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Boston and Beyond

Apr 20, 2013
Now that both Boston bombers have been caught and the nine-days’ wonder that permeated the airways 24/7 has been stilled, perhaps we can pause a moment to remember the nameless hundreds of thousands of innocents our bombs have slaughtered over the past 12 years.

If you don’t want your heart broken, don’t go HERE to view seven of the 11 children—babies, really—slaughtered in the “fierce battle” between U.S.-led forces and the nefarious Taliban a couple of Sundays ago. And this was no anomaly. “Collateral damage” is practically the watchword of the “wars” we have fought in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Indonesia, Sudan, Somalia, etc., etc., over the past decade.

What ought to have been a police action—the meticulous pursuit and capture of individuals involved in an international conspiracy of religious fanatics—has instead turned into Apocalypse Now, with death raining down upon the general populations of a large slice of the world; with the abandonment of due process, the laws of war, and any human decency; with the revival of medieval confinements and tortures; and with no end in sight of vastly expensive conflicts that fill the pockets of the corporatocracy and bankrupt the public coffers.

It is not surprising that a young and impressionable boy, helplessly watching the slaughter of babies, brides, and thousands of others of his co-religionists should be led to take the awful action that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly took last week, cruelly wounding 170 people and ending three innocent lives, his brother’s life and, effectively, his own. It is only surprising that more young men and women have not done the same.
tags: Militarism | Religion | Terrorism

The End of Libraries, Part XVI

Apr 17, 2013
Let’s forget about using the term “Used” in connection with digital music, movies, or books. Let us stipulate to the fact that a digital file remains in its original pristine condition, unless it is corrupted in some way, in which case it usually becomes useless.

And let’s forget about allowing anyone to use the term “Licensed” when referring to the purchase and sale of digital media. When I buy a book, I buy it, I don’t license it, and I don’t care if it comes in a parchment scroll, a bound monograph, or a digital file.

And then let’s establish the finding that the First Sale Doctrine applies to copyrighted material regardless of its embodiment—parchment, paper, or bits. There are plenty of ways to insure security against copyright infringement for eBooks. Look at Amazon, which has a pretty impressive method in place already, and has been loaning books through its Prime service since 2011. If there has been any successful or widespread abuse of that system, I haven’t read about it.

If we don’t establish the First Sale Doctrine as applying to digital media, public libraries could lose the right to loan eBooks. And since eBooks will soon be the primary embodiment of books, public libraries could lose their relevance, their funding, and their existence. This must not be allowed to happen, for the sake of our democracy.
tags: Books and Libraries

The End of Libraries, Part XV

Apr 07, 2013
The trial court decision on Capitol Records, LLC, versus ReDigi Inc. was handed down in March, and the news is not good.

Read the decision HERE and google “Capitol ReDigi” to learn the details on this case. This piece addresses what I see are the dire implications of the decision, if it is not overturned on appeal.

The First Sale Doctrine, recognized by the Supreme Court in a 1908 decision, establishes the right of the purchaser of a copyrighted work (book, music, movie, painting, etc.) to dispose of that work in any manner they wish without requiring further compensation to the original copyright holder (typically the publisher of the work). The purchaser may loan, resell, give away, destroy, or do anything else they want with the work except copy it.

The First Sale Doctrine enables libraries to purchase books and subsequently loan them to their patrons at no cost or compensation to the original seller. In the first entry in this series, I made the argument that physical books were on their way to joining the Dodo bird and the dinosaurs, owing to a number of factors. One may say the same for all of the copyrighted materials noted above, and not just books. The world is moving inexorably to digital manifestations of music (iTunes); movies (downloads, streaming); and books (eBooks). The economics in the case of the latter are simply too irresistible. No trees to cut down, paper to manufacture, type to set, pages to print, or heavy books to bind, box, and ship all over the world. And one could say the same for CDs (vinyl and tape having long since passed from the scene) and DVDs.

Judge Richard J. Sullivan, in handing down his decision in Capitol, failed to recognize this new digital world, and rejected ReDigi's business model on the basis that it violated copyright. Consideration of the First Sale Doctrine, given a violation of copyright, was therefore not reached (“Because the Court has concluded that ReDigi’s service violates Capitol’s reproduction right, the first sale defense does not apply to ReDigi’s infringement of those rights.” (p.11)) Judge Sullivan needs to learn the difference between File Copy and File Move.

So let us imagine a not-too-distant and all-too-likely future when physical manifestations of books have become as rare as hen’s teeth, found largely in museums and private collections. And let us imagine the Capitol decision has been applied to digital manifestations of books (as it more or less has been by default in this decision). In this scenario, libraries will lose their First Sale Doctrine right to loan books. That is to say, they will lose their reason for being. Already, major publishers refuse to sell eBooks to libraries (e.g., Simon and Schuster), charge exorbitant prices when they do (e.g., Random House), and/or place draconian restrictions on lending (e.g., HarperCollins). And all of them that do sell to libraries insist on a sales/pricing/distribution model which utterly fails to take advantage of the revolutionary possibilities afforded by digital media, to everyone’s loss: their own, their authors’, and their readers’ (see Part II of this series).

No publisher will ever be sorry to see a library close. This wrongheaded decision may very well enable them to close them all.

tags: Books and Libraries

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