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posted by martyb on Wednesday June 03 2020, @12:52PM   Printer-friendly
from the book-'em,-Danno? dept.

Publishers Sue the Internet Archive Over its Open Library, Declare it a Pirate Site

Several major publishers have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in a New York court targeting the Internet Archive's Open Library. According to the complaint, the project is a massive and willful infringement project that amounts to little more than a regular pirate site.

Back in March, the Internet Archive responded to the coronavirus pandemic by offering a new service to help "displaced learners".

Combining scanned books from three libraries, the Archive offered unlimited borrowing of more than a million books, so that people could continue to learn while in quarantine.

While the move was welcomed by those in favor of open access to education, publishers and pro-copyright groups slammed the decision, with some describing it as an attempt to bend copyright law and others declaring the project as mass-scale piracy.

Today, major publishers Hachette Book Group, Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and Penguin Random House LLC went to war with the project by filing a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Internet Archive and five 'Doe' defendants in a New York court.

Complaint (PDF).

See also: Lawsuit over online book lending could bankrupt Internet Archive

Previously: Internet Archive's Open Library Now Supports Full-Text Searches for All 4+ Million Items
Internet Archive Suspends E-Book Lending "Waiting Lists" During U.S. National Emergency
Authors Fume as Online Library "Lends" Unlimited Free Books
University Libraries Offer Online "Lending" of Scanned In-Copyright Books


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  • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Thursday June 04 2020, @05:20PM (3 children)

    by Wootery (2341) on Thursday June 04 2020, @05:20PM (#1003295)

    I think we can be fair to them, without copyright. It is not necessary to accept artificial scarcities in order to be fair to artists.

    Without copyright, they'd just find other work. If there's no money to be made making something, the sector will die. If PC games can be legally pirated, we'd expect to see all games move to targeting consoles, where piracy is next to impossible (i.e. using technical measures rather than law to ensure artificial scarcity). What sort of alternative to copyright do you propose?

    To let these wannabe hoarders of valuable knowledge get away with equating copying with stealing is to let them equate education with stealing.

    We're talking about video game ROMs. If we were talking about Open Access academic publishing, or to the obscene way that the I Have a Dream speech is copyrighted (although it's there on YouTube), then I'd see your point.

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  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Thursday June 04 2020, @09:26PM (2 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 04 2020, @09:26PM (#1003362) Journal

    > Without copyright, they'd just find other work. If there's no money to be made

    Whoa, hold on. That's the damaging assumption people are still making. Copyright is not the only way for artists to earn a living. We can compensate artists, and do it fairly and generously, without copyright.

    > where piracy is next to impossible

    Piracy will never be impossible. Copy protection and DRM is a feeble joke. Suppose for the sake of argument that there was DRM that actually worked. What is to stop someone from simply re-implementing the game? In the case of a book, it's ridiculously easy. Someone could simply type the words into a word processor as they read the book. It takes only a few dozen man-hours to transcribe a book. There is no way any conceivable DRM can stop that, short of taking computers back from the people and locking them down so tightly that an attempt at transcription would be detected and the effort blocked. Even then, every computer in the world would have to be monitored, and every existing and functional old computer from the free times before this hypothetical Great Lockdown would have to be disabled, and to make extra sure, confiscated. And even if that was somehow accomplished, people could still cobble together a printing press, or even write it all down with pen and paper, or, some can just memorize the whole thing.

    > What sort of alternative to copyright do you propose?

    In a word, crowdfunding. Patronage, but not by the nobility as was done centuries ago, but by the public. Other avenues of compensation are endorsements, advertising, prize money, and live performances.

    Another big right that could be feasible to enforce would be a sort of "performance" or "use" right, so that, for instance, an author could still demand compensation from anyone who wants to make a movie out of their book, or a musician could collect from restaurants wanting to play their music. Currently, copyright is used to do that, but I see no reason why that can't be handled with some other, more specific legal instrument. Copyright is too blunt.

    Our non-copyright dependent systems for compensating artists are, as yet, primitive and small scale. Improving them is what publishers should work on, not these foolish and wasteful efforts to stop progress in the sciences so that copyright can continue to function because copying remains unreasonably hard to do.

    Keep in mind that the only reason copyright works now is public sufferance. If people were really determined not to honor any copyrights at all, it would die instantly. People often pay for copyrighted works not because they are forced to do so, but because they honestly want to support the artists. A shame that the publishing industry sucks up roughly 95% of that money, passing on a miserly and pathetic 5% to the artists. Floods of money promote waste and inefficiency, and refusal to change and improve, and so it has.

    • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Friday June 05 2020, @09:54AM (1 child)

      by Wootery (2341) on Friday June 05 2020, @09:54AM (#1003651)

      Suppose for the sake of argument that there was DRM that actually worked.

      There's at least one: games consoles. Modern consoles are holding up very well against hackers' attempts to subvert their DRM.

      What is to stop someone from simply re-implementing the game?

      The fact that it costs tens of millions of dollars to implement a modern game, of course!

      In the case of a book, it's ridiculously easy. Someone could simply type the words into a word processor as they read the book. It takes only a few dozen man-hours to transcribe a book.

      Agreed. It's impossible by nature to implement effective DRM for video, books, music, or audiobooks. It reduces down to the basic analog/digital distinction: people already have the ability to record, and you can't take that away by encrypting your media. Interactive media is a different beast though.

      (Honourable mention to the idea of uniquely watermarking every copy of a film or song, so that if it ends up being pirated the studios know who did it. To my knowledge this watermarking technology does exist, but the idea just never really took off. Wouldn't work for books, of course.)

      crowdfunding. Patronage, but not by the nobility as was done centuries ago, but by the public.

      We have that: Kickstarter. It rarely works as well as the traditional game-development model, either in terms of actually raising capital, or in terms of getting the job done, with effective management etc.

      Same goes for cinema. Crowdfunding is not able to pull off the kinds of high-budget productions that the traditional model is capable of. Even if it could, you have a free-rider problem and a dilution problem. Why donate a small amount that might make a difference, when you can just wait for it to be produced and then consume it for free?

      There's also an uncertainty problem and an immediacy problem. Most people are casual consumers of media. They spend a certain amount of money on cinema every year by paying for access to the good films that have already been funded and produced. They can rely on reviews and word-of-mouth to provide an estimate of the films' quality. They aren't going to spend time trying to determine what's most deserving of funding so that it might produce a good product. They just want to buy a film from a shop and then watch it. (Or the streaming-based equivalent.)

      As for music: live performances are already a major source of revenue for big-name musicians, but I'm not convinced it would be sustainable to withdraw music copyright entirely.

      Musicians already have the option to adopt a patronage model, and to release their stuff into the public domain. They pretty much never choose to do this. I've never heard of it at least, outside narrow promotions (Coldplay once released one of their albums free, for instance).

      the only reason copyright works now is public sufferance. If people were really determined not to honor any copyrights at all, it would die instantly

      That's true of every law, whether about ownership rights or not.

      People often pay for copyrighted works not because they are forced to do so, but because they honestly want to support the artists.

      This is true in the sense that you always have the option of pirating music/films/books, sure, but at the same time it's famously rare for independent developers of Free and Open Source software (or any old freeware) to be able to get by on donations and patronage.

      A shame that the publishing industry sucks up roughly 95% of that money, passing on a miserly and pathetic 5% to the artists. Floods of money promote waste and inefficiency, and refusal to change and improve, and so it has.

      Music is an industry. They've got to pay for recording equipment, they've got to pay the sound engineer, construction of the recording studio, the folks who do the mixing and mastering work, etc. It may be bloated, I don't know in detail, but I'm not convinced the music industry can be reduced to artists on the one hand, and freeloaders on the other. I'm sure the top brass are obscenely overpaid, but that's a different and more general problem.

      • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Friday June 05 2020, @06:39PM

        by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 05 2020, @06:39PM (#1003883) Journal

        > We have that: Kickstarter. It rarely works as well as the traditional game-development model

        I'd rather see some evidence to back that claim that it doesn't work as well. Humble Bundle appears to be working quite well. Even if you are correct, the reasons why are likely much more complicated than a simple "copyright works better than crowdfunding" conclusion. For one thing, copyright extremists will sabotage crowdfunding efforts. We've seen this over and over. Some classic enjoys a resurgence, new material is produced through crowdfunding, then the franchise owners wake up, and demand it all stop. They refuse to explain, but it's not hard to see that their actions undermine the development of systems that could someday supersede copyright.

        > you have a free-rider problem and a dilution problem. Why donate a small amount that might make a difference, when you can just wait

        But that already happens massively, under copyright. There are used book and record stores, and public libraries. "Just wait" is a highly effective strategy for the impoverished consumer to keep expenses down. "Just wait" for the paperback edition. "Just wait" some more, for used paperback editions to reach the used bookstore. Just pass books around between friends.

        I've noticed that it is very common for people to overlook that an old established method does not meet the high standards they are insisting a proposed new method must meet.

        > That's true of every law, whether about ownership rights or not.

        Not at all. For example, many traffic laws are of the sort that if not obeyed, the violator is likely to suffer immediate and deadly consequences. Driving on the wrong side of the road is not only illegal, it's asking to die of a head-on collision.

        > Music is an industry. They've got to pay for recording equipment, they've got to pay the sound engineer

        Technology has brought many of those costs way, way down.

        > it's famously rare for independent developers of Free and Open Source software (or any old freeware) to be able to get by on donations and patronage.

        So it is. But it has happened. I suspect the difficulties are more down to the lack of robust and established systems. to insure everyone is getting a fair deal, than to the notion that maybe, it just doesn't work and never will. Copyright now works so badly that it is a very low bar indeed to come up with something better. The goal, it should be remembered, is "Progress of Science and useful Arts", but too often copyright has resulted in the opposite.