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posted by janrinok on Tuesday May 31 2022, @06:04AM   Printer-friendly

Digital librarian, Karen Coyle, has written about controlled digital lending (warning for PDF), where an artificial scarcity is applied to digital artifacts to limit concurrent access similar to the limitations that a finite number of objects exhibit in libraries' physical collections. This concept raises a lot of questions about not just copyright and digital versus physical, but also about reading in general. Some authors and publisher associations have already begun to object to controlled digital lending. However, few set aside misinformation and misdirection to allow for a proper, in-depth discussion of the issues.

We now have another question about book digitization: can books be digitized for the purpose of substituting remote lending in the place of the lending of a physical copy? This has been referred to as "Controlled Digital Lending (CDL)," a term developed by the Internet Archive for its online book lending services. The Archive has considerable experience with both digitization and providing online access to materials in various formats, and its Open Library site has been providing digital downloads of out of copyright books for more than a decade. Controlled digital lending applies solely to works that are presumed to be in copyright.

Controlled digital lending works like this: the Archive obtains and retains a physical copy of a book. The book is digitized and added to the Open Library catalog of works. Users can borrow the book for a limited time (2 weeks) after which the book "returns" to the Open Library. While the book is checked out to a user no other user can borrow that "copy." The digital copy is linked one-to-one with a physical copy, so if more than one copy of the physical book is owned then there is one digital loan available for each physical copy.

The Archive is not alone in experimenting with lending of digitized copies: some libraries have partnered with the Archive's digitization and lending service to provide digital lending for library-owned materials. In the case of the Archive the physical books are not available for lending. Physical libraries that are experimenting with CDL face the added step of making sure that the physical book is removed from circulation while the digitized book is on loan, and reversing that on return of the digital book.

Online access obviously can reach a much wider patron base than your average physical library.

(2020) Education Groups Drop their Lawsuit Against Public.Resource.Org
(2020) Internet Archive Files Answer and Affirmative Defenses to Publisher Copyright Infringement Lawsuit
(2020) Internet Archive Ends "Emergency Library" Early to Appease Publishers
(2020) Project Gutenberg Public Domain Library Blocked in Italy for Copyright Infringement
(2020) Publishers Sue the Internet Archive Over its Open Library, Declare it a Pirate Site

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Tuesday May 31 2022, @11:38AM (6 children)

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Tuesday May 31 2022, @11:38AM (#1249154) Journal

    Most likely as part of the strategy of the lawsuit, very little mention is made of “lending.” Instead the suit uses terms like “download” and “distribution” which imply that the user of the Archive’s service is given a permanent copy of the book

    “With just a few clicks, any Internet-connected user can download complete digital copies of in-copyright books from Defendant.” ([suit] Page 2). “... distributing the resulting illegal bootleg copies for free over the Internet to individuals worldwide.” ([suit] Page 14).

    I was told you can grab these "lended books" from the Internet Archive out of your browser cache and stitch them together. Forget the analog hole, the files are on your computer. I haven't tried it myself, but I have an account there so I might give it a shot just to see how it works, e.g. do you end up with 800 JPEG files.

    I see that some are available as "BookReader" editions in the web browser [], and others need to be loaded by Adobe Digital Editions software. I'm guessing the former are the ones that are easy to grab.

    In its article on the CDL, the Center for Democracy and Technology notes that “the majority of books borrowed through NEL were used for less than 30 minutes, suggesting that CDL’s primary use is for fact-checking and research, a purpose that courts deem favorable in a finding of fair use.” [cdt]

    More than long enough to grab entire books forever. Especially if you have a tool that can automate it.

    1. The publishers are probably correct in some ways about the Internet Archive.
    2. Most users probably aren't trying to keep full copies of books, even if the right browser extension could make that as easy as a couple of clicks.
    3. If you want to download full books, you could find many of them at Library Genesis or other sources. Even a Google search can still send you directly to copyrighted material.

    Internet Archive is like a pirate site with an air of legitimacy. But if it were to be sued into oblivion, the publishers might not like the outcome.

    I support rampant piracy of merchant vessels, if that's not clear.

    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
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  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 31 2022, @12:39PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 31 2022, @12:39PM (#1249173)

    > do you end up with 800 JPEG files.

    I think it's something like that. I've used the Open Library (from Internet Archive) to read a few books that were still in Copyright. What I got in their web viewer was clearly a bit image of some sort. It could be zoomed but not simply highlighted/copied, would have to use an image snipping tool to capture the page images.

    On the other hand, it's clear that Open Library has OCR'd the books, because a "search inside the book" function is available.

    As noted by someone else, I've also used Open Library books for 15 minutes/half hour to check a reference.

    Since the book can be accessed anytime (as long as no one else has it checked out), I didn't feel any strong desire to make a local copy. Note that I was not looking for the latest popular novel...I was looking for older books that are no longer super popular. Once or twice I had to wait a few days until the previous reader "returned" their copy.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday May 31 2022, @01:02PM

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Tuesday May 31 2022, @01:02PM (#1249179) Journal

      I got more details about it. You have to flip through all of the pages manually to load and cache each page, and you end up with JPEGs without file extensions. You might have to check them in batches to ensure the page ordering is correct. Then you can stitch them together with another program like NAPS2 [] to make a PDF.

      Most people are not going to bother with this process, but technically you are downloading the book, and it might be easy to make a tool to automate most of it.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Immerman on Tuesday May 31 2022, @02:52PM (3 children)

    by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday May 31 2022, @02:52PM (#1249206)

    No different than any other DRM.

    Take even the most heinously DRM-infested electronic e-book format in the universe, and it's still trivial to create a program to stitch together screenshots.

    That is the analog hole - if you can see it, you can copy it. That the copy is stored in a digital representation like JPGs is irrelevant. A digital copy would give you the original text and formatting information so that it could be reflowed to fit another format. (Well, at least assuming those JPGs weren't the original scans taken from an analog book - in which case the analog hole is the book itself)

    Of course with modern OCR systems it's not that hard to convert your stitched-together JPGs into a more versatile text-based format - but it's still squeezing that information through the analog hole. For purposes of discussing the analog hole, a digital copy is a 100% lossless copy, completely identical to the original in every way. As opposed to an analog (hole) copy which loses a little information every time.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 31 2022, @07:27PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 31 2022, @07:27PM (#1249258)

      That'll teach people not to try to create new stuff!

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Immerman on Wednesday June 01 2022, @04:33AM (1 child)

        by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday June 01 2022, @04:33AM (#1249357)

        As a historical rule, the great artists have never make any significant money from their work, being unappreciated until well after their death. Why should we design a system that panders to the hacks making distracting dreck, while hemming in the geniuses with a bunch of annoying rules and litigation?

        Most great art (and great innovation for that matter) is made for its own sake, because the creator feels compelled to create, while they work a "real job" to pay their bills. I'm all for embracing a system that rewards them for their great contributions, or at least helps pay their bills so that they have more time to create, but what we have now ain't remotely it.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 02 2022, @04:03AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 02 2022, @04:03AM (#1249618)

          Okay, fine. What's your address, so I can send you an ear?