And More About E-Books

Gary Leach bangfish at
Wed Feb 24 18:15:38 CET 2010

This subject has really got my brain in a whirl, so I hope you'll all  
bear with me.

Disclaimer: I'm no lawyer, not in any way, shape or form. Disclosure:  
My sister is running for the Missouri state legislature. Never saw  
that coming.

But to proceed…

Scenario 1: I take my printed collection of Uncle Scrooge comics to a  
used book seller and the used book seller buys the comics from me and  
then puts them out in the store for sale (or, these days, offers it on  
the store web site) and eventually (fingers crossed) sells them. A  
very ordinary chain of events, and one we're all familiar with and  
have probably participated in at some point.

Scenario 2: I take my collection of Uncle Scrooge e-comics to a used e- 
book seller.

The reason Scenario 2 is so brief is because, to the best of my  
knowledge, there is no such thing as a used e-book seller. An e-book  
can be considered used in the sense of having been owned by a previous  
purchaser, but there's one very big problem with that: unlike with my  
printed collection of Uncle Scrooges, I'm quite able to retain  
possession of my "original" e-copies while selling e-copies--exact  
duplicates of my "originals"--to the supposed used e-book seller.

We can talk about owning the bits and bytes of a digital file, and  
there are very legitimate points to be made about that (I'm for the  
idea myself, believe me), but let's face it: a printed book is paper,  
ink, binding, covers, dimensions, weight, mass and content, while a  
digital file is nothing but content. (A layman will certainly never  
perceive it as anything else.) In such terms it seems to me that a  
very legitimate case can be made that a digital file is a violation of  
copyright by simply existing, at least as anything other than the  
creator's original file (and I'm not so sure that wouldn't at least  
technically violate copyright in some way). As the ownership and  
protection of copyright is what's causing all the fur to fly among all  
the dogs in the current cat fight over the commercial exploitation of  
the e-book, these things do concern me quite a bit.

To run on a bit further…one can take a printed book and photocopy it,  
sure, but it's a relatively cumbersome process which offers the  
copyright owner a certain degree of inherent protection because of  
that very cumbersomeness. Much the same can be said for OCR scanning,  
but the end result is…a digital file, substantively no different from  
any other digital file and therefore solving none of the issues of  
digital files.

A final thought, i.e. a slight digression…I've gotten quite used to  
reading daily comic strips online. One of the almost miraculous things  
about the strips is that they are very nice, clean and legible on my  
screen at a file resolution that's far too low for adequate print  
reproduction. That's substantial copyright protection right there, at  
least when it comes to preventing online graphic materials from being  
pirated in print.

Okay, brain less whirly now. Thank you for your patience and attention.


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