Mar 31, 2013
How is it we can live with ourselves while children die of preventable disease, starvation, and abuse? How is it we can live with ourselves when in our own land of plenty men and women are forced to work for less than they need to live decently, by employers who reap billions from their labor and who live in luxuriant circumstances unimagined by the most profligate potentates in history? How is it we can live with ourselves in a country which every day massacres innocent women and children in a misguided, dollar-driven assault on the whole world? How is it we can live with ourselves in a society where we need full-time armed guards patrolling our school corridors? How can we live with ourselves when we see the deficit rising to over a trillion dollars a year and the climate deteriorating in front of us and not only do nothing to ameliorate these impending train wrecks, but instead do everything we can to bring them about as soon as possible? How can we let, how DO we let, all of this happen, when we have the power to stop it?
We are a “not caring” people, not an “uncaring” people. However, is there, finally, any difference between the two? I think when someone figures this out, how we can tolerate these states of affairs, indeed even consciously and willingly abet and worsen them, we will have discovered the defining attribute of our species. Because no other species has this awareness and should it be miraculously visited upon the dog, the elephant, or the dolphin, who could imagine their being co-conspirators in such enormities?
Mar 21, 2013
This is a big deal.
The Supreme Court recently decided a case which has a direct impact on the First Sale Doctrine I have been addressing in this series. And it’s good news!
Kirtsaeng v. Wiley (PDF) involved a Thai student studying in America, Supap Kirtsaeng, who discovered that his expensive textbooks were for sale for much less back home in Thailand. He had relatives buy a slew of them there, imported them to the U.S., and sold them on eBay, netting himself a bundle. One of the text publishers, John Wiley & Sons, objected, and a long court case ensued. I am not sure how Kirtsaeng ended up being the plaintiff; however, the bottom line is that he won, in a case in which interpretation of the First Sale Doctrine played a pivotal role.
In brief, the court ruled “. . . that to impose geographic limits on the first sale doctrine would make no sense. . . .”
In my view, to impose limits on the First Sale Doctrine because of the medium of delivery would be equally senseless. A book is a book, regardless of the manner in which it is delivered to the buyer.
Unfortunately, Kirtsaeng does not explicitly determine this. We must wait for Capitol Records v. ReDigi (see Part XIII of this series) to take the next step toward that determination. However, this ruling is a big first step to establishing First Sale protection to buyers of eBooks. And when that is done, libraries will be empowered to purchase eBooks via any route available to them, including via personal purchase, and lend them to their patrons. A bright day may finally be dawning.
Read more on the case and the decision at this NPR page.
Mar 18, 2013
I closed out my series on “The End of Libraries” last June, having said all I had to say on this sorrowful situation. Other than the fact that Amazon has since almost doubled the number of titles it now offers for loan through its Prime service (310,948 as of today), there has been no substantive change in the status quo in the eBook lending world. That situation may be about to change.
In an article in Communications of the ACM (March 2013, v56#3) praiseworthy for its clarity of style and explication of legal issues, Professor Pamela Samuelson (UC/Berkeley) has written about the case of Capital Records, Inc. v. ReDigi, Inc. ReDigi has an online business reselling music originally purchased from iTunes. Capital Records is challenging the legality of that business on copyright and other grounds.
The outcome of this case, which at present is at the trial level with at least two appellate levels to come, will determine the manner and extent to which the First-Sale Doctrine should be applied to digital media. This doctrine, which I mentioned in Part XII of this series, confers on the first purchaser of a copyrighted item (book, video, music) the right to loan it, give it away, or resell it without compensation to the original seller. The First-Sale Doctrine, in essence, makes libraries possible.
Capitol Records v. ReDigi will determine whether this doctrine should be applicable to digital, as well as physical, media. It is a case which, in Professor Samuelson’s understated words, “really matters.” She has kindly allowed me to post a PDF of her article, which I encourage you to open and read.
The trial judge heard oral arguments last October; his decision should be imminent. Though the losing litigant will almost certainly appeal, a well-considered and well-articulated opinion will be difficult to overturn. Let’s hope the trial judge understands the importance of the task before him.
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