Digital “Ownership”

According to a study conducted by Virtua, 77% of Americans would prefer to own digital items rather than stream them. Between video streaming services, news publication subscriptions, audiobook subscriptions, and eBook subscriptions, Americans are exhausted by recurring fees without retention of a digital item. With the purchase of a physical book, consumers maintain the book until it is damaged or lost. Ownership of the physical book copy belongs to the purchaser of the book. This is not the case for the purchase of digital media. 

Individual Readers

This issue of ownership is further exacerbated by the possibility of eBooks disappearing from a person’s device if a company wishes. In 2009, Amazon infamously remotely removed copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from purchasers’ devices. This quiet remote removal perfectly exemplifies this issue of ownership. While the issue was remedied and the books returned, the possibility of remotely removing digital media still exists, meaning that purchasers may lose access to a book they paid for. 

If a platform is discontinued or a business goes under, the eBooks supported by the platform will become inaccessible. Unlike a physical book, access to an eBook is dependent on the platform that supports it. Currently, no procedures are in place to preserve the ability to access the book. If the platform disappears, so do the eBooks supported by that platform. In 2019, Microsoft shut down its eBook store, causing all eBooks purchased through its platform to be inaccessible. The retention of an eBook is contingent on the platform remaining intact. 

The possibility of removal or disappearance of a purchased eBook reveals that the purchaser does not truly own a copy of the book. The purchase of an eBook is a license to read it, not true ownership. Additionally, purchasers are unable to allow others to borrow their eBook or to resell it as they could with a physical book copy.

“Digital retailers insist that ownership depends on the terms of an end user license agreement (‘EULA’)—that incomprehensible slew of legalese you reflexively click ‘I agree’ to dismiss. Those terms—negotiated by lawyers working for retailers and publishers—determine your rights, not the default entitlements of personal property. And buried within those thousands of words that we all ignore is one consistent message: you don’t own the books you bought; you merely license them. That is to say, you have permission to read them. Until one day, you don’t.”

The End of Ownership


Libraries experience problems with digital ownership as well. Libraries cannot retain unlimited access to disperse digital media because it would be financially harmful to the publisher. From the library’s perspective, Libraries must repurchase eBooks after a certain amount of borrows. Libraries are bound to expensive subscriptions to eBooks that must be renewed. Therefore, libraries do not truly own the material they are purchasing. 

Over the past few months, lawsuits in several states pertaining to libraries’ purchase and retention of eBooks have arisen. Multiple states are attempting to create legislation requiring publishers to sell eBooks to libraries at a “reasonable” price. Maryland passed legislation requiring this but was overruled in higher court due to copyright issues and constitutional boundaries. To quote the Opinion of the court, “Striking the balance between the critical functions of libraries and the importance of preserving the exclusive rights of copyright holders… is squarely in the province of Congress and not this Court or a state legislature.” 

Legislation passed by states on this issue has proven unsuccessful thus far. This allows publishers to ensure that digital books are only borrowed or accessible through subscription, not owned. Libraries are left with soaring eBook subscription prices that must be paid over and over again, instilling fear that they may be unable to access the desired media due to cost. 

Subscription Model

While many areas of digital media are shifting towards the subscription model, eBooks may be shifting away from it. Recurring fees and the possibility of losing a purchased digital book are concerning to consumers. Individual readers and libraries alike are concerned about the lack of ownership. If you must repurchase your book, do you really own it? 

As a publisher, digital ownership must be approached from both a financial and ethical perspective. In a world moving steadily more digital, the thought of not truly owning any purchased digital material is concerning. Americans’ attitudes about digital media are changing, and publishers should adapt their methods to align with consumers. Publishers should consider how to best accommodate the needs and wants of consumers in a way that preserves financial growth. 

Fahrenheit 404: Censorship?

While burning books have been a practice going as far back as 213 BC, it is not something that can be done with digitally published works. In that regard, platforms simply remove and ban content that violates community guidelines and ban individuals from posting. Nevertheless, in means of less drastic measures, many states and counties have leaned into banning books from the public education systems that cross their conservative views. Book banning, in this case, has risen in practice over the years. As of this year, there was even a book burning in Tennessee back in February where a pastor burned Harry Potter and Twilight books.

Banned and Censored

To combat this censorship, many digital media platforms like OverDrive and Scribd have taken measures to ensure these banned books are still available. For example, doing events like banned book week. However, as of this year, Hoopla and OverDrive have removed books centering around what can be construed as hateful content and misinformation. Hoopla CEO Jeff Jankowski states, “Due to the hateful nature of these specific titles, I have no regrets about having our team remove them from hoopla.” Then he says, “I must acknowledge that this situation highlights a complex issue that Libraries have always faced in curating their collections — avoiding a culture of censorship.”

OverDrive CEO Steve Potash has not made any comments.

The removal came about through librarian suggestions and assistance from the Library Freedom Project. The demand to remove books on behalf of librarians who found them offensive is a paradoxical and inconsistent practice in digital platforms designed to be unbiased in the variety of curated viewpoints held. This is why Scribd continuously has a wide range of voices as a digital library. Ryan Holiday, who partnered with Trip Adler, CEO of Scribd, to make banned books more available, even says:

“America has a lot of problems but people reading books is not one of them. I’m appalled by this campaign to ban or remove books from school libraries and as a bookseller, it’s my obligation to do something about it.”

It is also why the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) fights to defend the “freedom to speak, the freedom to publish, and the freedom to read, as promised by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”

Radical Text

However, as of recent hate crimes like that of the shooting in Buffalo, New York, the shooter allegedly published a manifesto citing the “Great Replacement Theory” that was recently removed from online platforms. While it wasn’t published on any digital publishing platforms or libraries, a new law is emerging out of Texas that could later be used to affect digital American publishing platforms. The law is currently known as H.B. No. 20, it prevents censorship of Texans on prominent social media platforms in spite of the potential to incite violence through radical views.

The law would fall in line with the America Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, where the first three rights are:

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

In the future, this could protect books like God is Bigger than Covid by Frances Deanes and A New Nobility of Blood and Soil by Richard Walther Darré. Books that were removed from Hoopla and OverDrive, world distributors of digital content for libraries and schools, due to the nature of their content.

Error Code 404

According to Rebecca Knuth, an author on book burnings and the destruction of libraries, books are targeted because they “are the embodiment of ideas and if you hold extreme beliefs, you cannot tolerate anything that contradicts those beliefs or is in competition with them.” While the books that are being censored aren’t being burned or banned from these platforms because of opposing ideas, they are being censored for promoting radical thought and presumably extremist actions like that of the shooter in Buffalo, N. Y. resulting in missing or deleted webpages—error code 404.

This could signify a new road for rules and regulations in screening works for digital library spaces and platforms in America and for what should be censored on public platforms, affecting all authors alike. Should public digital media platforms adhere to unbiased curated content like Scribd, and soon most major social media platforms, or should certain content be screened for and removed as OverDrive and Hoopla have done?

IS DRM For You?

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What Is Digital Rights Management?

Digital rights management controls not only when the customer can use the product, but also how the product is used. According to Margaret Rouse, “DRM is implemented by embedding code that prevents copying, specifies a time period in which the content can be accessed or limits the number of devices the media can be installed on.”

Effects of Digital Rights Management

According to Copy Issues with e-books (Links to an external site.), “When buyers are purchasing e-books, they are not merely buying the book to own. In reality, e-book consumers are purchasing a licensing agreement.” Digital rights media is often active because of these kinds of licensing agreements. The DRM serves as a way to uphold the licensing deal for an e-book.

For example, Microsoft Office made an entrance into the e-book market in 2017 and left two years later. When Microsoft went under, customers of Microsoft’s e-books no longer could read e-books on their e-readers. Every Microsoft e-book that was purchased received their money back although customers deemed the product to be more valuable than money.

DRM for Authors

Digital rights management was first created to prevent online piracy. Now, the DRM has extended to being used to control the author’s content. One possible benefit of having DRM is the ability to edit e-books after it has uploaded. If the author notices an error, it will be easily fixed. Through the DRM, all of the author’s edits will be up to date since it connects to the server. Then if an author dislikes the feedback from a particular section, they can completely delete the section. The DRM adds an extra layer of protection that many authors have considered using.

Like every other coin, there are two sides to the DRM. A group of critics who are highly against the use of DRM has created a #DayAgainstDRM. Now is the time to raise awareness about the harms of DRM. According to Creative Commons Timothy Vollmer (Links to an external site.), ” 

There are serious problems with attaching DRM to creative works: not only does it frustrate legitimate users in enjoying the content they’ve paid for in the ways they wish, but it also limits access and interaction with these works for educational and socially beneficial purposes.”

DRM has to be connected to a certain server; control is inevitable. Anderson  (Links to an external site.)writes, “If you want to shift your Kindle books to an e-reader that doesn’t support Kindle files, you have to break the DRM. And as e-readers and e-books become more common, this fact becomes unavoidable.”

How does DRM affect E-book customers?

Companies who decide to use DRM have more control over the e-book. Thus, if a customer buys a book from Amazon, the book can only be read on a Kindle Fire or Kindle app. E-books purchased from Amazon are unable to be shared with other Amazon users.

Purchasers of e-books using DRM may limit how many devices an individual can download the same e-book.  Some individuals are unable to print from e-books. If a person manages to print their e-books a watermark will appear on every page.Through DRM e-books are unsharable because it violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Is DRM stronger than Vibranium?

DRM is far from being impenetrable. If a company decides to use DRM,  possibilities of setbacks still exist. For many customers, breaking the DRM off of their device is advantageous.

 If a customer owns an e-book by a company that uses DRM, they could lose their e-book when they travel out of the country. K.T. Bradford (Links to an external site.)explains, “attempting to access Google Play Books from a country where that service is not available isn’t possible, even if you bought the books in an access country. This affects people traveling internationally as well as those who move from one country to another.” Customers who are wary of the future of e-book companies also may want to break DRM. When the DRM is broken customers will be able to keep the e-books, even if the company goes under.

While the use of DRM has changed, so has the initial market. As a result, DRM is both valuable and unhelpful for authors and consumers. Depending on a person’s perspective, DRM may be beneficial to authors and customers alike.

in Law | 745 Words

The Digital Rights Tragedy of Microsoft’s E-Book Market

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Microsoft’s discontinuation of their e-bookstore means that consumers will no longer be able to access and view Microsoft’s e-books. Customers who purchased the right to view the e-books within the past two years from the company are now unable to read them.

Microsoft updated their Edge browser to support e-book consumption in March of 2017 and began to sell e-books through the Windows 10 Storeapp. Microsoft then ceased selling e-books in April of 2019, resulting in the revocation of each consumer’s purchased right to view the e-books.

Consequently, buyers have been robbed of the transaction experience: I give you money and you provide me with the product.

Microsoft has shattered the trust given by consumers in a supposedly fair transaction. The e-books are simply gone with the wind “because company executives have decided it’s no longer worth keeping the store running.”

Companies are setting a precedent of making their products obsolete. Dave Lee writes about how there is no concrete equivalent that mimics the loss of ownership that is possible because of Digital Rights Management; physical bookstores are unable to take a customer’s material, purchased books away from them.

Digital Rights Management and Microsoft

DRM (digital rights management) is a systematic attempt to prevent the piracy of e-books. Microsoft utilized DRM and then had the issue of revoking every consumer’s right to view Microsoft’s e-books. Cory Doctorow writes that “this puts the difference between DRM-locked media and unencumbered media into sharp contrast.” Doctorow still owns e-books and MP3’s from organizations that are long gone, but Microsoft is forced to reimburse consumers because the company’s e-books cannot be viewed outside of Microsoft Edge.

Similarly, Josh Axelrod and Lulu Garcia-Navarro write about how cars and various smart home appliances are under DRM-lock as well. The permanence of cars, much like Microsoft’s e-books, are no longer guaranteed. If Tesla were to go under, a smart car can lose everything that makes it a Tesla. People paid for the car but not the ownership of the software.

Microsoft’s Downfall

A major issue for Microsoft was the lack of users for their Edge browser. Ed Bott states that “in the first three months of 2018, Microsoft Edge accounted for a paltry 8 percent of the 1.2 billion visits to government websites from consumer and business PCs and Macs.”

The minimal impact of Edge users combined with a system that was not built for convenience was too much for Microsoft.

In contrast, Amazon’s Kindle exemplifies e-book convenience. Amazon provides an inexhaustible source of e-books along with a portable device for reading them, and a free Kindle app which may be used when not connected to the internet.

For the few people using Edge the medium was ill-fitted for e-book consumption. Edge requires that the consumers view the e-book through the browser rather than allowing users to download the book. Having to view the e-book through Edge limits many users to only being able to view the e-book on a PC. Further, this exclusivity did not allow for e-book compatibility with Apple devices.

While exclusive compatibility is not without precedent, Microsoft lacked the fan-base that allowed for the complete alienation of competitor’s operating systems.

Further, Microsoft Edge users must be connected to the internet to view the e-books. Connectivity issues, lack of compatibility, and the requirement that the e-book be viewed in-browser stifle the appeal of Microsoft’s e-books.

What Microsoft Has to Say

Microsoft has not given many statements about why they are ceasing the sale of e-books. The first mention came in June when they posted on their website about the closure of their e-book store and eventual refunds for customers.

The FAQ mentions giving an additional $25 credit to individuals who annotated in their e-book. Microsoft is essentially paying for the consumer’s intellectual property which will be lost along with the rights to view the e-books.

The consumer reimbursements and Edge’s lack of traffic imply that Microsoft did not have many e-book sales in the first place.

Microsoft also recently indicated that e-books are not their focus, but rather that their app store is their priority when Microsoft stated that the company is “streamlining [its] focus’ on the store.”

The Future for Microsoft in E-Books

Microsoft’s foray into e-book sales utilizing Edge was not their first attempt at entering the market and it will likely not be their last. Microsoft invested $300 million in Barnes and Noble to create a separate Nook Media company in 2011, but this venture was terminated in 2014.

David Grossman writes that “MS Reader tried to sell books for LCD screens” in 2011. However, this project fell through in the same year due to a lack of usage and routine updates.

Whether or not Microsoft has given up on e-books, the company’s blunder has made evident the possibility for massive loss of content for consumers when dealing with DRM-locked content. Consumer trust will be difficult for Microsoft to earn back if they decide to wrestle with e-book sales again.

Whatever the future holds, hopefully Microsoft has learned from their past mistakes to avoid any future losses of this caliber in the e-book game.

in Law | 898 Words

Why Copyright Protection Isn’t Protecting E-Books

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E-book publication is threatened by the assumed “free” nature of the internet. For individual publishers, attempting to protect their work on their own, it’s nearly impossible due to the internet constantly changing. Authors want to to be able to put their books out but manage it as well.

Effects of Piracy for the Author

 According to E-book Piracy Is Rampant And Impossible To Stop, there are situations where an individual is publishing a novel and, moments later, finds pirated copies through a mere Google search.

The Authors Guild explains “how the major contributing factor to the rise in book piracy and counterfeiting is that the law does not hold internet platforms accountable for the illegal activities that occur through their marketplaces…” The acting policy’s lack of foresight puts the burden of fighting piracy on the backs of authors.

The first suggestion is to ignore piracy altogether. Then there is the suggestion to contact the site manager directly. Dave Chesson suggests that it is easier to reach the poster of the pirated work, or the host site, rather than attempting to contact the DMCA.

The What To Do If Someone Steals Your Book offers the final suggestion to submit a formal complaint with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

For authors, the effects of e-book piracy can be devastating. As recently as July 2019, Adam Rowe on wrote about the loss of money through e-book piracy. According to U.S. Publishers Are Still Losing $300 Million Annually To E-book Piracy, “$300 million in publisher income is lost annually as a result of online piracy.” Even if an author only loses $500 to e-book piracy, that can be a month’s groceries or rent.

Protection for Authors

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was enacted in 1998, at the beginning of the digital age. DMCA is not an autonomous system, but one that authors must submit notices of piracy to, along with a host of other information. An individual contacting a government organization is hardly a drop in the water, compared to the larger corporations they deal with daily.

However, there is an organization called DMCAForce which provides anyone with the capability to be proactive about protecting their content, rather than retroactive, as with the government organization. The article mentions “unique algorithms we create a digital fingerprint of your content.”

DMCAForce is perhaps one of the most accessible forms of protection against e-book piracy. It gives the author copyright protection for up to 5 pieces of content. They also provide higher levels, of increasing prices, for individuals with more copyrighted material, or corporations.

Digimarc, founded in 1995, provides several innovative solutions for attempting to protect authors against piracy. They are well-known for their digital watermarking, along with their specific technology used to locate these watermarks. Although they are invisible to consumers, Digimarc actively searches various well-known piracy sites for these watermarks, for individuals that use their services.

However, they work for larger corporations, so they do not provide services to self-publishers. Digimarc has partnered with companies like Walmart and Rakuten OverDrive to “identify and understand emerging market needs and demonstrate immediate and sustained return on investment.” They are marketing their company of fighting piracy as a significant return on the cost of their services. Digimarc decreases the likelihood of obtaining these e-books for free, thus rerouting people from paying for them.

Kitaboo suggests that individual publishers should set up Digital Rights Management to protect their E-books. DRM “ensures that the digital documents, e-books, and web-based content protects against data leakage, theft, and misuse. It’s a data encryption method which prevents anyone from accessing content without a proper access key.”

CapLinked protects PDF’s and Microsoft Office files through their DRM’s, which blocks downloaded content behind a wall where users must sign in to view the document. The author can revoke access to downloaded materials through this service, which might help with fighting against piracy, for those who attempt to put up protected e-books on piracy sites.

Why Are These Efforts Not Working?

Piracy is evolving and refusing to truly cease-and-desist. As a result, E-book piracy is still taking up to $300 million from publishers in the United States alone.

Michael Kozlowski writes extensively on the poor job done by the government, or anti-piracy companies, attempting to fight against e-book theft. Pirates can instantly provide free downloads for books as soon as their published on the internet.

Once these downloads are found, individuals may attempt to contact the publisher, citing the copyright issue and asking for the content to be taken down. If that does not work, then the next step is to fill out government forms.

Most people wish publishers would fight harder against piracy. According to E-book Piracy is on the Rise in 2019 publishers, “take pirates to court and shut down entire sites instead of arguing over individual titles.”  Kozlowski writes about the newest form of piracy for 2019, which is mainly undetectable by traditional forms of copyright detection. The article mentions pirates “provide adverts that for a small fee can send a list of requested E-books, right to your email address” and “since there are no links to infringing content, the entire process is immune from most anti-piracy laws.”

For individual publishers, attempting to protect their work on their own, it’s nearly impossible due to the internet constantly changing.

in Law | 905 Words

United States v. Apple

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In April of 2012, the United States of America’s Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc. This was a United States antitrust case in which Apple was accused of conspiring with the top six major publishing companies to raise the price of e-books. In order to understand why the United States filed suit on Apple, it is pertinent to understand the original and legal model by which publishing companies must abide.

The legal model starts with the book publisher’s ownership of the e-books. Book publishers will sell the e-book rights to distributors; meaning distributors like Amazon and Apple are legally permissible to distribute and sell the e-books bought. Book publishers sell their e-books to distributors like Apple at wholesale price. The wholesale price is less than the suggested selling price of the e-book. Through competitive market forces, distributors have to compete for business with the consumers. In order to be competitive, distributors will set their prices just above the price they paid for the rights of the e-book. Thus, distributors making marginal profits from e-books is a typical occurrence. What’s important here is that price of the e-books sold to consumers is set by the distributors, not by the book publishers. What is also important is the distributors are vying for business with each other, which in turns causes lower prices.

According to the United States Court for the Southern District of New York (Links to an external site.), “[Book Publishers] conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, and that Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy”. The basis of the anti-trust lawsuit is a new and illegal model that Apple and the book publishers decided to indulge in. The book publishing industry is controlled by five major publishing companies. The five publishing companies consist of Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

Prior to Apple joining the e-book market, Amazon was by far the biggest e-book retailer. According to Fortune Magazine’s article Second Bite: Can Apple clear its name in the ebooks drama?, “Apple was breaking into a market then dominated by Amazon, which had an 80% to 90% market share—monopoly power in almost anyone’s book.” With Amazon being a monopoly power in the e-book market, they were able to set the prices of their e-books at whatever price they wanted without competition in the market. According to Fortune Magazine’s senior editor, Rodger Parloff (Links to an external site.), “publishers sold e-books to Amazon under this wholesale model for about $10. To their horror, however, Amazon resold the e-books to the public for $9.99.” There is nothing legally wrong with Amazon selling their e-books for $9.99, but the publishing companies were not okay with Amazon’s price choice.

The publishing companies were under the impression that Amazon’s lower e-book prices would in turn cause the value of physical books to go down. According to Rodger Parloff, “In response, some publishers chose to raise their wholesale e-book prices to $12 or even $15, but Amazon continued to sell even those e-books for $9.99 — now absorbing a $2 to $5 loss on every single book sold.” With the top five publishing companies being discontent with Amazon’s set retail prices, some of the publishers stopped wholesaling their books to Amazon. The book publishers started to collude in 2009 in order to fix their issue with Amazon.

Apple rolled out their first e-reader called the iPad in January of 2010. Prior to launching the iPad, Apple wanted to release the new i-bookstore app on the same day that they rolled out the iPad. At the same time of Apple’s release, Amazon already had their Kindle Fire e-reader out. The main difference between Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Apple’s iPad was the color display. The Kindle Fire had a back light that displayed in black and white, whereas the iPad had a colorful display. According to the U.S. Court for the Southeastern District of New York, “Apple did not want to compete with Amazon on price.”

Apple knew the big publishing companies were discontent with Amazon’s price of $9.99. Apple decided they would help the publishing companies with their problem, if the publishing company helped Apple enter into the e-book market. According to the U.S Court for the Southeastern District of New York, “Apple decided to offer the Publisher Defendants the opportunity to move from a wholesale model — where a publisher receives its designated wholesale price for each e-book and the retailer sets the retail price — to an agency model, where 12 publishers set the retail price and the retailer sells the e-book as its agent.” The wholesale to agency model change is not an illegal change, but it becomes illegal since Apple did this change with all five of the top publishers at the same time.

Horizontal competitors like these five publishers are not legally allowed to talk amongst each other about pricing. This collusion in order to change the market value of e-books is a direct violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School (Links to an external site.), “the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 is a federal statute which prohibits activities that restrict interstate commerce and competition in the marketplace.” This infringement of the law is where the lawsuit against Apple begins. The other publishing companies all took settlement deals, while Apple tried the case in court and was referred to as the “ringleader” of the “cartel”.

The Sherman Antitrust Act is set in place to not only maintain the integrity of the free market economy of the United States, but to also protect the consumer from being abused by big corporations. In the case of the top five publishing companies, they acted as an oligopoly with full control of the e-book market, and overstepped their boundaries with their price fixing. In June of 2015, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals found that Apple was guilty of e-book price fixing. Consequently, Apple was required to pay a 450-million-dollar settlement. Major cases like this show the American people that no person or entity is above the law. It also shows the big entitles that they will not be allowed to take advantage of the people of United States in a court of law.

in Law | 1,066 Words

Copyright Issues with e-books

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In the realm of copyright laws one of many ongoing issues is the ownership of products. For example, the “first sale” doctrine suggests that once one legally buys a product, they own it. Thus, lending and selling of a purchased product without the copyright owner’s permission is legally okay. This idea seems simple enough, but it becomes complicated when one involves the consumption of e-books.

The Vernor v. Autodesk case is one which reflects that, often, the copyright law domain is one that is not always black and white. Timothy Vernor, a reseller of online software, tried to resell Autodesk’s product on eBay. Vernor was under the impression that he because he bought the software, he was legally permitted to resell the product. The confusion arose when Autodesk claimed their Term of Use did not imply that a purchaser of their software owned the rights to the software.

According to (Links to an external site.), “Autodesk’s position is that its software is ‘licensed’ rather than sold, and thus the first sale doctrine doesn’t apply (it only applies to copies you ‘own’ not those you merely lease).” In 2009 the district court ruled that Autodesk sells product but does not license them. Thus, according to the Copyright Act, Vernor was legally allowed to resell Autodesk’s software. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed this ruling.

The Vernor v. Autodesk case is extremely relevant for the e-book publishing world as it was one of the frontrunners in the emerging world of copyright laws. When consumers would buy books, they would inevitably buy the physical copy of a book. While the Vernor v. Autodesk case was specifically pertaining to digital software, it set precedent for other digital products like e-books.

The emergence of this case caused others to be wary of their rights when it came to digital property. Today, libraries are still trying to protect the right for consumers to borrow e-books. According to CNN  (Links to an external site.)“for the first two months after a Macmillan book is published, a library can only buy one copy, at a discount. After eight weeks, they can purchase ‘expiring’ e-book copies which need to be re-purchased after two years or 52 lends.”

This decision is advantageous for publishing companies, but is it for libraries? Libraries buy  (Links to an external site.)about 45% of  Macmillan e-books. When libraries buy books in print, they have every right to do whatever they please with the product. To many readers, and libraries, it seems unnecessary for to have to continue to buy the same product more than once.

As a publishing company, these decisions make sense; they need to make a profit so they can not only sustain a business, but also pay the writers of the books. If they were to allow libraries to buy one copy of the e-book and own the rights to it, publishers would not make as much money. Even though libraries are forced to continuously repurchase the same books, they are still receiving a better deal than an individual buying an e-book. Publishing companies allowing their e-book to be lent out 52 times allows the libraries to pay less money than if they were having to buy a new copy every time someone wanted to check-out an e-book. This is advantageous for both the library and the publishing company.

The new world of digital technology makes the world of copyright law more difficult than it has been in the past. Due to the emergence of e-books and software platforms like Autodesk, sustaining the rights of the writers and software developers has caused new issues. It is because of this technology that new laws have come forth.

Even though the “first-sale” doctrine suggest that if one buys a product then they own the rights to that product, there are stipulations to this rule. Buyers of e-books cannot lend that e-book to someone else and still have access to it on their own computer. This is violating the author of that e-book’s rights. This is because when buyers are purchasing e-books, they are not merely buying the book to own. In reality, e-book consumers are purchasing a licensing agreement. The word “buy” can be misleading to some purchasers because many may believe they own the book. Instead, they own the rights to read that e-book. Consumers cannot resell, lend, or make copies of e-books because of this agreement.

The question lingers to many about who these licensing agreements benefit. These agreements would suggest that purchasers of e-books have the possibility of losing their rights to the books under certain circumstances. Kindle’s Terms of Use  (Links to an external site.)says:

 “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. Those terms will also apply, but this Agreement will govern in the event of a conflict. Some Kindle Content, such as interactive or highly formatted content, may not be available to you on all Reading Applications.”

Due to agreements like this, e-book readers may believe publishers are not treating their readers fairly with their licensing agreements. The problem arises when one compares the rights that the purchaser gets when buying the traditional print book against buying e-books. The “first-sale” doctrine makes sense with traditional books. Once you buy the book and resell it, they no longer have the product. This, however, is not true for digital e-books. If someone sends an email with an e-book attached, the receiver of the email will now have the book as well as the original owner of the e-book.

The realm of copyright law and licensing agreements is set in place to protect the rights of all those involved in the creating and consuming of e-books. Without these laws in place, writers, as well as their readers, could be taken advantage of.

in Law | 1,001 Words