Ebooks

You Don’t Own the Music, Movies or Ebooks You ‘Buy’ on Amazon or iTunes

15 September 2018

From Two Cents:

When you purchase music, movies or books from Amazon or Apple’s iTunes store, you might be under the impression that that material is yours to enjoy forever; that’s how CDs and paper books work, after all. Why rent You’ve Got Mail for $3.99 every few months when you can “own” it and watch it whenever, forever, for $9.99?

But you’d be mistaken. Anything digital is temporary, even if you clicked “purchase” rather than “rent.” One unfortunate side effect of that you won’t experience with a physical book or record: Your purchases may just disappear if licensing agreements change.

. . . .

As outlined in the Twitter thread, Apple states the content provider of the movies in question removed them from the store. And that removed them from the user’s library, even though he had paid money to buy them. It’s easy to see why that’s frustrating (especially since Apple wasn’t willing to cough up a refund for the purchases he no longer has).

“This wouldn’t happen in the physical world. No one comes to your door and demands that you give back a book,” Aaron Perzanowski, a Case Western Reserve University law professor, who studied these digital purchases, told the LA Times in 2016. “But in the digital world, they can just go into your Kindle and take it.”

. . . .

For example, Amazon notes in the fine print that “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider. The Content Provider may include additional terms for use within its Kindle Content.” You also can’t sell or redistribute your ebooks, as you might with a physical copy. Apple’s fine printstates that the licensor “reserves the right to change, suspend, remove, disable or impose access restrictions or limits on any External Services at any time without notice or liability to you.”

. . . .

The best option? If you can, buy a physical copy of a movie or TV show that comes with a digital download. At least you’ll have a backup in case your digital copy disappears—assuming you still have a player to watch it on.

Link to the rest at Two Cents

When PG read the OP, one of the first things to pop into his mind was, “born yesterday”.

The author of the OP apparently discovered licensing of intellectual property shortly before writing the article and assumed at least a portion of the Lifehacker audience didn’t know much about the topic either.

“Born Yesterday” was the name of a Broadway play with two revivals plus three different movies.

Here’s a plot summary of the original Broadway play, Born Yesterday, which premiered in 1946, from Wikipedia:

An uncouth, corrupt rich junk dealer, Harry Brock, brings his showgirl mistress Billie Dawn with him to Washington, D.C. When Billie’s ignorance becomes a liability to Brock’s business dealings, he hires a journalist, Paul Verrall, to educate his girlfriend. In the process of learning, Billie Dawn realizes how corrupt Harry is and begins interfering with his plans to bribe a Congressman into passing legislation that would allow Brock’s business to make more money.

As a general proposition, the creator of intellectual property is its owner. Everybody else who wants to observe, read, listen to, etc., etc., that intellectual property is not the owner of the IP, but only has limited rights created by statute or license to do some things with their copy of the IP.

The owner of a physical book can’t make copies of the book and sell them to others because the book’s owner doesn’t own the IP depicted in the book. He/she is only the owner of the paper, ink and binding of that particular copy of the book. The copyright law (statutory and otherwise) which creates and defines the IP in the first place permits the book’s owner to do certain things with the physical book – read it, lend that copy to someone else, sell that copy to someone else, donate it to a library, deface the book, use excerpts or quotes from the book for various purposes, etc., etc.

The same basic rules, adapted to different media by which IP can be duplicated, transmitted, etc., govern copies of the IP in digital form. Just as making a copy of a book to give or sell to someone else is a violation of the creator’s IP rights, generally speaking, making a copy of a CD, a digital file, a photograph, or other protected medium incorporating such IP to give or sell to someone else is, absent permission from the creator or permission granted via copyright law, a violation of the creator’s IP rights.

Enough of this type of blathering.

The OP caused PG to wonder whether an author self-publishing with Amazon via KDP could make digital copies of his/her ebooks disappear from Kindles everywhere by unpublishing the ebook.

The short answer is probably not.

Here are some excerpts from the current Kindle Direct Publishing Terms and Conditions that describe what rights an author grants to Amazon:

Paragraph 3 Term and Termination (excerpt with PG highlights)

Following termination or suspension, we may fulfill any customer orders for your Books pending as of the date of termination or suspension, and we may continue to maintain digital copies of your Digital Books in order to provide continuing access to or re-downloads of your Digital Books, as well as digital copies of your Books to support customers who have purchased a Book prior to termination or suspension. . . . All rights to Digital Books acquired by customers will survive termination.

Paragraph 5.1.4 Book Withdrawal (excerpt with PG highlights)

All withdrawals of Books will apply prospectively only and not with respect to any customers who purchased the Books prior to the date of removal.

Paragraph 5.5 Grant of Rights (excerpt with PG highlights)

You grant to each Amazon party, throughout the term of this Agreement, a nonexclusive, irrevocable, right and license to print (on-demand and in anticipation of customer demand) and distribute Books, directly and through third-party distributors, in all formats you choose to make available through KDP by all distribution means available. This right includes, without limitation, the right to: (a) reproduce, index and store Books on one or more computer facilities, and reformat, convert and encode Books; (b) display, market, transmit, distribute, sell, license and otherwise make available all or any portion of Books through Amazon Properties (as defined below), for customers and prospective customers to download, access, copy and paste, print, annotate and/or view online and offline, including on portable devices; (c) permit customers to “store” Digital Books that they have purchased from us on servers (“Virtual Storage”) and to access and re-download such Digital Books from Virtual Storage from time to time both during and after the term of this Agreement

It appears to PG that Apple’s agreement with the owners of the copyrights to some iTunes movies did not include anything like the language in the KDP T&C’s and that the movie owners could force Apple to terminate rights of its customers who had paid for licenses to those movies.

It appears to PG that an author or publisher operating under the KDP T&C’s or something similar can’t force Amazon to terminate a customer’s rights to access an ebook they bought through Amazon. Amazon can decide to do so, but an author can’t make Amazon pull a digital move like iTunes did.

As usual, PG is a lawyer, but nothing PG posts on TPV is legal advice. If you would like to obtain legal advice, you need to hire an attorney to give you that advice, not read what a lawyer might post on a blog.

PG invites comments that agree or disagree with his half-baked (or fully-baked) blatherings on this topic.

What If Digital Is Antithetical to Learning?

9 September 2018

From Inside Higher Ed:

In 2018, the most important article for our “Inside Digital Learning” community to think about was not published here. It wasn’t even published in 2018.

It is the 2017 Educause Review piece “The Rise of Educational Technology as a Sociocultural and Ideological Phenomenon,” by George Veletsianos and Rolin Moe.

Those of us who champion digital learning, and who participate in the “IDL” community, need to take Veletsianos and Moe’s thinking seriously. If nothing else, we should be aware of the possibility that “the rise of ed tech is underpinned by ideology.”

What is the underpinning ideology of “Inside Digital Learning”?

If asked, and I’m not sure that our community has grappled with the question, I’d wager that we’d come to some answer that included adjectives such “critical,” “skeptical” and “a bit wary.” This is not a community populated by unthinking digital learning evangelists.

At the same time, I’d say that much of our community — and here I’d include myself — is deeply invested in the idea that digital technologies have the potential to be a force for good in advancing learning.

We may be critical of how digital technologies are applied in specific cases, but we genuinely believe that, done right, technology can improve student learning within higher education.

But what if we are wrong?

What if digital technologies are inherently harmful to learning?

. . . .

Indictment No. 3: Digital Distracts

The third charge against digital technologies is that they are driving our students (and professors) to distraction. Even those of us who tend to think it a bad idea to ban laptops from classroom have to admit that their presence can sometimes detract from student learning. The case that professors need to learn how to leverage laptops as learning tools may be justified, but it does impose yet another burden on the faculty.

Nor are students the only people on campuses likely to use technologies in a way that inhibits, rather than promotes, learning. PowerPoint has probably set back the art of teaching more than anything else in the past three decades.

How would our discussions on “Inside Digital Learning” be different if we started with the hypothesis that digital technologies are inherently destructive to the goal of advancing student learning?

Would this contrarian viewpoint to the basic assumptions of much of our professional practices change how we think about our higher ed jobs?

Might starting with a critical perspective about educational technologies make any efforts we make to introduce digital platforms to advance student learning more legitimate?

If our digital learning community learns to be more critical, might we develop great levels of empathy for the perspectives of many of our faculty colleagues who are skeptical of digital learning?

Link to the rest at Inside Higher Ed

How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’

31 August 2018

Content Warning/Trigger Warning/You’ve Been Duly and Thoroughly Warned Warning

  • This post contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing.
  • Viewer discretion advised.
  • Intended for mature audiences only.
  • This post contains language.
  • This post may engender strong feelings, bloody violence and mild peril.
  • The opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of PG, anyone PG knows or would like to know, anyone PG has ever known (excluding some bad dates in college) or non-subscribers to The Guardian.

From The Guardian:

Here are some things that you can’t do with a Kindle. You can’t turn down a corner, tuck a flap in a chapter, crack a spine (brutal, but sometimes pleasurable) or flick the pages to see how far you have come and how far you have to go. You can’t remember something potent and find it again with reference to where it appeared on a right- or left-hand page. You often can’t remember much at all. You can’t tell whether the end is really the end, or whether the end equals 93% followed by 7% of index and/or questions for book clubs. You can’t pass it on to a friend or post it through your neighbour’s door.

A few years ago, I was given a Kindle. I had become a student again. I was reading lots of books and I needed them cheap and light. But now the Kindle has slipped to the back of the desk drawer behind the Blu-Tack that comes out only at Christmas. Meanwhile, the stack of hardbacks and paperbacks on the bedside table has grown so tall it has spawned sub-stacks on the floor; when I get into bed at night, it is like looking down on a miniature book city. I don’t want to speculate about what goes on in other people’s bedrooms but I suspect it might be something similar, because figures published today by the Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015. So why is the physical book winning through?

Ten years ago, when the Kindle launched, the idea was miraculous. Here was the ability to carry hundreds of books enfolded in a tiny slip of plastic, countless stories in a few hundred grams. It seems hard to believe when you look at the thick, black plastic surround – stylistically it bears more resemblance to a cathode ray tube TV than a tablet – that it predated the iPad by two years. Within five hours, it had sold out, despite a price tag of $399 (then £195). A decade on, lay a Kindle next to a smartphone or tablet and it looks so much older, while the reading experience it delivers has scarcely progressed.

“It was new and exciting,” says Cathryn Summerhayes, a literary agent at Curtis Brown. “But now they look so clunky and unhip, don’t they? I guess everyone wants a piece of trendy tech and, unfortunately, there aren’t trendy tech reading devices and I don’t think people are reading long-form fiction on their phones. I think your average reader would say that one of the great pleasures of reading is the physical turning of the page. It slows you down and makes you think.”

. . . .

Another thing that has happened is that books have become celebrated again as objects of beauty. They are coveted in their own right, while ebooks, which are not things of beauty, have become more expensive; a new digital fiction release is often only a pound or two cheaper than a hardback. “Part of the positive pressure that digital has exerted on the industry is that publishers have rediscovered their love of the physical,” says James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, which published a special Christmas edition of Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, more than 80,000 copies of which have been sold by the chain. (He, in common with most people involved with the publishing of physical books, reads on a Kindle, but afterwards buys the books he loves.)

. . . .

“The physical book had become quite a cheap and tacky thing at the turn of the millennium,” Daunt says. Publishers “cut back on the quality of the paper, so if you left a book in the sun it went yellow. They were gluing, not sewing. They would put a cover on a hardback but not do anything with the hard case underneath. Nowadays, if you take a cover off, there is likely to be something interesting underneath it.”

And that something interesting is likely to gain traction on #bookstagram, a celebration of the aesthetics of books, where books are the supermodels and where readers and non-readers can see cats and dogs reading books, books photographed in landscapes, books posed with croissants, sprays of flowers, homeware, gravestones and cups of coffee, colour-matched and colour-clashed with outfits, shoes, biscuits and in what can only be described as book fashion shoots. You just can’t do a shelfie with an e-reader.

Physical books even feature in this spring/summer’s Fantastic Man magazine, which advises its fashion-literate readership to take five unread books to the sofa and spend five minutes with each one.

. . . .

Once upon a time, people bought books because they liked reading. Now they buy books because they like books. “All these people are really thinking about how the books are – not just what’s in them, but what they’re like as objects,” says Jennifer Cownie, who runs the beautiful Bookifer website and the Cownifer Instagram, which match books to decorative papers, and who bought a Kindle but hated it. Summerhayes thinks that “people have books in their house as pieces of art”. One of her authors’ forthcoming works features cover art by someone who designs album covers for Elbow. “Everyone wants sexy-looking books,” she says.

. . . .

“We had a near-death experience,” Daunt says, referring to the recession. But, he adds: “When you come under pressure, you have to raise your game, and that’s what has gone on throughout the industry.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

. . . .

From Apartment Therapy:

A Defense of Books as Decor

Over the years, I’ve been surprised (and also strangely delighted) by the passion with which our Apartment Therapy community approaches certain design ideas. Chief among them: organizing books by color. Few other topics evoke such vehement responses. The argument in favor is fairly self-evident: it looks pretty. (And maybe helps you find your favorite books, if your brain works a certain way.) The argument against delves more into the philosophy of things, and the idea of what a book is and ought to be. I’ve read your comments, and I know you feel strongly about this. A book, the thinking goes, is a repository of information. It is not a decorative object. To think of a book as something that ornaments your space, for its colorful spine or for any other qualities, reduces its importance as a channel of information and imagination. But… why can’t it be both?

. . . .

Gaze at an illuminated manuscript in a museum — although the script and dialect maybe be too obscure to ascertain, the beauty of the text, and the care taken while writing it, gives it a fascination all its own. These texts were written at a time when books were very precious, because printed media was so difficult to create. This is, if you think about it, not unlike our own time.

. . . .

I think it’s this idea—that books aren’t truly necessary, that they could, conceivably, be replaced entirely by another medium—that is at the root of people’s discomfort with the idea of books as decor.

. . . .

Valuing a book only for its cover, as the aphorism goes, seems to devalue the information within. It is a sign of the shallowness, the superficial fronting that defines modern life. Or is it?

. . . .

I love books more than almost anybody you will meet.

. . . .

And it’s a small jump, especially for people who appreciate beautiful things, to go from valuing the fact that a book has a physical essence to valuing the beauty of said essence. At a time when the chief advantage that books have over other media is their physical, tactile qualities, the value of books as objects that elevate the aesthetic of a space is more important than ever.

. . . .

They’re a door in the wall, a portal to other existences whose presence is sometimes obscured by the ivy of modern life. Look, maybe I’m biased, but I don’t think a book will ever achieve the charming obsolescence of a typewriter or a globe or whatever silly artifact currently decorates moderately-priced American restaurants.

. . . .

Sure, some books that are very beautiful have very dumb things in them—but on a grand scale, a vote for the attractiveness of books is also a vote for the persistence of the ideas that have been contained within books for thousands of years.

Link to the rest at Apartment Therapy

 

NYC Library Takes Novel Approach, Posting Books to Instagram

23 August 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

For generations, the New York Public Library has given cardholders the opportunity to head to their local branch and borrow a book. Since 2005, it also has provided them with the option of going online and checking out an e-book.

Now, the library is going a step further and posting classic novels and short stories to its account on Instagram, the Facebook Inc. -owned photo- and video-sharing platform.

The new service, dubbed “Insta Novels,” will be available to all Instagram users starting Wednesday, regardless of whether they have a NYPL card or live in New York City.

The library is starting with just one offering: Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” In the months that follow, it plans to add two more: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and Franz Kafka’s novella, “The Metamorphosis.”

The idea is to use Instagram to promote reading in general and the NYPL brand in particular, library officials said. It also aims to show that libraries are changing with the times and fully adapting to the digital era.

“We want people to understand that libraries aren’t just those brick-and-mortar places full of dusty books,” said Christopher Platt, the NYPL’s chief branch library officer.

. . . .

The technology works in such a way that when readers are on the Instagram app, they hold the page of a book by resting their thumb on the screen, library officials said. They turn the page by lifting their thumb.

The experience is “unmistakably like reading a paperback novel,” Corinna Falusi, Mother in New York’s partner and chief creative officer, said in a statement.

. . . .

Michael D. D. White, co-founder of Citizens Defending Libraries, a New York City-based watchdog group, said the emphasis on online reading works against the idea of libraries as physical spaces where books are curated and knowledge is shared.

“It diminishes the sense of place and purpose,” he said.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Here’s a link to the kickoff post of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that worked for PG. Click on the Play symbol.

Canada’s Rakuten Kobo Arrives in Amazonian America at Walmart: Ebooks and Audiobooks

22 August 2018

From Publishing Perspectives:

You’ll remember Publishing Perspectives’ January article on Rakuten Kobo’s plan to re-enter the American market–generally thought to be Amazonian territory–through a new partnership with Walmart.

On Tuesday (August 21), Walmart eCommerce’s general manager for entertainment, Mario Pacini, has gone onto the company’s blog pages to announce that the advent of Walmart Ebooks by Rakuten Kobo is at hand. The program has its landing page in place, with a “US$10 off your first ebook or audiobook” offer and–perhaps of greatest eventual significance in these audio boom-times–a 30-day trial on a $9.99-per-month audiobook subscription.

Once the customer clicks into the Walmart page for a category of interest–ebooks or audiobooks–she or he is taken to a Rakuten Kobo page. Choose hardcover or paperbacks, and you remain on Walmart’s pages. Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch is reporting that it appears a consumer will need a Walmart account, rather than using a Kobo account.

. . . .

To stay with audiobooks for a moment, the Kobo-Walmart audiobook offer undercuts by $5 the Amazon Audible subscription. Both subscriptions provide one audiobook monthly, Audible for $14.95, Walmart Ebooks by Rakuten Kobo for $9.99.

. . . .

And more broadly, this is a potentially pivotal move for Kobo. While the company has described its “strategy from day one”–that’s Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn using a favorite Amazon phrase, “day one”–as “partnering with the world’s best retailers so that they can easily offer their customers the option of reading digitally.” And it may finally be a way into the big continent-spanning market down the road from Toronto.

Despite partnerships with independent bookstores through the American Booksellers Association, Kobo’s presence in the States has never moved past single digits in market share, although it has maintained the home-team advantage “up north” in Canada.

. . . .

However, expect no one in Seattle to break out in a sweat here. Amazon’s Kindle ecosystem is profoundly dominant in the American marketplace, tied as it is into the Amazon Prime amalgam of advantages to retail consumers. The retailer is effectively a service-member of many US families now, the unquestioned go-to for everything from tonight’s movie to Saturday’s lawnmower and the kitchen pantry’s automatically restocking staples.

. . . .

Some might say this is stooping to conquer, but if the money comes in, Tokyo and Toronto may not be dismayed that American consumers are saying, “Oh, I got that ebook from Walmart” or “Shh, I’m listening to my Walmart book.”

At Inc, Justin Bariso, in covering on Monday (August 20) Walmart’s strong earnings report, points out that while the chain’s huge fleet of brick-and-mortar big-box stores grew at 4.5 percent, its e-commerce business, where Kobo stands, great at a rate of 40 percent, in CEO Doug McMillon’s plan, precisely to better compete with Amazon. The Rakuten Kobo element now can be seen standing beside McMillon’s steps toward more up-market branding in areas like fashion, in which Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Donna Karen and other labels are coming in with Lord and Taylor.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives


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PG says competition in the ebook space is good for indie authors. Among other things, it reduces the possibilities that anyone will take authors for granted.

Walmart’s eBookstore is Launching Today

21 August 2018

Nate Hoffhelder has an announcement on The Digital Reader about Walmart opening an ebookstore today:

Walmart is in the process of setting up new ebook sections in the book departments of its stores, Kobo has let slip a promo video for “Walmart eBooks”, and multiple references have been found in Walmart’s help pages.

While there is no sign of the Walmart eBook apps, I did report a few weeks ago in an exclusive scoop that this would launch on the 21st, and here it is.

Walmart is going to be selling ebooks both on its site and in stores. The ebookstore will be located at www.walmart.com/ebooks when it goes live, and it will be managed by Kobo and supported via a subdomain on Kobo’s website.

. . . .

Walmart will sell just one Kobo model in stores at launch, the $99 Kobo Aura. (While the ebook display has clamps for two devices, the second one is sized for a tablet and has a label that mentions the ebook app, not a Kobo device.)

I know there’s a report that Walmart will sell 3 models, but there is just the one card and one price tag for the one model.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG went to www.walmart.com/ebooks which redirected to https://www.walmart.com/cp/books/3920, which, in PG’s breath-taking, stunning and astounding opinion, is a total mess.

It strikes PG as looking like a class project from a 100-level college web development course about three weeks into the semester. The course title is something like, “Beginning Web Development for Art History Majors.”

Fantasy Bestselling Ebooks – Subdivided by Sub-Genre – Free and Paid

20 August 2018

Click on the Category to Open

Fantasy Bestsellers – Amazon Ebooks – Paid and Free

– Action & Adventure

– Alternative History

– Anthologies & Short Stories

– Arthurian

– Christian Fantasy

– Classics

– Coming of Age

– Dark Fantasy

– Dragons & Mythical Creatures

– Epic

– Fairy Tales

– Historical

– Humorous

– LGBT

– Metaphysical & Visionary

– Military

– Myths & Legends

– New Adult & College

– Paranormal & Urban

– Romantic

– Superhero

– Sword & Sorcery

– TV, Movie, Video Game Adaptations

Blockchain Comes to E-Books, DRM Included

18 August 2018

From Copyright and Technology:

Blockchain technology has reached e-books.

. . . .

B2C applications focus on the user experience, by using blockchain technology to help emulate consumer ownership of digital content. The idea is this: a user buys a digital content file. A record of the purchase is put on a blockchain, which establishes the user’s ownership of the file. The user gets a token — a small digital file — signifying ownership. The user can alienate (sell, lend, rent, or give away) the file to someone else. When that happens, a record of the new ownership is put on the blockchain, and the token moves from the user to the new owner.

The question of whether you own a digital file you’ve obtained legally has been a controversial one for a long time. If you own a copyrighted work, you get a set of rights under copyright law. But if you get a digital file that takes up space on your device (as opposed to a digital physical object such as a CD or DVD), the law says that you don’t get that bundle of rights; instead you get whatever rights the distributor decides to give you in a license agreement, which is a contract. Often those rights are narrower than the copyright rights bundle. For example, typical license agreements of this type forbid you from alienating the file — which you have the legal right to do for physical objects. The law also says that such restrictions in license agreements are enforceable, despite the fact that they curtail the rights in the copyright bundle.

But legal constraints on use are not the same as practical, technical constraints, which may be tighter or looser than the legal constraints. Broadly speaking, there are two current paradigms for this. In one, users are technically able to do anything they want with their files, including sending copies to their million best friends, posting them online for anyone to download, selling copies and keeping the revenue, and extracting samples to create derivative works — as long as they don’t get caught, because the license agreement with the retailer probably forbids those activities.

In the other paradigm, technical constraints make it difficult or impossible to alienate content, share it with others, create derivative works, and so on — regardless of whether the license agreement forbids or allows such activities. This is the case with movies and TV shows; it’s also the case with most e-books in the U.S. and some other countries.

. . . .

The basic concept behind today’s e-book/blockchain startups is to emulate ownership — as a practical, technical matter — more closely than existing digital content distribution systems do. The idea is to use two properties of blockchains that help facilitate digital ownership. First, blockchains are ownerless, so that a record of file ownership on a blockchain is not controlled by a central distributor such as Amazon or Apple. Second, blockchains are immutable, so that if a system puts an entry on a blockchain that you own an e-book, that entry is there to stay forever, even if the vendor whose technology you used to buy the e-book goes out of business. And if you sell the e-book to someone else, another entry goes onto the blockchain that also stays there, unaltered, in perpetuity.

In other words, blockchains enable transfers of ownership that are secure and not controllable by a third party after the fact. But there are other aspects to emulating ownership, such as not being able to send copies to your million best friends or keep your own copy after you’ve alienated it. For this, DRM is necessary. Files must be encrypted, and tokens are really glorified DRM license files that contain encryption keys and information about usage rules.

. . . .

Most e-books still have DRM, at least in the United States, UK, France, South Korea, and elsewhere. Most users expect it, even if some don’t like it. Furthermore, explicitly non-ownership models for e-books have been held at bay, mainly by major trade publishers that won’t license their titles to monthly-subscription services such as Scribd and Amazon Kindle Unlimited. Therefore, a B2C blockchain scheme could possibly work for e-book distribution.

. . . .

Sure enough, both of the startups I’m talking about here use DRM, even though neither of them likes to talk about it. One is Bookchain, from Montreal-based Scenarex, which the company expects to launch next month; the other is Publica, based in Gibraltar and Latvia, which is up and running. Publica calls its Token Key Protocol (TKP) a “successor” to DRM.

Both of these schemes are targeted towards independent authors who want to sell their books outside of the mainstream e-book platforms. Both use the Ethereum blockchain, which supports smart contracts. Smart contracts are constructs that enable rules to be encoded and enforced across all copies of a blockchain. In this case, smart contracts embody rules about e-book ownership. They ensure, for example, that when you sell your e-book to someone else, they get rights to the e-book and you don’t anymore. Or if you bought two copies of the e-book and you give one copy away, you only have one left for yourself.

Bookchain and Publica both enable resale and other forms of alienation. Bookchain allows sellers (authors or publishers) to place constraints on resale, such as minimum or maximum prices, or whether a portion of resale revenue goes to the original seller; whereas Publica doesn’t enable such constraints. Both make their money by taking commissions on all transactions (first sale or resale). Both use the standard EPUB format and have their own e-reader apps: Bookchain’s will be web browser based while Publica’s are mobile apps for iOS and Android.

. . . .

What does ownership mean, anyway? Two legal scholars, Jason Schultz of NYU and Aaron Perzanowski of Case Western Reserve, wrote an entire book about ownership in the digital age two years ago, in which they explain what ownership means in legal terms, lament the deterioration of digital ownership, and propose legal mechanisms to restore it. But in lay terms, ownership means that you get something that you can call your own, that belongs to no one else; that you can point to and keep and protect as your property; that you can alienate as you wish but then it’s not yours anymore. This means that being able to make a file freely available online for anyone to copy and use — while certainly desirable for consumers — isn’t ownership anymore; it’s something else. As a practical matter, it doesn’t coexist with the other attributes of ownership.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

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