Friday, April 27, 2012

Electronic book publisher very upset electronic book was copied

Now here is an interesting story.  John Wiley & Sons, publisher of "Photoshop CS5 All-In-One For Dummies", is suing a number of people for downloading pirated copies of that book.

So first of all, nice job letting the entire world know that you can download the book for free from the internet.

In all seriousness, I plan on doing an analysis soon of how different media are affected by piracy, and why that should not affect on whether or not fair use should be expanded.  But I do have to drop a special note of contempt for John Wiley ampersand Sons for sheer stupidity.  You put some data on the internet, and you are now complaining that it has been copied without  your authorization.  And then you file lawsuits with the effect of publicizing your foolishness, while, again, letting people know they can download it for free.  Did you even know before this moment that you can pirate e-books?  You do now.  This is known as the Streisand effect.

This whole notion that a copyright holder should have some special license to control how everyone else uses their precious creation is something else I'll be working to dispel in this space.  Suffice for now to say that I'm not as impressed by "content creators" as some.  You're just not that special.  Sorry.

I mean, much media out there do you really think deserves to be protected?  All of it?

I'll tell you what, though.  If I was to publish a book today, I would absolutely insist that it not be available in e-book form any time soon.  Yeah that's right, I want to make some money, so I'm not going to run right out and put it on the internet.  That's the advantage of books.  (Mind you, some smartass who knew about this blog of mine would scan and OCR it and put it on the net, to be sure--and that would be ok with me.) But I'm certainly not going to put it out there onto the peer to peer electronic copying device known as the internet myself, and then freak out when people copy it.

So let's analyze the deal on Amazon for this book.  Paper copy: $26.39.  Kindle e-book: $25.07.  So a paper copy--which has to be printed, shipped, stored, and carried, is $26.39.  The Kindle e-book, which bears none of these costs to the publisher or vendor, is $1.32 less expensive.  The e-book also has the awesome advantage of Digital Restrictions Management software built into it so that you cannot copy it, loan it, or resell it without cooperation from Amazon.  And if their servers should ever go're stuck.  So you get much less value, for almost the same money.

However, this is neither here nor there with regard to any discussion as to whether or not it is appropriate to pirate the book.  The price doesn't matter to that.  I just wanted to point out what a crappy deal it is, and how incredibly fucking stupid John Wiley @ Sons must think we, the buying public, are.

If they had priced the e-book at five bucks, most would probably not bother to pirate it.  Frankly, when I see e-book "deals" like that on Amazon, I have a powerful urge to check the torrent sites for it--and inevitably find it there.  I think I am not the only one offended.  Reasonably priced books tend not to be on the torrent sites, I've noticed.

Neither do e-books available for loan from libraries, I've noticed.  That link is to the CS4 e-book version of the Wiley book at my local library.  Now here is where I would like you to think real hard, if you haven't already, about the difference between loaning/borrowing an e-book, and pirating it.

For example, most people know what a PDF file is.  A lot of e-books are in PDF format.  What would you say if I told you I would loan you a PDF book?  I think even most non-geeks would kinda tilt their head and look at me quizzically.  "Loan?" you might say.  "Yes," I would say, "you must delete it in ten days, or you'll be pirating it".

You might say, "But you still have your copy!"  To which I would respond, "Good point!  I'll delete it off my hard drive now, and when the ten days is up, we will carefully move the file from your computer to mine, so that no single byte of it is ever in two places at once, and thus the copyrighted file has had it's authority respected."

The appropriate response, of course, would be to punch me in the nose for being a punk ass bitch, and steal my computer.

The only way loaning e-books can work is by the imposition of invasive, and unnatural, software restrictions on the data of the e-books.  You have to have some particular piece of software installed which ensures that the book is "checked back in" at the end of the "loan" period.  This is the same mechanism in place for DRM'ed e-books, such as most AZW format books from Amazon, except the "loan" period is theoretically forever.

But that ability to yank back your "ownership" is always there, unlike a real book.  It doesn't matter how bad they feel about it afterwards--DRM'ed media is never really "owned" by you, but only ever artificially "loaned".  And I hope the illustration above illuminates just how dumb that whole idea is.

We have invented these wonderful data copying machines that can change the world--if we don't allow those of superficial sensibilities and limited vision to try to destroy it by imposing artificial restrictions--under penalty of law.  I can assure you, these folks won't stop until we have special copyright police breaking into people's houses and destroying their unlicensed (pirated) books.

It is the only logical conclusion to what they are doing, and it's closer than you think.

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