Sarah Houghton-Jan’s manifesto, The EBook Users’ Bill of Rights, has been circulating around the publishing blogosphere recently. I’m more or less in agreement with it, but wonder if it might not be failing to address some larger problems with how media are consumed in the 21st century.
The EBook Users’ Bill of Rights is reproduced below and followed by my comments. Feel free to contribute constructive comments and opinions.
The eBook User’s Bill of Rights
Every eBook user should have the following rights:
the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks
I believe in the free market of information and ideas.
I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.
Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.
I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.
I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks. I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.
These rights are yours. Now it is your turn to take a stand. To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others. Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.
To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.’
I think Sarah is dead-on in principle, but what’s missing from discussions about Digital Rights Management (DRM) and the rights of eBook consumers is a discussion of the role of publishers and how that impacts the definition of a “book” one might have rights pertaining to. Then there’s the larger matter of just who’s in charge of the hen house. Continue reading →