You Can’t Copy Your eBooks, and Other FUD
This is why book publishers and other companies sell digital content under restrictive licenses, and wrapped in DRM. They want to restrict what consumers can do so they can continue to artificially create a market, and these policies have become so commonly accepted that some publishers have apparently forgotten that there is any other way to sell ebooks.
Take Melville House, for example. A couple days ago they published a post by Chad Felix which made false and misleading claims about what you can do with an ebook:
This is to say that many of our assumptions about ownership do not apply to digital versions of books. Groskopf provides a simple test based on a study conducted by legal scholars Aaron Perzanowski and Chris Jay Hoofnagle. Groskopf’s test reveals that a majority of consumers are purchasing e-books under various false impressions.
The test challenges several consumer assumptions using the prompt “If I purchase this e-book…”
- I can copy it for my own use
- I can resell it
- I can bequeath it when I die
- I can give it away as a gift
- I can lend it to a friend
- I can put it on all my devices
- I can keep it indefinitely
- I own it
In all cases, the answer is “No.” You don’t own that book. You cannot copy it. You cannot resell it. You cannot give it to a friend! You cannot leave it to your children when you die!
At least half of that is simply false.
The above quote ignores, for example, the fact that digital content is inheritable in Delaware. So you can bequeath your ebooks when you die.
The author has also ignored the fact that you can copy a DRM-free ebook, and you can give it away.
You can also lend that ebook, and load it on to all your devices.
And yes, you can keep it indefinitely – or rather, you can keep it so long as you maintain a backup.
The key point where I disagree with Chad Felix, who wrote the post for Melville House (*), is that his post is predicated on the assumption that DRM and restrictive licenses aren’t just common but absolute, and that there is no other way to sell an ebook.
Never mind that the piece assumes that one cannot strip DRM from ebooks (an assertion which is laughably false), and never mind that it ignores public domain ebooks, and never mind that it overlooks CC-licensed and other open source content – Felix’s assumption is simply not true.
I buy ebooks from Humble Bundle, Baen Books, O’Reilly Media, and other retailers who do not use DRM, and I have downloaded ebooks from Project Gutenberg. I have copied, loaned, shared, and gifted the ebooks. I load them on all my devices. I intend to keep the ebooks indefinitely, and when I die I will bequeath them.
To deny the reality of what can be done with ebooks, and what is done with ebooks on a daily basis, is to close your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears. It won’t make the facts go away, no matter how much one might wish it were so.
P.S. To be fair to Chad Felix, he was simply reiterating a point made in a post on Quartz, so it’s not like he came up with FUD on his own. On the other hand, he is the Manager of Direct Sales and Library Marketing at Melville House, so he should know better.
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