, has launched a new platform of penny-pinching ingenuity. The “Sell Books to the Library” program advertises to readers that it will buy used hardcover copies of bestselling titles listed on its website at the beginning of every month at five dollars a piece.
This innocuous sounding program is but the latest manifestation of the so-called “culture of free” that has ravaged the media, music and book worlds. Without the FBI threatening quarter-million-dollar fines or five year prison terms for copyright infringement — as it does on DVDs — the value system that supports the prospect of just reward is eroded. Individuals and companies used to paying nothing for artists’ work now do so without compunction.
. . . .
Alarmingly, this phenomenon of exploitation includes the very institutions whoseraison d’être (you would have thought) demand a respect of writers and their product, acting not as custodians but instead pushing for their own chance to outwit circumstance and pay nothing. The amendment, in 2012, of Canadian copyright law to include “education” as the object of legitimate “fair dealing” has faculties across the country brazenly copying entire chapters or 10 per cent of a book for the assembly of fat study guides, for which not a single writer is paid, meted out to hundreds of thousands of students.
And now the Toronto Public Library is zealously joining the cheapskates’ fray. The books it has listed on its “Sell Books to the Library” website page are not books that the public does not want; their authors are not ones who, the great lie of media and festivals, stand to benefit from extra publicity. No, the list is comprised of books so popular that the library is having a hard time meeting existing demand. December’s inaugural list includes, for instance, Canadian authors Margaret Atwood, David Bezmozgis, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Kathleen Reichs, Peter Robinson, Carrie Snyder, Miriam Toews, as well as Sean Michaels and Thomas King, winners of this year’s Scotiabank Giller and Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction respectively.
Instead of ordering copies of books that furnish a royalty, and supporting the trade, as all honourable purchases do, the TPL is buying off the back of a public truck it has ushered into the courtyard, depriving writers and the companies that invest in them of their just reward. It can do so because it has decided that the lowest possible price to be paid is the right one.
Link to the rest at the Toronto Star