Author’s Guild Objects to 1DollarScan
A couple weeks back I showed you that the Lendink lynch mob was caused by a bunch of authors who didn’t understand law, technology, or the contracts they had signed. Today the Author’s Guild once again reminded us that those problems can exist on an institutional scale as well.
This company is the US spinoff of an immensely popular Japanese service called Bookscan, and like its parent company 1DollarScan offers a cheap book scanning service. You mail them the book and they scan it and email you the PDF. Their process usually results in a destroyed book, so it isn’t of much use for rare and valuable books. But it does offer an opportunity to get an ebook for a title that might not be available digitally.
Update: 1DollarScan is in not related to the Japanese company Bookscan.
The company is in the news today because of new Evernote integration, which Chris covers over here. While that topic is interesting on a technical level, I’m more interested in what others are saying about the service.
According to the Author’s Guild, what 1DollarScan is doing is illegal. PW reached out to Author’s Guild executive director Paul Aiken, and this is what he said: "If the information on its website is accurate, this is a copyright infringement service. Their fair use defense is laughable."
I love it when someone in power spouts off about topics they clearly don’t understand, and Paul proceeded to dig himself a deeper hole: "There are differences between digitization projects of 1DollarScan and Google and HathiTrust, but they share this: each is subverting the author’s fundamental right to choose whether or not to make a work available digitally, and under what terms. Though it makes sense for most authors to enter the digital book market, digitization has clear risks. It’s not up to unlicensed third parties to choose whether to take those risks with an author’s work."
Yeah, if you believe that authors can effectively control whether their work gets digitized, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. That control went out the window over a decade ago. I’m sure you recall the dedicated efforts to scan the Harry Potter books as each was released? Those fans aren’t the only ones who can scan books.
What’s more, I seriously doubt that any copyright infringement suit against 1DollarScan will succeed. A basic reading of the website will tell you that the customer gives up the original book in order to get the PDF. As I see it, to show that a copy was made you’d have to show the judge the original book as well as the PDF. That’s going to be a little hard, given that the original book was likely destroyed as part of being scanned.
I don’t claim to be a lawyer, but I will bet dollars to donuts that so long as 1DollarScan maintains a process that’s one to one it’s going to be rather hard to convince most judges that they’re committing copyright infringement. But more importantly, it’s going to be hard to convince most readers.
Think for a moment about all the people who have ripped their CDs. No one objects to that anymore (none besides the terminally clueless), and it’s not unreasonable for readers to make the jump that scanning a book is okay. From there it’s only a small step to paying for their book to be scanned. After all, no one would blink if the reader did it themselves. How could a service that does the exact same thing be illegal?
I’m not trying to browbeat any author, but in this day and age you really do need to be aware of what readers believe is right and moral. Taking a position against it, especially when you’re not being harmed by the situation, is self defeating.