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GNU is Not Unix

RMS On eBooks 179

ContinuousPark writes: "There a short but compelling piece on the latest MIT Technology Review by Richard Stallman. Imagine, he says, that you are forbidden to copy the latest eBook: 'no more used book stores; no more lending a book to your friend; no more borrowing one from the public library -- no more 'leaks' that might give someone a chance to read without paying. (And judging from the ads for Microsoft Reader, no more anonymous purchasing of books either.) This is the world publishers have in mind for us.' Creepy but more common every day, which is creepier."
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RMS On eBooks

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Have you read any of this lunatic's other fiction?

    this comment posted with 100% proprietary Microsoft [microsoft.com]® software

  • by Anonymous Coward
    check out www.teleread.com [teleread.com] for another electronic library idea... they want to make commercial works available for free by running a library system that pays authors for use of their books based on popularity
  • I think your opinion is based on the notion that our culture will be shaped entirely by the commercial forces that have for decades had pretty much a monopoly on information and entertainment disemination. But I think that has been the case because it hasn't presented huge, culture-stagnating problems in terms of freedom and choice. The past fifty years have been the most dynamic in the course of humanity, and much of that is due to these commercial forces that you're talking about. It was a tremendous growth period, and it isn't showing signs of even coming close to a stable equillibrium. But this kind of change can't go on forever without some sort of reversion.

    I agree that the commercial forces mentioned are now poised to do nasty things to our sense of individuality and personal freedoms in more expansive ways than they have done in the past. In the past we as a culture have tolerated it because it worked "well enough". If we (the Royal we) perceive the new culture as being overly nasty in some way, we will find some natural way around it.

    An example that you mentioned is the contest between Gnutilla and Napster. Somebody out there thought that Napster was a cool idea, but it didn't jive with that person's sense of freedom. Thus was born Gnutilla. Most people don't have a problem with Napster (or rather, their personal benefit outweighs their sense of loss) so they continue using it. But if Napster would do something nasty like requiring you to submit usage information along with your search queries, more people would switch to something like Gnutilla, and at the same time, Gnutilla would be forced to improve in order to accomodate the influx of new users.

    The same sort of thing works with electronic books. As long as people believe that using e-books is beneficial over physical books, these new books will be used. If it isn't beneficial, the companies that are in the content business will make sure to change just enough that they can still make money.

  • First off, some people like books. I'd venture that the majority of North Americans -- Joe sixpack wrestling fans etc. -- are hard-pressed to read the local News for First-graders newspaper.

    Second, it won't matter. I don't remember a plebiscite when music publishers stopped producing LPs and released everything on CD only.

    Lastly, and here's a point which you seem to be mising, is that "e-books", if/when they replace the print medium, have the potential to impose complete control over the populace. The amount of revisionism, lying, and denial that occurs in broadcast media already is astonishing. Now imagine that you read your newspaper on "e-paper", that you download it everyday, that you have no way of storing an archival copy. But you can always download a copy of an old edition for a fee, right? But there's nothing to guarantee that what you've just downloaded is the same thing that they printed initially. 0 accountability.

    Moreover, e-books stand to revoke what capabilities we have now with paper books: buying and reselling them anonymously, lending them, and yes, even copying them. If something is out of print, or it's being suppressed, there's a good chance that you'll be able to hunt down a copy in some form, with enough effort.

    Not so when the fundamental reading and distribution architecture disallows it.

    I know that many people around here have unrealistic theories. But at least they care about their liberties. You don't. You just about say as much.

  • Over 70% of the U.S. economy is already in services. Copyright still works. Sorry.

  • The problem of electricity can be dealt with via mere skin galvanism!
    You touch... Your own acidity provides the power!
    The way power consumption is going, mere AIR will be enough to propel most any electronic device!
  • The library I work for in Michigan, along with a few others in the area, are purchasing eBooks electronically, and are setting up an infrastructure to view them electronically, i.e. via the internet/computer terminal.

    This is done much in the same way a normal book is handled, only one person can view an indivudual copy at a time.

    Though they have discovered that the eBooks, mostly non-fiction cost more than the paper versions. Something to do with the paper t0 electronic form conversion.
  • That doesn't sound right. If RMS really didn't like copyrights, he'd just release everything as public domain.
  • Agreed, the North American post-secondary education system sucks balls (I don't know much about the rest of the world, quite possibly due to my North American pre-secondary education). The textbook "ball-and-chain" is by far the worst part of it though.

    There is no reason why every university textbook on the planet has to be "revised" every two or three years (or even every year?!). For some extremely fast-moving areas, you may need a revision every few years. Note that doesn't necessarily mean that you need an entirely new $110 textbook every few years, maybe just an addendum?. But for 95% of the textbooks out there, a revision every ten or twenty years will be fine -- especially for 1st and 2nd year courses. Science textbooks (like physics) seem to be the worst for this one. They reorder the chapters, "change the questions" (chapter 14, question 31 now has a 6kg mass instead of a 15kg mass) and pretend it's a new textbook. And in order to do your assignments, you have to buy it. I don't even want to think about how many times I've heard the prof say "the old textbook was better", but department regulations still force you to buy the new one.

  • I think it's also appropriate to give a link to Project Gutenberg, which houses a lot of the "classics":

    Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.net]

  • Purely by coincidence, I was re-reading Farenheit 451 last night. There are quite a few references to the texture and smell of Real Books. Yeah, I'm a technophile by almost anyone's standards, but there's no way I'm trading my favourite paper volumes for anything.

    Anyway, I strain my eyes enough while coding (and reading slashdot...)

  • I concluded that the GPL would _not_ work without copyright law, for the reasons sighted by costas. The central point of the GPL is to force software to stay libre, not merely gratis. AFAIK, RMS considers the gratis part to be icing on the cake of libreness. I would tend to agree with him, especially for something like a lab instrument. (e.g. a guy in the physics department at Dal bought some biomagnetism measurement hardware that came with a PC running windows to control it. There's a bug in the software (which is specific to that hardware), but they can't do anything because the software is not open source. I'm sure they would still have been willing to pay for the machine+software if the software was Open Source.)

    On the other hand, without copyright law, it might _not_ be illegal for some schmuk working for some company that released binary-only software to post the source code on a web site. To keep something closed source, wouldn't _everybody_ with access to the source have to agree to keep the source closed?
    #define X(x,y) x##y
  • People pay in advance. A third party holds the payments in trust. Payments are totalled and the total can be publically viewed. When the payments add up to an agreed figure, the work gets released into the public domain, and the author keeps the money. More complete detail here [firstmonday.dk].
  • "One final idea would be to release library versions of books that contain timely ads inside them. Updating these ads would not be overly-difficult with e-books. Consumers who want to read without looking at ads could buy a version of the book without ads."

    No, no, a thousand times no! No more god-damned ads in stuff that is bought and paid for! Not pushed down onto cellphones, not plopped into electronic books, not threaded into A/V files with proprietary players. Never again.

    Clue in, folks: the ads DO NOT KEEP YOUR PRICE DOWN. The guy selling you a video with ads for $20 is the same guy who five years ago sold you a video without ads for $20. Ads are nothing more than extra profit for the vendor and I call on all of you to join me in saying "No more."

    It costs, uh, about 0.00000000000001 cents to make a copy of an eBook. Why would you fall for the myth that the ads are necessary to defray the costs of production? Newspapers and magazines, sure; electronic content, no way in hell.

    (Especially when you consider that viewing purchased content via electronics gives the vendor the power to keep you from blowing past the ads like you do in the Sunday paper. Watched your Tarzan DVD with the ads in the "reserved" area recently?)
  • "Everyone will be able to obtain a copy of almost any literature they like - its inevitable. The same with music."

    You must not remember when the music industry explained that they had to charge $14.99 for a CD until there were enough players to create a market that would let them drop the price. What are you paying for CDs these days?

    When the industry has an iron hold on the product, the price does not go down.
  • Fight? With what, exactly? Shall we storm the bastille with our keyboards?!

    Geeks are a determinedly non-violent group. The courts and legislative bodies in this country have been compromised beyond our ability to correct them through normal social or political means. The recourse of this is to either start a grass-roots movement and ratify an amendment to the constitution (probably the only way to effectively undo the patent and copyright mess in any reasonably quick way), or create a technical solution which is impossible to subvert. The latter of the two is being done by a multitude of geeks, thus far without success. It would seem that geeks never considered the possibility that someone would want to stop their network from allowing free access to information.

  • This is just ridiculous. Nobody's going to write very much worth reading if the second I write something it goes public domain. I had a commercial pornographic site rip off some of my scholarly articles and put them on their site. According to Stallman, this is just peachy and my emails to them to enforce my copyright were oppressive. What a load of bullshit.

    I highly question the "scholarly" nature of this work if a commercial pornography site was interested in it. I hope it wasn't entitled "Attract Girls Now!"

  • Something is illegal.
    You can get around it--you can still do it without getting caught.
    Many people won't do it, though.
    Maybe the things falling under heavy regulation will never become so popular as to be the only way.

    It doesn't matter if you can get around it, and it doesn't matter whether eBooks will ever or never become more popular than paper books--if you don't support something, don't let it become law. If there's something broken, fix it.
  • As long as natural resources are limited the amount of money theoretically available is finite therefore a zero sum game.

    We're confusing realms here. In the realm of the Universe, yes, of course, by the law of conservation of energy, everything is zero sum. HOWEVER, in the realm of the economy of the human race, wealth is being injected from the environment, outside the system.

    Wealth of Universe == Zero-sum
    Wealth of Humanity != Zero-sum

    What I was arguing was that when one person gets richer, that wealth need not come at the expense of another person, but rather it can come at the expense of natural resources.

  • This state is true at face value but when you consider that the GDP is not being distributed uniformly what you really get is "the GDP per capita is greater then a year ago so some people are much better off and most people are worse off".

    Do you have any evidence to back that? It certainly seems to me that if you look at, say, the bottom n%, economically, of the US, and compare them to the bottom n% of a third world country, the poor in this country are still better off.

    When GDP increases, yes, the income of the poor does not increase AS MUCH as the income of the rich, but that certainly does not mean that their income DECREASES! Maybe relatively speaking, their income decreases as compared to the rich, but income is not something that's purely relative, as although the cost of some goods increases as income increases, the cost of many goods is rather fixed.

    For instance, the vast majority of people in the US, including many who are technically "below the poverty line", still have enough money not only to eat, but also to own a used car, a refrigerator, etc. Compare that to people in a poorer country who may have enough to eat, since the price of food is cheaper there, but certainly wouldn't have many electronics and such.

  • I always keep a few "books" on my Palm so I can read them during boring times. Waiting rooms, restaurants, or any other time I don't have access to a computer or bookstore. Sure the fonts aren't that great and the formatting is usually messed up but it is still a good way to pass time.
  • Get over it. There was an entire story for you.
  • I and I believe many others would rather read a paper book over an ebook any day

    A good point - assuming ebooks will always be more akward than traditional ones made of paper. However, this might not the case. Granted, no device exists today for reading that would be as flexible and user-friendly as a simple book.

    But, let us take a small hop to the scifiesque; envision a device lighter than a book, made of materials that make reading text from its screen as easy as reading them on paper. You can take it anywhere you want, just like a normal book. If properly designed, it will be waterproof - water won't do any harm, unlike in the case of paper book (oops, dropped my book in a bath tub). An e-book won't spoil - I had a few books eaten by mold. Want to take one book with you ? Ok. Ten books ? Yes, it's doable. A thousand books, however, might be slightly akward to carry around. No such problems with an e-book. And let's not forget all those things you cannot do with a traditional book.

    Given the current state of the technology, e-books aren't going to replace paperbacks anytime soon. But once the user interface of e-books gets to the level of normal books, paperbacks will - literally :) - be history.

  • Yes, but could an ebook be used as a book shelf or to hide cash or stuff in. How will all the mystery novelists hide the murder weapons?

    Stop poking holes in my perfectly valid bit of scifi ! E-books will replace books and there is nothing you can do about it ! You hear me, NOTHING !




    On a more serious note, now that I have to start dissecting your argument in a scientific fashion -

    The use you are describing is clearly due to a side effect caused by a non-essential feature of the book - namely it's size. Some books can be very big, so large objects can be hidden inside them, if you sacrifice some of the content (parts of pages). There is no need for the e-book to be big, and the content takes virtually no space at all.

    So, I would say to mystery novelists - welcome to the 21st century; sorry, you cannot use an e-book to hide a conventional weapon. To keep up with the times, a novelist should, of course, store malicious code in the e-book. This cryptographic code could then be used to trigger an implant in the victim's brain via a wireless connection.

    But who wrote the code, you ask ? I don't know, read the damn book :p

  • There is still the problem of electricity.

    Good point. However, if the power requirements of the reader are modest enough, solar power might be used.

    A book is here for hundreds of years

    .. if properly taken care of.

    If the world were hit with a huge EM burst with all electronics failing

    Duh. Of course the e-book would be shielded against any electrical or magnetic interference (so that we could read archived slashdot stories stored to the device, even if a massive EMP took the rest of the world down) ;)

    With Star Trek® technology

  • Thanks for the links to project Gutenberg:
    and the database of open content works

    I'll update the project Gutenberg link, as I had an old one that didn't have Gutenberg in its title and I'll add the open content database link. Since my posting I also found an excellent set of links to online texts in the open directory project at:
    http://dmoz.org/Arts/Literature/Electronic_Text_ Archives/
  • Stephen Kings eBook was cracked (at least the PDF was) and made available across the net. The idea of the eBook is quite an interesting one. I personally own the Rocket eBook. The text quality is good...the backlight is bright...and very little eyestrain. And while NuvoMedia (the makers of Rocket) flat out told me that they didn't plan on making a Linux version of their Rocket Librarian, they did release the neccesary specs for "talking" to the Rocket. The OpenSource version is being worked on. Now, as far as buying eBooks, I flat out will not until prices drop to something resonable. I will give them credit for creating a HUGE online library where you can download copyright expired/free publications in the Rocket format. And with Project Gutenberg, you can download and convert books to Rocket format. While this piece of technology is cool and handy, I don't believe that it will truly replace a paperback. The eBook is a great tool for technicians that need manuals/referance without needing to carry a ton of manuals. Now, if only O'Reilly would release some of their works, I'd be happy. And to be honest, I don't like lending my books (ESPECIALLY my O'Reilly books) to anyone.
  • Remarkable assertion there -- and completely wrong. You've never studied economics, have you?

    Not only have I studied it, but I have also learned some of it.

    The fact is that most of the productivity benefits of the internet arise through transaction cost reductions. Middlemen are the primary losers here as now it becomes much more attractive for the producers to serve their audiences directly. Thus Fatbrain.com is offering the ability to custom produce books to authors. This cuts the publisher (the primary middleman) out of the loop completely. Similar pressures exist in the music industry because of electronic distribution channels. Examples like Amazon are not valid for in fact these Internet middlemen have been completely unable to develop anything like a sustainable, profitable business model.

    Car dealers are now facing direct competition from factory stores on the internet. Real Estate dealers are finding that the Internat is enabling competition to their MLS services - forcing the once unassailable 6% commission down to as low as 2% in many cases.

    We are at the point where 'midddlemen' on the internet can be totally virtual - just in time inventory shipped directly from the manufacturer, fulfilment and warehousing contracted out to companies specializing in these functions.

    The only real value that Amazon brings to consumers is their catalog - and in fact catalogs of this nature can be created independently - as Books in Print has for years. If I were running Books In Print I would be busting my butt to get my catalog online, along with a referral service to publishers, a database for customer reviews, and all kinds of a banner ad tie ins.

    As manufacturers fully realize the ease of performing these middlemen services on a virtual basis, there will be no need or economically viable basis for operations like Amazon.

  • "no more borrowing one from the public library"

    the above statement isn't necessarily correct. I work at the Cincinnati Public Library and we just purchased 3 rocket books so that patrons could read the new Stephen King story.

  • Sure it's all that bad. When people learn each other's "dark" secrets they villify, ridicule, ostracize and exploit to gain advantage. This is a social control process that tends to enforce the social norm rather than promote tolerance and diversity. Privacy protects people from this process.

    Chances are data submitted upon reading an e-book isn't going to the general community (not that it should), but to some private corporation. In all likelihood they'll use it for something dull and venal like directing tons of spamvertising your way, but the possibility sure exists of someone mining this data for even greater evil, say a political witch hunt to "expose" these "dangerous" people to the surrounding communities.

    Gee here's a "worst case": what if Microsoft ends up owing Ralph Reed's christian right connections a big favor, and President George W.'s more than willing to look the other way? You'll regret using Microsoft Reader then. (Okay that was a bit troll-ey, and I'm a little sorry for saying it.)

    Well there's probably worse scenarios, but I haven't sufficient imagination tonite.

  • You know, you're right. Selfish bastards like Isaac Newton or Leonardo Da Vinci would never have made anything if it weren't for the commercial greed. In fact, the dudes that were burned at the stake because of holding scientific ideas contrary to what the incquisition thought the Bible said, only did so because they were being harassed by their investors to defend their products!

    Come on! Everything the so-called "capitalism" of our days touches, it corrupts to the bone (just look at the "Net" and all those blow-the-dot-out-your-freaking-dot-in-dot-com.com companies). This is not capitalism, it is pure selfishness and disregard for everyone's rights for the sake of the almighty buck... Jeez, like these people are going to take their money to the grave!

    I agree with copyrights. I think everyone should have the right to reap the benefits of what they created. But not abusing those rights, and what we're witnessing is completely blowing everything out of proportion! We got where we are because of people sharing their works, not because of burying their findings under a freaking ton of intellectual property laws!

    And, dude, quit the lame these-guys-are-all-communists argument. I'm not communist. But, share a little. You'll only become richer because of that.


  • You can use an ebook as an ebook shelf or a hiding place. It depends on the size of what you want to hide, just as with a paper book. And in both cases, removing internal components to make a hiding place reduces the capabilities of the book. Of course, if you want to simply hit someone with a book then you might have better success filling the ebook with dense plutonium.
  • CAPITALISM would get along quite well without INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. With all this CHEAP LABOR working in COAL MINES, we could produce more COAL than ever BEFORE. This COAL would support more INDUSTRY, which would produce more GOODS, creating more WEALTH for EVERYBODY.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Come on everyone... just because you guys enjoy programming enough to do it for free doesn't mean you have the right to force the free information/no copyrights model on the rest of the world. To many people, intellectual property rights provide the incentive needed to convince people to produce new technologies and original works. This raises the level of technological progress, which has external benefits to society greater than that seen by the originators of progress. Now I realize that copyrights are often abused today (over-active patent office), but the idea is to reward innovators for their work. In fact, one of the key things economists recommend for developing countries is the establishment of viable patent and copyright laws. If you like a product enough to use it, you should be willing to give the author what he or she asks as the price. If the author wants to give it away for free, great! If the author asks for monetary compensation simply pay or don't use the product. "Information longs to be free" is a no justification for downloading MP3's, commerical programs, or books that other people invested a great deal of capital and labor in to produce.

    As for the e-books, I'm sure a library-like system can eventually be set up. Perhaps library books could take the form of a program that allows you to read for 30 days before encryting the text so that you can't read it. You could then download a second copy for an additional 30 days if you hadn't finished. Another approach would be to give each copy of an e-book a unique serial number. Eventually a system could be implemented whereby that copy of the book can only reside in one place at once. It can be freely moved from one electronic device to another, but not copied. Of course, such an advance is the same thing that commercial software needs. One final idea would be to release library versions of books that contain timely ads inside them. Updating these ads would not be overly-difficult with e-books. Consumers who want to read without looking at ads could buy a version of the book without ads.

    Copy-prevention methods are, of course, not yet fully developed. Until they are, don't expect the vast majority of books to be released in e-book form. There is, however, a vast library of free classics in the guttenburg library that could easily be converted to e-book form, royalty free. Until better copy-prevention methods are ready, these books could form a nice e-library to conplement existing libraries.

    -Scott [mailto]

    ps: I'd use a user ID if I could, but I've forgotten it. I tried to create another account, but I haven't got the password.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Richard Stallman's ideas are great, as far as they protect the reader against the power of the publisher. But what protects the writer? Making all writing voluntary share is naive, as some have noted, above. Most successful shareware offers something extra in return for the license, whether additional software, updates, documentation, or support. It would be difficult to translate this model to writing. Let me suggest an alternative way to protect the writer. It is based on something being done in France, today. Recognizing that blank videotape is used to copy from television, the French tax the blank media and distribute the money to the television producers, who in turn, pay the writers, directors, and actors, according to their guild agreements. I propose that we allow the free copying of all written material on the internet, as Stallman proposes. However, through a tax on internet usage, compensate the writers according to the number of times their work is downloaded or the number of times users "click here to acknowledge the value of this work." The latter click costs the user nothing, but helps the writer's tally. This plan maximizes the free flow of information *and* protects the writer.
  • Now, I understand that this doesn't apply to all situations, but is non-anonymous purchasing really all that bad? Let's pause and think about it here. What's the worst case? Ok, say you buy a howto guide to S&M, does it really matter? Sure, people will know, but you will also know about their little dark secrets. People would be less inclined to judge and ridicule whenever their secrets are opened up as well. Like I said, this wouldn't apply to all situations, but this might have a positive effect if applied to book selling. Think of an America where we don't have stupid little taboos. Think of an America where we can better understand others.

  • Back when people first started mixing up paper, they didn't expect what you see today. Let's take a look at what paper books have done for society.

    1 - Burnings. From the libraries of Alexandria to other places, books have led to fire. Pure and simple, books destroy, even kill.

    2 - Murderers read books. Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wayne Gacy, the Columbine boys. What do they have in common? You guessed it, they read paper books. I don't need to comment further, the evidence is clear.

    3 - They weigh a lot. You ever have to lift a box of those things when moving? Let me tell you, it's not pretty and leads to back damage.

    4 - They're hurting our children. Our children are forced to read such things as "Go, Dick, go." What do they do after this? That's right, they go. They go right out to the street and get hit by a car. Youths are very impressionable, they should not be subjected to these sick bastards' writings.

    The only way to clean up this mess is to take a page from MPAA's book. First, only authorized companies that give me plenty of money can be allowed to display words. Only when word displaying mechanisms are policed can this violence cease. Second, only designated regions may view the words I decide. We can't have people pirating works all over the universe. Region codes are a necessity. Any word displaying mechanisms which implement secret backdoors to get around this shall be burned at the stake. Copyrights are a valuable thing, perhaps the most important thing we as a society have. We cannot have people reading things that they were not meant to read.

    This abuses that the printing press has brought upon this society are numerous. We should hunt down any remaining descendants of the press and ensure they do no further harm to our way of life. Only after we have these provisions in place can author's works be truely realized. When people go around "sharing" their books they only hurt the authors. The word industry lost $500 trillion dollars last year alone due to unauthorized viewing of their works. If things keep up at the existing rates, there will be no authors in six months. I am only suggesting this for the good of all mankind.

    Thank you, and read carefully. You are being watched.
  • Are you kidding? Literature may not be anywhere near as totally corrupt as the _music_ industry, but it's still 99.999% 'keep your day job' territory. What gives you the idea that many authors are able to live full time on the royalties, of all things, of their books? There are a fair number of authors who are able to live on writing, but you know how they do that? WORK. Writing article after article, book after book, going after the surprisingly lucrative field of Commercial Writing (_somebody_ has to write the words in those corporate quarterly glossy reports, and they'd damn well better be able to spell ;) )

    It's crazy to try and protect what isn't there. Writers who live on their writing have to work like anybody else, and do- and the interesting thing is, if you assume the writer is doing new articles and commercial work etc etc a lot, the argument for intellectual property loses a _lot_ of its force. There _is_ no case for living on royalties as a writer (or a musician). Maybe Steven King manages it, but if you ask any professional they will tell you that you gotta work, keep submitting. You NEVER sit back and live on royalties. Plus, the sort of person who wants to live on royalties will never be in a position to get them as you have to START OFF with a whole bunch of hard work.

    Sorry- I don't think your argument works at all. If everyone starts making ebooks and duping them endlessly it might inspire more of a market for the written word, at which point WORKING writers might actually find themselves doing better because they are not living off royalties, they are working. Ever heard the phrase 'first serial rights'? Ponder the nature of the word 'first' there, and why it is worth money for a thing that will end up copied widely and freely. :)

  • I don't think this has much to do with e-books. In fact, e-books could be what steps in to replace the local bookstore. My favorite local bookstore wasn't killed by free online content. It was killed by Barnes+Noble, basically. They seized the distribution channels (relevant concept ALERT!) and jacked prices on him until he was working 7 days a week and still not clearing rent. I'd worry more about that than about e-books.
  • That the world will soon embrace e-books as a replacement for the printed page.

    Look at the dates again. That's plenty of time for it to happen. Consider that 47 years ago, TV was a new thing. Computers did less than my pocket calculator (and weren't as easy to program). Telephone exchanges were still a name and a digit.

  • They made sense. But my worry is this... Could books move to a Microsoft style "You can't transfer this book to a friend" style of licensing?

    Ebooks are already well on their way. That's what RMS is talking about. In many cases, even a backup and restore cycle on the same machine will render an e-book unreadable. Better hope that hard drive lasts a lifetime.

  • You say making copies of an ebook is free. While bits can be duplicated for nothing (Or close too) there are other costs, like the paycheck for the writter, editor etc. All these people have to make money somehow doing something. Many authors are able to live full time on the royalties from there books, if everyone starts making ebooks and dup'ing them endlessly these people are going to stop writting as they will need to go out and get a job to pay the bills.

    The Cure of the ills of Democracy is more Democracy.

  • Other wise we might end up in a real bad situation. Back in 1997 or so, RMS wrote this [gnu.org] short story about a society where the use of books was licensed.

    It's somewhat scary to see that this story, which I first rejected as "far beyond reality" has become too realistic for comfort within 3 years. Unfortunately, I have no doubt that the next 3 years will complete the picture. After all, we already have "Pay-per-view" websites with monopoly on information, and I seem to recall that the next generation of DVD will have an unique key for each player.

  • There are limits to copyright law; fair use and first sale are but two. Stallman's essay -- and he is by no means the first to call attention to this -- points out that in the world of electronic publishing, the publisher can be given (and thanks to the as-yet non-overturned DMCA, has been given) the power to eliminate all the limitations and exceptions.

    When I buy a book from a bookstore today, the seller has lost all control of the book (not its content). I can read the book anywhere I want, I can loan it to a friend, I can _give_ it to a friend, I can quote a compelling line or two in support of an original work of my own, and so forth. I can do pretty much anything I want that does not infringe (like photocopying the book for a friend or scanning it onto a Web page). That's the way it all works.

    Electronic publication turns this on its ear. Suddenly access control ("Sir, we're a bookstore and not a library; if you want to read that book you'll have to pay for it") and use control ("I know you bought the book a year ago but if you want to read it again you'll have to pay me again") have become something that the publishers can accomplish with a single feature. Whether they use encryption, or an undocumented file format on a proprietary hardware device, or a key/password approach, or some combination of these and other technologies, it has become physically possible to stop people from accessing the content of their own material, bought and paid for.

    What this all boils down to is that the publishing industry (books, musics, video, etc.) is facing the very real threat that a near-zero cost of reproduction poses to their businesses. Their solution has been to buy^H^H^Hlobby for laws that roll back centuries-old consumer protections. Many of us are not happy about that. I cannot support any method of content protection that rolls back the clock on consumer rights, or any law that protects that method. And you shouldn't either, no matter how cool it is to download the latest Stephen King offering onto your neatokeeno handheld eGadget.
  • Are you aware that in the 1800s the USA was the copyright pirate of the world? Books from Britain especially were reprinted freely in the USA without paying royalties.

    Much like various countries pirate copyrighted works nowadays.

    Those who love to write will continue to write. Disney stole many of his ideas from Rudyard Kipling, for instance, without any expectation that the copyright on his own work would extend so far into the future. In fact, if Rudyard Kipling had had that same copyright protection, Disney would not have been able to steal his stories. Probably ditto for Han Christian Andersen and the Grimm Bros.

    I understand an author wanting a reasonable return on his writing. But are you saying that Stephen King, for instance, would stop writing if he only made 10% of what he makes now?

    I am not advocating a cap on royalties. But before you SHOUT that copyrights are essential, I suggest you think a bit more.

  • For any society to survive in the information age it is necessary to provide it's citizens which as much access to information as possible. It is not certain information - viewing marketing material does not make one intelligent or allow oneself to aquire any new skills.

    Information must be available - any information, all information, for society to achieve the maximum benefit of it. It does no good for it to be hidden away in a locked vault or scrambled in ever-increasing layers of encryption.

    Countries that allow it's citizens to view and share information free of charge will lead the world into the 21st century. The US, apparently the pioneer of these draconian information-control measures, will fall far behind as the global economy switches to a primarily service-based economy. Proponents of copyright extensions will swiftly find themselves locked out of the market by themselves - unable to use the technology and information freely available to other countries. Naturally, these companies will quietly move overseas, decreasing the economic value of *this* country and further widening the gap between imports and exports.

    In short, if we don't get our act together, our economy will collapse. It's just a question of when and how bad.

  • The answer is simple, eternal vigilance. We have to fight to keep them. However, there is no inclination to fight for something when you have been placated with material goods and have had your wants satisfied. Animals do not attack after they have eaten.

    You want a revolution - make your people hungry, unemployed, and miserable. Thankfully we're heading for a head-on collision with that fate based on the laws we're passing and the way the global economy is shifting about. Wait about 20 years.. we'll have that revolution you want.. maybe this time we can kill all the lawyers.

  • it's not just microsoft who likes the no-transfer agreement, violating the principle of first sale on first glance (and then when you look a little closer you see that you're not "buying" anything anyways)... I see software moving there, esp. if UTICA passes all over, and that will make it much easier to throw all sorts of information under that sort of a licence ("what do you MEAN I'm being sued and locked out of access to all my books and software for saying that a so-called medical textbook contains infomation and advice that, if followed, will kill the patient -- while they assume no liability!")

    I just find the whole thing a bit scary...

  • These are antibooks. As the prescient Eric Eldred [mediaone.net] writes:
    an antibook is a book that has been murdered--it has been bought up like private property, enclosed inside a secure hardware lock by strong encryption and digital signatures, wrapped up inside a shrinkwrap software license you have no choice but to accept, copyrighted whether it deserves a new copyright or not and protected by the criminal sanctions of the new laws, delivered directly to consumers over the Internet instead of being sold by used bookstores or browsable on a bookstore shelf, incapable of being lent by public libraries because of all the licensing restrictions, locked up securely so the reader cannot print it out, copy it to a disk to backup or use on another computer or share with anyone else, in fact so locked up it requires proprietary software or hardware to even view the antibook, incapable of being resold because of the shrinkwrap license and the hardware locks, and unable to be accessed for any fair use by scholars or by anyone, including blind readers, if it ever technically reverted to the public domain.

    What's more, free e-books are threatened not only by the antibooks and horrors like DMCA, but by copyright extension: media companies want permanent copyright, but they'll settle for extending it by twenty-five years, every twenty-five years, retroactively of course.

    See http://eldred.ne.mediaone.net [mediaone.net] for more on this-- plus free e-books in HTML format.

  • So what will happen to Capitalism when when the 10% of the population who owns the means of production needs to empoly only another 10% to produce all the goods that the society needs. What will the 80% left over do. My Guess is those 80% will start a revolution and some violent redistribution of wealth will occur.

    What you're assuming is that this is a zero-sum game where the total wealth of society stays constant, and that is NOT the case. Yes, industrialization took jobs away from people, but it was more efficient and thus increased the overall standard of living for everyone in the long run. Those 80% you're talking about won't have nothing to do. Rather, with all that production, they'll be able to do more interesting things, like be artistic or do research or other non-blue-collar jobs.

    I'm not saying there aren't any problems with capitalism, by any means; I think that the short term problems of unemployment and the distribution of wealth are important problems, but I'm just saying that while we should work toward closing the wealth gap, the weathy getting weathier does NOT necessarily mean the poor are getting poorer.

  • First off, I love books. I love a lot of things that are no longer 'state of the art', and I strongly support "appropriate technology" -- a long-standing movement that basically argues that a magnifying glass is better in many cases than a PC hooked up to a video microscope (to cite a poor example -- but one I had to argue this weekend when a friend got a video microscope for his kids instead of the $20 cast iron jobbies *we* grew up with)

    However, I must point out in the interests of fairness, that things like books, and the laws and customs surrounding them were purely products of the old technology and its limitations. Books were portable objects and were controlled in only such a manner as the technology of the time permitted. If you think that Gutenberg didn't smack Western Civ in the face with a 2x4, you haven't read history. but we adjusted, and now the very concept of a 'book' -- a codified standardized treatise -- in integral to our society

    New techs will also breed new rules and will hist world Civ in the face with another 2x4. I find much to admire in the 'book' paradigm [contrast with the volatile webpage, e-book, etc.] but I realize that's because my society, its values and laws, and printed matter have grown up together for centuries.

    This note is intended to remind others to constantly challenge themselves to re-examine the relationship between the medium, the content (which is influenced by the medium -- news papers are very different than books), the functions they have performed, and most difficult of all the function they may perform in the furture.

    Prediction is a futile task, doomed to failure -- but essential to the insight and analysis that may help us guide our choices.


  • I love it!
    A little slip of the keys and an amazing new word comes into existance.
    I hereby dub all M$ Word products beyond 5 "awkware"

  • One way to retain the freedoms we love is to use the free resources we have now, rather than paying for an ebook or real book. Here's links to online non - fiction book sites:

    http://www.reciprocality.org/Reciprocality/index .html
    http://www.linuxworld.com/linuxworld/idgbooks-op enbook/lw-oclicense.html

    which are available at:
    links to online fiction book sites:

    http://www.wirenot.net/X/Stories/Ghost/Ghostinde x.html
    http://www.rider.edu/users/suler/zenstory/zensto ry.html

    which are available at:
    and online children's stories:

    http://www.the-office.com/bedtime-story/indexmai n.htm
    http://indy4.fdl.cc.mn.us/~isk/maya/mayastor.htm l
    http://hosted.ukoln.ac.uk/stories/stories/index. htm
    http://www.yahooligans.com/School_Bell/Language_ Arts/Online_Stories/
    http://www.yahooligans.com/School_Bell/Language_ Arts/Books/

    which are available at:
    http://members.axion.net/~enrique/childrenfictio n.html

    If someone is working on open books or stories or know where some more can be found, please email me.
  • Perhaps not in the strictest sense - I don't think you can send an amount smaller than a pennny. But in the sense that it is totally free for buyer and seller, enabling you to send small amounts just as easily as parge ones, it is a good start.

    I use it for auctions, and it has worked out really well both as buyer and seller. They also have a Palm client that lets you beam money to other people, I plan to start trying that out pretty soon.
  • The fact of the matter is that the prime economic of the internet is the elimination of middle-men.

    Remarkable assertion there -- and completely wrong. You've never studied economics, have you?

    Just as parasites in an ecology lead, counter-intuitively, to a more diverse and healthy ecosystem, so do middle-men lead to a more healthy and diverse economy. By taking on some of the selling risk, they provide a market for the original sellers. By providing a service for the end buyer, they make their money (although, granted, at some extra cost to the buyer).

    Ideally, *it seems*, it would be easier (and cheaper) for the customer to buy their stuff directly from the original seller. But the seller doesn't think so. By selling the product through a number of middle-men, the seller loses the extra costs of dealing directly with customers *and* increases the sales. In fact, the *cost* of serving the customer one-on-one may be more than the profit [per customer] the original seller would make.

    On one hand the customer loses. He can't buy the product at the original (lower) price that the middle-man gets. (Of course, the middle-man has to buy a large amount of the product to get that price, whereas the customer would only buy one or two.)

    On the other hand the customer gains. If a middle-man stocks a variety of goods (from different retailers), the customer gains both variety and saves time doing it. [For example, look at a grocery store.]

    Let's look at two real-world cases.

    First case: the old Soviet Union. People would stand in line for hours at one shop, then another, then another. Massive amounts of time were wasted and of course productivity suffered. Why was this bizarre system allowed to evolve? Precisely because it eliminated the middle-man and hence the evil capitalistic idea of profit. Needless to say, no-one [of its users] liked it.

    Second case: Amazon.com. (Well, actually the *old* Amazon.com.) The business model was that books could be sold with a just-in-time model -- no warehouses, hence no warehousing costs. Jeff Bezos foresaw that, using only the information transmitted to him by users, he could drop-ship books directly from the publisher. All *he* had to do was BE THE MIDDLEMAN and provide the user with a database containing every book that any publisher had available. That way, a user would not have to go to EVERY publisher looking for a book. Any publisher *could* have done the same thing, but they were locked into a business model that made them the same amount of money whether or not a given book sold. Unfortunately for them, this model required the *physical* shipping of boods to *their* middle-men [bookstores]. Bezos figured out a way to eliminate the atoms in favor of bits.

    In fact, he went even further and invented the affiliate program: ANYONE [with a website] could be a middle-man. (OK, technically speaking, an agent since they aren't required to purchase the books they sell. But they *are* there between the customer and the book.)

    Actually, we're ON a better model -- Slashdot. The users are *both* the customers AND the suppliers of the information; the Slashdot editors merely act as MIDDLE-MEN to sort out the crud from the gold in what gets posted to be commented on; moderators act as middle-men to sort out the crud from the gold in the comments.

    The fact is that middle-men will always exist [caveat: in a free market] because they improve the quality and availability of merchandise. Just because the Net brings a certain amount of efficiency to the process does NOT mean the elimination of middle-men.

  • However, through a tax on internet usage, compensate the writers according to the number of times their work is downloaded or the number of times users "click here to acknowledge the value of this work." The latter click costs the user nothing, but helps the writer's tally. This plan maximizes the free flow of information *and* protects the writer.

    I have two things to say:

    First, advocating a tax is a Bad Thing. A tax needs someone to administer it -- a bureaucrat -- and Weber pointed out (back in the 1800's) that bureaucracies tend to increase at a rate (of approx. 5.4% per annum) independently of the task they are doing. Taxes themselves also have a funny way of increasing [when the first American income tax was imposed in 1913, it was a 1% tax on the wealthiest 1% of the population -- look at it now.] And don't forget that *every* tax has the armed power of the state behind it.

    On the other hand, I have to say that I detect the germ of a good idea in here somewhere. Some kind of "acknowledgement of the value of this work" seems to be a reasonable thing, and compensating writers according to users' judgements also seems reasonable. The only question is: where does the money come from? A user fee? (but then you might as well have the users pay the writer what they beleive his writing is worth -- a variable price instead of a fixed price, as is now the case. You run headlong into the free rider problem that way, though [people who would read, enjoy -- and pay nothing].)

    Hmmm -- let me think about this some more...

  • RMS's own GPL depends on the existance of copyright law.

    While this is technically true, you seem to view that as hypocritical somehow. The GPL is a hack designed to allow RMS's view of free software to exist within a world with copyrights. While the GPL requires copyright to exist, the GPL is only necesary as long as copyright itself exists. It's a way of saying "if you're going to make me play by your rules (copyright, as in forcing people to get the permission of the author to do something with a work) then I'm going to make you play by mine (GPL, as in forcing you to share with others if you're going to do something with the GPL'd work)."

    If copyright didn't exist, then the GPL would have no force, but it would also be far less necesary. While it still might be the case that some software would not come with a source code release, you would at least be allowed to share software freely with others.

  • It doesn't take a technohippy to be alarmed by the way publishers are fscking up future technologies. Read the article, take some time to think about it, and you'll see that while it might be technically possible to make a sharing scheme like you discuss, that's not what they are doing at all. It's hard to do correctly, and involves a trusted broker's market (and even then, there's always a way of capturing the data stream, which is why they try to lock things up in proprietary hardware). And, they have no interest in doing it.

    The schemes they are interested in make no such sharing possible. Frankly, I don't think it works very well, and consumers won't trust pure digital ownwership of books or whatever that they can lose with an errant mouse click, then have to buy all over again. But if somehow they do, then our culture will have been locked up by a new priesthood.

    What this article does discuss is the fact that in the future that Michael Eisner and krew would like us to have, there will be no libraries, because they will not have the technological means to do it. Read Lessig's "Code"; this article is nothing more than proof that his fears are well grounded, and that the technoutopians are dangerous, not because they believe in piracy (most don't, but they do believe sharing a book with your friend ought not be a felony), but because they are wrong that "information wants to be free" (left to itself, information will rot); we want information and indeed our own culture to be free, while Corporatists want us to pay royalties if we dream about Mickey Mouse.

    If you're going to leave long winded-posts, at least read the article.

  • I don't intend to flame but apparently you lived under a rock for the last years.

    As you see the technological advancements are going faster and faster asking question never asked and the way they are answered will shape our future. Insofar only there is a small light sched on how the things will go in the future.

    However the only ones who see that light are visionaries. But these visions might turn into [mb]ilions and the corporations are keeping an eye on them enacting laws that right now look harmless but when we will get there will see that all the land was already taken. And we will be at the mercy of those corporations.

    And yes, to most regular people these laws look pointless or harmless but when we will realize what's going on we will be like sheeps at the end of the slaughter tunnel.

    THINK OUT OF YOUR BOX. Out of your regular Job -> McDonald/PizzaHut -> Blockbuster -> Bed -> Job ...

    Think the world your kids will live in.
  • Is it just me or does the sound of all books and publications being in electronic form put the fear of Newspeak into your hearts. In "1984", George Orwell invisioned people rewriting the newspapers and burning the old ones. Now with ebooks and electronic publications it is possible to rewrite history and force everyone to read the new version as they do not hold a physical copy. Better yet, if they crack the encryption that protects the publications, sue them under the DMCA.

    Big brother may not be watching you, as he/she does not need too. He just changes your history and thus changes your future and now.

    Just a thought . . .
  • The solution is very simple. How about we regress copyright to the same term it was a century ago. 14 years, which may be renewed for a second 14-year term.

    Would you all agree that a maximum 28-year term is reasonable? Copyright isn't fun, but it wasn't designed to be. But 28 years of misery is a hell of a lot better than the >130 years that Dilbert will be under copyright as things are now. (70? years after death, and Scott Adams will probably be alive another 60 years or so.)

    I admit it, I don't like copyright all that much on one hand. But on the other hand, my life will be spent creating artistic works.
  • This article is incredibly one-sided. While I would like to be able to read books for free as much as the next person, there is no universal right that I should be allowed to do so. Authors spend a lot of time creating and writing their works, and if they don't want to give them away to everyone, they shouldn't be required to. There are plenty of methods available to give digital information away for free, but not very many reliable ways to control access to digital information. I know a lot of people don't want any, but if you want to see quality works be published in a digital form, it has to happen. I totally disagree with the statement that most people would click to send the author one dollar if given a choice. How many people actually pay for shareware they use? (in the general public, not you personally, so don't get morally offended) Look at public radio and TV. If people would pay out of a sense of responsibility, they would not have to have continuos fund drives, and they would be the most popular outlets for programming available, which they are not. Bottom line is that authors want to make money for their published works and having them freely available will not allow them to. They will be forced to stick to printed works, or stop writing. While I'm not saying that any of the current systems are any good, simply saying there should be no copyright enforcement is very shortsighted and selfish.
  • I presented the link to his article as a counterpoint to RMS for people who find RMS's stridency to be too much. The fact that Garfinkel does not appear to be participating in the Amazon boycott [gnu.org] certainly does indicate that his opinions differ from Stallman's on at least some subjects. I thought that the common ground that the two of them share might offer some insight.

    Oh, and he also mentioned that he hasn't made much money off the link at this point. The way I see that link is Garfinkel's attempt to provide an easy way for anyone who has found his web site to order any of his books.

  • Good timing. The U.S. Government on April 13 awarded over 2 billion dollars collected from carriers to the American Library Association for the smallest libraries to stay online and up to date. (link [ala.org])

    Libraries are a hallowed U.S. tradition with a lot of strong backers and the entire balkanization of what is now printed matter will not come to pass without a very big fight. Possibly one day the Library of Congress could play a new roll in distribution (perhaps a media key allowing reading on a library slate, not a great solution but a minimum one).

    In the end the author and publisher need a way to make a profit or there won't be any e-books. Stallman's closing remark that copyright will be obsolete is inane. Why should anyone be forced to submit to an idea [aynrand.org] of the masses that the product of their labor should be free or anything else? Some authors might accept variable or no payment depending on the reader's level of enjoyment but if it works out like shareware it hardly seems like empowering the author. Currently the phone company makes more than the author on shareware downloads.

    Micropayment + Transcopyright, an open source culmination of decades of work in the field (Ted Nelson [xanadu.com]) is one possible strategy in a universe of them.. and Stallman is focusing on shouting when he could be lining up allies. There is no reason why an open source or other software solution not created by publishers could not take hold, if it addresses the needs of authors and publishers. Legal provisions allowing fair (personal or editorial) use need to be covered by new technologies, especially when "solutions" like zoning of DVDs make it impossible to read certain "texts". When infrastructure makes it possible to charge for consumption of media dynamically, that will open the doors of accessibility to many more authors who will depend on some kind of copyright law (perhaps the software code will exceed the legal code) to make their living.

    Last I heard, libraries buy their books. So a limit on the number of times a book is read sounds unworkable. But if prices fall naturally (by economics, not some cracker's idea of fairness) to a dollar a book, there is no reason why payment cannot be made up front or from a dedicated account. So I think Stallman's fears are based on an assumption of frozen technology, and that more technology will allow authors to apply all kinds of payment schemes including different levels of payment, annotation, and other characteristics, as envisioned by Nelson and others. It would be more interesting to do a serious analysis of the work done in this field and work toward a solution than to put blinders on and be alarmist. There may be dangers but there are great possibilities.

    On the danger side I see communications carriers and credit card companies enforcing stiff inescapable charges, and companies with vested interests in video and audio taking the initiative with things which look more like entertainment titles than books. On the positive side, how about asking the ALA (or O'Reilly, or the EFF,...) for some of that 2 billion and start experimenting openly (not necessarily GPL) with Transmeta slates? That way people will be able to hack at this problem for a long, long time. It may take that long for copyright owners to all shift to a Napster/Stallman/Shareware-esque style of compensation (or not) based on its own merits.

    I am no fan of the DMCA. But if Stallman wants to overturn the DMCA he should quit talking about trying to make copyright obsolete and put some energy into figuring out what initiative he could start or join to build a reasonable business model which can be influenced by the community of believers in electronic freedom. If his thinking stands solely on the ideas of GPL and uncontrolled dissemination of works he will lose credibility among those of us who live in a market economy and with it the opportunity to lead.

  • Authors and musicians and other artists don't deserve to get paid. That is, they don't deserve to get paid for performing their art. Since they're artists, they perform their art because it would kill them not to. Getting paid has nothing to do with it.

    No one forces you, a presumably fat 'n' happy member of a lawful, rich, and prosperous society, to do anything you don't want to do for recreation. You may have to obey policemen and soldiers, or die, and you may have to work at something that you find distasteful, in order to *earn* money to live fat 'n' happy. But you have no right to perform an art, or other recreation, and demand compensation. You also don't work in a coal mine. You're probably a software engineer, or a bus driver, or a waitress, which aren't excruciating day jobs. Although, D. H. Lawrence came from a coal mining family...

    Copying isn't plagarism, and it's not removing the incentive for true art. People will always tell stories and play music, and the best stories and songs might actually bring fame or fortune of some type on the author. It is probably true that the best works of art are performed without worrying about how the art can become product. So let's remove the notion of "intellectual property", and replace it with the notion of "recognition of greatness". Which means just what it says -- recognition, not payment.
  • You'd be a scholar whether it made you rich or not, right? I mean, do you do it for love?

    I'd love to be able to actually write a piece of scholarship, which increased the total of human knowledge, even if in a tiny niche of a science. I'd love the opportunity for that knowledge to be disseminated far and wide. Even on a porn site! Some of my pearls of wisdom might actually be recognized, and pondered, and learned from, by the swine frequenting such sites...

    Seriously. Ideas happen. Even when the thinker is supported by a guild, or university, and maybe even when he works for Pespi. They're kinda hard to come up with, but people have 'em all the time, anyway. Some of those people are compelled by a creative impulse (common to most children) to translate them into words, or notes, or colors, or algorithms. The ideas then go into other minds, and some cause other ideas to form, for less effort than would've otherwise taken. Having ideas form easily is really livin'. And the more ideas there are, the less work to have ideas of your own... Love produces more love, after all.

    Thinkers, authors, artists: these people don't deserve money for doing what comes naturally to all humans - they deserve recognition, if the ideas are good. You should hope that your scholary writings should be broadcast as widely as possible! Be the giant whose shoulders everyone else in your field stands upon when they peer into the distance...

    Perhaps you would be satisfied with some sort of "attribution machinery," which attempts to limit plagarism by somehow "labelling" the idea. Maybe that's the GPL... Although, I suppose that, for the public, *who* came up with the idea isn't as important as whether or not the idea was expressed in the first place. The last sentence of the previous paragraph was Newton's, for instance. But it sure made my point, so I used it.

    Authorship serves as a claim on monies extorted by middlemen during the dissemination of ideas, and should actually become less relevant as we progress towards that less-buggy society of tomorrow. Hopefully, the need for GPL-like machinery will fade. The GPL will autocorrect the need for itself! And the world will be full of unfettered ideas.
  • This is exactly the way that things are going now. Universities have taken the viewpoint that"We only give crappy,300 person classes at $1000 a pop, and if you want a degree you have to put up with our bullshit." I guess that that is why ill be a non-degreed engineer forever. Only a few of my coworkers understand that to be good at something, you need to 'grok' it, not just learn enough to pass the test. Copyrights in the computer age are keeping knowlege from people who will be needed to extend that computer age to its next reach. We could knuckle under, but, i think we'll see 'unaproved' versions of everything from Math texts to fifty year old sci-fi. I believe that everything should be online, at a price lower than a student's lunch fund, to allow people to determine what they truly enjoy; looking at a meteor crater can lead to a careey in astronomy; imagine the links possible if the artificial bounds on knowlege placed there by greed were removed. The vast majority care about entertainment, but the same copyrights control non-fiction works as well. What if textbooks only came on ebooks, and had to be deleted after passing the exams?
  • How many people Out There really believe that the eBook won't be cracked as soon as it comes out?

    They didn't stop us recording LPs and CDs, they haven't stopped us watching DVDs and they won't stop us reading.

  • As a writer who manages to make money off the Internet despite the copying problem, I think this proposed solution is worse than the problem. This essentially makes it easier to corporatize the production of work. If it costs me X+X*tax for each video tape, that makes it more expensive for me to put my independent production out. I don't want to work for no stinking guild (or corporation for that matter).
  • Actually it was a rather dry statistics-based analysis of rape incidence in the United States over the past 50 years. Because of the wild world of search engines, however, it got a ton of hits from idiots looking for idiots who were searching for porn that depicted simulated rape and the web site idiots just swiped it for their site. Getting them to take it off their site took forever.

    Regardless, saying "anyone can republish a scholarly paper or monograph" is just another way of saying "screw scholarly researchers" who already find it almost impossible to make any money off of what they write.

    In fact today if you want to make money and still do scholarly work you generally have to get a job at a university or research institute which will pay you a salarly to compensate for the non-existent revenues from such scholarship.

    And all Stallman's proposal do will accelerate this growth of killing the market for independent works, period, and forcing everyone to be part of a corporate or "guild" structure.

    Turn back the clock on the most recent, idiotic changes to copyright laws, but content producers and distributors are always going to need intellectual property protections.
  • "I think you may be right when you say that neither of the extremes may work very well, at least in the context of today. You are wrong about that the removal of copyrights would help large media corporations though. Sure, Time-Warner could republish your stuff, but why would they do that, since they wouldn't have copyright on what they publish? Anyone else could simply republish what they published, so they wouldn't make any money from it. Even more so if it would be in digital form."

    1. They wouldn't have copyright on *anything* they publish, so there is no need for them to worry any more about whether they own copyright or not on a specific piece.

    2. Time Warner has something I don't -- size. An obvious outcome of saying "anybody can republish anything" is that it makes the current trend toward giant media companies even more necessary.

    Take Stephen King. Stephen King might at some point in this new world of ours decide to himself that he'd be better off publishing his books independently. Oops -- but Stallman got rid of copyright so now the day after King independently publishes his book, Time Warner comes out with its own version which is a) cheaper than King's and b) has a large promotional budget.

    King's screwed. Sure some people will pay more to reward the author, but not very many people. If King wants to stay solvent, he has to cut a deal with the big guys. There's no possibility anymore of independent popular books because any succesful book will immediately find it competing with itself.

    Go back to copyright the way it was before the recent excessive revisions, but don't throw out copyright protections altogether.

  • I'm going to laugh if some of the more controversial underground literature makes it to e-books and winds up being as controlled as everything else.

    Somehow the Principia Discordia or the Book of the SubGenius just wouldn't have the same appeal. :o)

  • > One point that Stallman and his anti-intellectual-property cronies seem to miss is this: A) AUTHORS/MUSICIANS/EVERYONE HAVE TO EAT. B) YOU CAN'T SELL SUPPORT FOR BOOKS AND MUSIC

    True. Example: Larry Niven is rich. If he wasn't, or if his books didn't cost money, I'd give him money, because I love his stories. I also love Micheal Flynn's stories. I may send him money. If their books were for free, you bet I'd send them money. Maybe there aren't enough people like me to support an industry of artists. If there aren't, maybe our culture doesn't deserve artists. If we go without art for a decade or two, maybe we'll learn its true value.

    > These people run around claiming they're not communists. Well, guess what, capitalism depends on intellectual property. If there's no intellectual property, all creative/scientific works have to be done for the fun of it by hobbyists.

    A: Communism and Capitalism aren't the only ways to go, there are other options. Otoh, let me state, for the record, that I love capitalism. I believe in the free market. I believe God has His hand on the free market. Despite it's bad points, capitalism can never really fail, unless the people start giving away their rights. I also think IP, at least our current IP system, is corrupt. I can believe both these things with no conflict between the two - capitalism is a system of scarcity - information is not scarce. The free market will find a way to reward artists, or we never deserved them in the first place. If we don't deserve artists, the free market will teach us what they are worth by taking them away from us. This is a good thing - we need to learn it.

    B: Are you dissing work done by hobbyists? A professional does something because he's paid to. An amateur does it because he loves it. Professionals gave us Apple, Microsoft, Intel, DEC, IBM, Sun, Transmeta, etc... Amateurs gave us Linux, Apache, Perl, Sendmail, Freenet, Ogg Vorbis, etc. I'm not saying professionals can't do good work - they can, if they love what they're doing. I'd dearly love to see more hobbyist art and research.
  • "I have a wonderful proof for this theorem, but if I write it in this margin you'll have to pay to be able to read it".
  • I don't know about you guys but personnaly, I have always thought eBook to be a bad idea. Paper is the best reading medium when it comes to read something more than 25 pages long. Just recently, I had to download the WML (WAP) spec. in PDF format from Phone.com and after reading a few pages, I printed it out and found that it was much more practical and enjoyable to read it from paper.

    I have to admit that if eBooks would replace real books, I would be the first to be alarmed. But I seriously doubt the things will ever be nothing more than high end gadgets like PDAs. It's just a sign of the times. It seems that all of a sudden, "jet set" babbles have become a way to show off how wired and cool you are.

    I fuck the buisness machine!

  • I was trying to find information on trends of book stores online and otherwise. There seems to be little data to be found on the web. After checking at the Border Group Inc. Website there sales have been steadily climing since 1995 none of this due to online sales. It seems the media is at it again promoting how wonderful the online stores are doing and speaking doom of the retail chain market.

    There is one possibility, the small business will certainly take a dive due to retail chains. But honestly it will be some time before we see the emergance of hundreds of pages online that people will actually sit for hours and read for pleasure.

    This may be personal bias, I have read a number of Gutenberg prints on the screen and often am left dissapointed as the eye strain and poor fonts evetually leave me wanting to read more but can't.

    Reading all of this on a 17 trinitron is about as good as it gets when it comes to clarity and ease of reading.

    For anyone who reads often ( daily, hourly ) the though of spending all those hours in front of a screen for pleasure seems odd. Albiet I have spent days in front of IRC.

    Oh well perhaps they will get rid of the stores i like to stop in and have a chat. Oh right thats another interesting thing about books stores. The people you get to interact with. Online book selling is interesting and useful if you know what you want. I seldom know what i want. Perhaps they will put up a chat to ask about books. Either way i will be saddened if the media, publishers and other sources try to get me to read it all online.

    off and out...
  • I suppose noone will argue the point that books are carriers of ideas, items used to share experiences (even when it comes to fantasy stories), sources of enllightment and education.
    Since Guttenberg invented his primitive press, humans have been attracted by the books, by the information inside.
    Reading is a privilege. Of the one that knows to read, of the one that has the means to buy books and so on.
    About a hundred years ago, many educated people were proud for having read about 10 books. Nowadays, because books are affordable we read 10 of them before we go to school. This is progress.
    Still, there are many among us that are too poor to afford spending their money on books, instead on their supper. And for years, there existed for them a way to have access to this information : libraries. And God only knows how many brilliant scientists were poor beyond belief in their youth. Their only chance was that they had access to a library
    Nowadays, in France, the Louvre Museum opens its gates for everyone (withouy any cost) on the first Sunday of every month. Are they losing money ? Probably. But in exchange they allow the entrance to poor students that are interested in art but have no means to pay the entrance fee. Why are they doing this, and not allow only students to enter for free ? (something like academic prices). Because having janitors to check for id's would be even more expensive. Granting access to everyone is, then, something desirable not only from the visitor's point of view

    Why not do the same here, in US ? Because apparently companies cannot see beyond the immediate gain. Because they don't really care, and because sometimes (too often unfortunately) they are stupid. Because the costs are probably even more impressive (although this is something genuinely american : exagerrated governmental costs). Because companies are taking the bureaucratic model from the government, no matter the cost. It easier to impose the existing regulations (even if they don't really fit) and pay more money, instead of thinking about new ones who may turn to be better.

    And I can't stop wondering how many books have read in the late 10 years the ones that are trying to impose these regulations.

    Anyway, imposing such draconian regulations would have as direct effect a drastical reduction of the number of readers in the poor side of the population. By cutting the access to culture to someone, one is denying a fundamental right. The right to be informed, the right become aware and to be able to make good decisions.
    Then again, isn't a stupid and blind population the ideal for a government ?
  • When my family left Ukraine to go to Russia, I was 9 years old, and was reading 170 words a minute, high by my school standards. When we left the former USSR for Israel, I was already 15 and reading over 270 words a minute. Today my reading speed can be almost twice as high (in English however, so it makes it easier.) In Israel I had to learn Hebrew my fifth language at that time, after Ukrainian, Russian, English and German. I remember firmly that when we came to Canada (Toronto) my first book on that week was Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. When we moved to Montreal, I had to learn French and I just love reading Duma in French, it used to take me 2-3 days to read his 4 books now it takes me almost 6 days in French.

    I used to know all my librarians by names and they always knew me by my name also as the most common reader.

    I am very sorry to say that the collection of books that my grandparents, parents and me have gathered in Russia and Ukraine had to be sold before we could leave. It was simply impossible to take them with us. I don't know how many books there were but definitely over a thousand and I read most of those too more than one or two times.
    Somehow lately I noticed that my work and studies have decreased the amount of time I used to spend reading. I have a steady girlfriend (found her in a chat channel!) and I have to spend time with her too. Anyway, why am I ranting?

    I used to think that Americans were the most reading country in the world but I think this is changing with time. The TV, comics and lately the Internet have substituted reading to many.

    Anyway, I wish you all to read as much as you can and to never stop.
  • We don't fight with lethal weapons, we have something better - our brains. Gnutella is a very powerfull idea, there is no central server for any corporation to go after, there are many small networks that are alive as long as their individual nodes are on-line. You can setup your own subnetwork over the Internet with the people you know and/or trust and/or have common interests. In order for large corporations to fight this, they will have to infiltrate hundreds and thousands of such networks and it is not going to be easy. The only way I can think of doing this would be monitoring the entire traffic over all ISP's to pattern match the packets send from one client/server to another client/server. The Gnutella source code is not important, even the protocol is not important it's the idea that will be hard to combat. There are already multiple clones of Gnutella that support the same protocol, but there can be others that will support multiple protocols as well as on the fly encryption, distributed chat rooms, (Gnutella already allows this if you decide that 'Search Monitor' transmission latency is good enough to serve as a chat channel. Self propagating, self maintaining, self sustaining, self contained subnetworks over the commercalized Internet - this is the way to go for those who used to love their Arpanet and lynx in the past. (btw. I still use lynx sometimes, it's beautiful)

    This is how we can fight - invisible, uncharted, unmonitored, undetectable, uncensored, distributed, selfmaintained, selfsustained, selfcentered, autonomous, selfreliant, unpenetrable.
  • During my life time I have read thousands of books in seven different languages, I have being subscribed to multiple libraries in four different countries, I have bought, lended and borrowed books. Do this activities make me a criminal? Not at those times, but what about the future? I use GNUTELLA to share information on subnetworks that are anonymous and unknown to general population. Over time I believe this will be one of the many resources for every kind of electronic information, even books. In this world, we have to fight for our information. I want to be able to use libraries and I don't want to be called a criminal for lending a book to my friend.
  • Ok, I can clarify, assuming I'm properly understanding your misunderstanding. If not, please clarify my misunderstanding so I can clarify my clarification. :-)

    Maybe I am being naive, here, but without copyright enforcement how could a GPL author *enforce* derivative works to be under the GPL?

    He couldn't. But mostly he wouldn't need to, because the GPL primarily exists to prevent re-copyrighting under "bad" licenses.

    It seems to me that w/o copyright law, the effective use of any open-source software would allow BSD-like freedoms rather than GPL.

    Sans copyright law, someone could modify code and not release the changes. This would be bad from RMS' point of view (as I understand it) but still a net gain because you could freely redistribute the binaries, and because the code was still free, if unavailable.

    But then, IANRMS :-)

  • I concluded that the GPL would _not_ work without copyright law, for the reasons sighted by costas. The central point of the GPL is to force software to stay libre, not merely gratis. AFAIK, RMS considers the gratis part to be icing on the cake of libreness. I would tend to agree with him

    I would tend to agree too, but look at it this way... GNU defines free software [gnu.org] as software whose users have the following freedoms:

    1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
    2. The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
    3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
    4. The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits. (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

    With copyright laws, none of these freedoms are guaranteed. Without copyright laws, users would seem to naturally retain freedoms 0 and 2.

    On the other hand, without copyright law, it might _not_ be illegal for some schmuk working for some company that released binary-only software to post the source code on a web site. To keep something closed source, wouldn't _everybody_ with access to the source have to agree to keep the source closed?

    To do so would doubtless involve that schmuk violating his contract, thus he'd be breaking the law. But once he did so, anybody who hadn't signed a contract could do whatever they wanted with impunity.

    This illustrates my other point: without copyright, users retain the rights to exercise freedoms 1 and 3, if not the practical wherewithal to do so. I am under no legal obligation to release my code, and you are under no legal obligations whatever regarding my code. This seems again an improvement (from the RMS standpoint), for all cases except currently GPL'd code.

    This situation would protect rights, without implementing government-enforced entitlements (that I must give you my code)... and rights seem to be more what RMS is about.

  • It's bizarre that you suggest that RMS is riding his programming credentials. His accomplishments as an activist and a thinker are unquestionably far greater. Do you think that McArthur grants are given for coding prowess? Does the public that knows of him know he wrote Emacs, or that he's a visionary?

    Besides which, RMS has stated that he doesn't have much time for programming now, anyway.

    Richard is as naive now as he was when he founded the GNU project.

  • (This comment was also posted to GeekPress [geekpress.com].)

    Let me first say that I'm not much of an advocate of copyrights. But Stallman's anti-copyright arguments seemed fairly bizarre to me.

    (1) Stallman says that the original purpose of copyright was to "encourage the publication of a diversity of written works."

    My understanding has been that copyright was designed to encourage the writing of a diversity of works, by rewarding the authors monetarily. With copyright, in fact, fewer writings might be published, because publishers have to pay for the privilege.

    (2) Stallman argues that with electronic versions of books, "the publishers realized that by forcing people to use specially designated software to read e-books, they can gain unprecedented power: they can compel readers to pay, and identify themselves, every time they read a book!"

    So according to Stallman, there are two problematic issues: being forced to pay every time and the lack of anonymity.

    As for the first, if publishers charge as much for e-books as they do for paper books, people simply will not buy. The price will have to be dramatically lower to compensate for the (current) inconvenience of an e-book. (Additionally, it would violate people's sense of fairness to have to pay a similar price for an e-book, when the publisher obviously has eliminated the cost of printing.)

    The anonymity issue is somewhat trickier. But some publishers (or resellers) will provide people with anonymity if they desire it.

    (3) What Stallman ends up advocating is some kind of direct micropayments to the author. In some nagware-like fashion, we will be prompted to give the author a dollar if we like the book.

    Well, Stallman might be willing to click the okay button, but I doubt that such a scheme would produce reliable-enough profits for authors (let alone publishers). I do not know of any highly successful businesses that work on this model, although I'd be delighted to hear if some existed.

    (4) Overall, it seems that Stallman misses the real revolution that could arrive with e-books: the elimination of large, overbearing publishers altogether. If there is no printing to be done, authors could choose to deal directly with the public, setting whatever terms they liked for the sale of their books. There would be more experimentation, more variety than publishers would ever allow. And authors that adopted terms of sale that were most conducive to the public's palette would sell more books. They could offer anonymity, micropayments, pay-if-you-liked-it schemes, special deals to loyal readers, and all kinds of other goodies that we have yet to even imagine.

    One reason why authors might like to bypass publishers is that the interests of authors and the interests of publishers are not always aligned. Publishers want to sell as many books as possible. Authors want to do that too, but they also often want to (a) get their ideas out into the public forum, (b) build a reputation for themselves, and (c) build a loyal fan base. For that reason, we might see great innovation in book selling from authors than we currently see from publishers.

    (5) Additionally, e-books could go the way of many internet services: free if you're willing to view targeted advertising, pay if you want the no-ad version. Such selling methods would still have to develop ways to prevent people from copying files, but the incentive to make unauthorized duplicates would be greatly reduced by having free versions available.

    I do agree with Stallman that copyrights, at best, are for a prior era. But hopefully nagware e-books aren't the only future.

    -- Diana Hsieh

  • I'm confused about the point Stallman was trying to make. He seemed to be confusing atoms and electrons.

    Imagine: no more used book stores; no more lending a book to your friend; no more borrowing one from the public library

    Well, obviously. The subtlety I think Stallman is missing is that all those are based on exchanging atoms which are the medium of information.

    In the "dark age of atoms," copyright still applied as it does now. People weren't allowed to make copies of existing works. They were only allowed to move around their copies, their atoms.

    With electronic editions of books, it is difficult to guarantee that copies won't fork like rabbits which would dilute the value of the work. While tracking each user as she reads a book might be excessive, these kinds of things are just attempts to deal with this new and wonderful and weird economic side effect of "information" economies.

    If you like a book, and a box pops up on your computer saying "Click here to give the author one dollar," wouldn't you click?

    Well, no. Not as often as I should, anyway. There's no compelling reason for me to pay for any material I want, especially after I've already received the material, except moral obligation.

    The great thing with atom based economies was that the merchants had a monopoly on the manufacturing process. Consumers were incapable of reproducing the product at negligible or economical cost. I don't think this reader software really comes to grip with the problem, and I certainly don't think anyone really knows how, least of all Stallman who doesn't really need to care about making money in this environment.

    Anyway, the reader software reminds me of William Gibson's Agrippa which erased itself as you read it. At least in that case it was part of the art and not the business.

  • Many /.'s will get really excited about intellectual property protection of any sort being evil. But let's just think for a second...Currently, books can only be in one place at one time. But, with an e-book I can copy it and give it to my buddy, while still retaining a copy. Is this fair? I'm not sure. But, I do know that now me and my buddy can't be reading the same copy, with copy meaning a copy which was sold to us by the distributer, at the same time. That the same was required of e-books would be ok by me. In fact, it reminds me of the old Borland "This software is like a book..." license agreements. They made sense. But my worry is this... Could books move to a Microsoft style "You can't transfer this book to a friend" style of licensing?
  • I agree with RMS that "pay-per-play" licenses for books, etc. are a Bad Thing. However, RMS and most of the responders to him here implicitly assume that (If This Goes On) we will have no way of getting access to desirable content other than by going through a few mega-media companies who hold all their copyrights under "pay-per-play" terms. This is also, BTW, the view expressed by Jordan Pollack in another recent Slashdot thread.

    This seems to me a clearly fallacious assumption. The same sorts of new technologies that enable things like eBooks also enable content creators to do an end run around the mega-media companies if they want to. The availability of Internet publishing and the ability to print and bind a book on the spot in the bookstore, to name two, make it easier to "be your own publisher" and distribute your creations on whatever terms you choose. If you're publishing a book on your Website, for example, it shouldn't be any harder to set up "paper book-like license" terms than "pay-per-play" terms.

    For an example of nontraditional publishing taking advantage of new technologies right now, look at Pulpless.com [pulpless.com]. This is an "online-or-print" venture run by J. Neil Schulman that sells books in digital and paper editions. If enough content creators choose such means of distribution, the big publishers have no recourse: they cannot make money without the creators.

    So, if you're a content creator, and you don't want your works distributed under restrictive "pay-per-play" licenses, use (or start!) a publishing company that doesn't use such licenses. If you're a content creator and you agree with RMS, set up your works so that people can click to pay you a buck if they like 'em. (That's one good point RMS makes: micropayment technologies are a Good Thing that should be encouraged, because they expand the distribution options available to content creators).

    If you're a content consumer, and you don't like restrictive licenses, don't buy from publishing companies that use them. If you're a content creator and you *do* like restrictive licenses, it is your right to use them-- you, not the consumers, rightfully own the product of your mind. But don't be surprised if your sales languish because of negative consumer reaction to your licensing terms. That's how the free market works: people get what they want, as long as they're willing to put their money where their mouth is.

    Besides which, there's plenty of good stuff that is in the public domain and in libraries already. Nobody's going to be doomed to grow up an ignorant schlep if they don't want to, or have the means to, pay publishing companies every time they read a book.

    In sum, then, it seems to me that the fears raised on this topic constitute mostly FUD about new technologies combined with the usual groundless fears of "dominance by a few large corporations." We get enough of that nonsense from ignorant mainstream media people already; it's a shame to see it coming from geeks, who ought to know better.

  • by thomasd ( 3336 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @05:55AM (#1129780) Homepage
    RMS is just right about the `click here to send $1 to the author'. That sounds a fair price for a book (and, incidentally, substantially more than authors get for paperback fiction right now). The real requirement is some infrastrucure for making small payments, and also for allowing anyone who wants it to easily (and cheaply) set up the necessary infrastructure for recieving these payments.

    Sadly, I'm not sure that anyone with the clout to create a new type of financial service is really interested in doing this. Certainly, while microtransactions have been talked about for a while now, they seem more distant today than they did a couple of years back. Until they happen, e-commerce is going to be pretty much the exclusive preserve of the big guys.

  • by costas ( 38724 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @01:02PM (#1129781) Homepage
    Maybe I am being naive, here, but without copyright enforcement how could a GPL author *enforce* derivative works to be under the GPL?

    It seems to me that w/o copyright law, the effective use of any open-source software would allow BSD-like freedoms rather than GPL. I don't want to start the holy war again here; I may just be misunderstanding the GPL. I do think both licenses have their places and their uses...

    engineers never lie; we just approximate the truth.
  • by matticus ( 93537 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @06:23AM (#1129782) Homepage
    many authors have written on this type of problem in the past, but usually not about ebooks.
    my complaint is-it's hard enough to get people to read books right now as it is. why scare them off more?
    over spring break, i read nine books-including The Catcher in the Rye, Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five, and other classics such as this. When i went to the library to check these out, i saw a total of maybe five people there who were non-librarians. These people were using the Internet there. I walked through aisle after aisle of fiction, non-fiction, everything, without seeing a soul. this site is all too familiar. when i am at school, of course people are using the library. they study there. but why don't people read books anymore? The publishers need to realize that with all the other digital media present right now, restricting books in any way, shape, or form will not help them to make money. it will convince people that since they can waste their mind watching tv for free, but have to pay for books, that tv is the logical solution. trying to make books electronic is something i'm very interested in, and could help revive the classics. but charging people to read them and lend them out, and whatever else RMS is writing about is simply bad form. why must people try and take advantage of the internet in every way they can? i'm beginning to believe that commercialism could be bad for the internet. oh well, who am i.
  • I thought this was a funny type that might very well serve to characterize (demonize?) the current generation of e-books, etc.: Quoth the poster (emphasis added):
    When I study for school, I cannot take my computer to bed, even my laptop gets to
    awkware to hold above my head
    I believe the poster meant "too awkward", but I sort of like "awkware" for computerized tools that are simply too awkward for general use -- whose form ill-fits function.
  • by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @06:27AM (#1129784)
    RMS is a terrific programmer; I use his work every day, and am grateful for it.


    In this article RMS proposes that the Copyright laws should be abandoned because they interfere with his ability to copy the works of any author he pleases; he also proposes a sort of intellectual property shareware where the author is paid directly by the reader. How wonderfully naive.

    The fact of the matter is that copyrights are essential - for without them there would be no ownership of any creative works by the author. RMS's own GPL depends on the existance of copyright law.

    Digital media makes publishing (i.e. reproduction) of works easier - it puts the tools of the publisher in the hands of everyone. The legal reasons to protect the author from unlicensed reproduction are no different today than they were 100 years ago; the only difference is now that the tools to rip off the authors are more widely available.

    Publishers are afraid of the these tools and are working to develop ways to preserve their current business model. FOOLS. The fact of the matter is that the prime economic of the internet is the elimination of middle-men. Be it car dealers, real estate agents, travel agents or book publishers - their economic model is doomed no matter how they try to preserve it. What will rise in it's place are new far more efficient models of direct contact between the creator and the end user. Without copyright laws to protect the authors these newer and more efficient distribution channels will never arise, and authors will lose all incentive to create new works.

  • by briancarnell ( 94247 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @08:09AM (#1129785) Homepage
    "For some kinds of writing, we should go even further. For scholarly papers and monographs, everyone should be encouraged to republish them verbatim online; this helps protect the scholarly record while making it more accessible. For textbooks and most reference works, publication of modified versions should be allowed as well, since that encourages improvement."

    This is just ridiculous. Nobody's going to write very much worth reading if the second I write something it goes public domain. I had a commercial pornographic site rip off some of my scholarly articles and put them on their site. According to Stallman, this is just peachy and my emails to them to enforce my copyright were oppressive. What a load of bullshit.

    As an independent writer, the problem I see is that the large publishers are trying to get the sort of extreme copyright provisions which were clearly never the intent of copyright's original modest goals. So we have the Time-Warners and Disneys of the world saying "we own it and you can't even link to it without paying us royalties" and then you have the Stallmans and others of the world saying "lets just ditch intellectual property rights altogether."

    The solution, btw, is something along the lines of the GPL that provides the sort of protection writers needs without the nonsense that copyright law is becoming (I'm aware that some mechanisms like this already exist, but they are largely deficient).

    I regularly give people the right to republish the stuff I write on web sites, and could care less for the most part if they redistributed it on mailing lists, usenet, or whatever, but at the same time just granting anybody a blanket right to copy the stuff I write anywhere in any form is simply a bad idea.

    Ironically, the people Stallman's sort of proposal would help would be large corporations. Without copyright protection, writers would be in even poorer positions from large corporations who could simply republish materials and screw the writer (or artist). Sure I'm going to spend a lot of time on an scholarly paper only to have a Time-Warner subsidiary republish it in a collection without having to pay me a dime.

    When did Stallman become a corporate hack?
  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @06:09AM (#1129786) Homepage Journal
    Aaaargh!!! I just accidentally deleted a lengthy post on the need for Straw Man cases to bring to the public view what consumer rights are slowly being eroded by the passing of UCITA and DMCA type laws. Anyway I'll post the last paragraph of my original post.

    I recently read somewhere that Stephen King was shocked and dismayed when he found out that he could not read an eBook he wrote in it's final form because at the time there was no authorized reader for the Macintosh. What shocked and dismayed him was that even if it was possible for him to write or download a reader for himself, he could not because it was illegal (gotta love the DMCA). Unfortunately, before he could create any reasonable outcry/uproar a Mac reader for the eBook was released.

    I agree with RMS in his article when he states
    • Why is there so little public debate about these momentous changes? Most citizens have not yet had occasion to come to grips with the political issues raised by this futuristic technology. Besides, the public has been taught that copyright exists to "protect" the copyright holders, with the implication that the public's interests do not count.
      But when the public at large begins to use e-books, and discovers the regime that the publishers have prepared for them, they will begin to resist. Humanity will not accept this yoke forever.
      The publishers would have us believe that suppressive copyright is the only way to keep art alive, but we do not need a War on Copying to encourage a diversity of published works; as the Grateful Dead showed, private copying among fans is not necessarily a problem for artists. By legalizing the copying of e-books among friends, we can turn copyright back into the industrial regulation it once was.
    I will take it one step further and add this:
    Once software truly becomes ubiqitous, UCITA and DMCA will face so much negative pressure that they will be repealed or toned down the same way the Communications Decency Act faced negative pressure once a critical mass of people got online and encountered difficulties because of it.

  • by VasLor ( 160545 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @07:16AM (#1129787)
    Maybe, just maybe, technology has finally allowed the media/entertainment industry to do what they always wanted to do, and that is control all aspects of culture and how you use it. Follow my logic here.

    In today's entertainment world, culture is becoming defined by what we watch on TV, movies, books we read and the music we listen to. The exchange of ideas takes place easily over these mediums and popular thought is shaped by these corporations. When you can control the ideas of a civilization with the culture then you can derive unlimited income from them. Kids buy clothes pop stars wear, buy their music and watch their movies. We read the books on the New York times best seller lists and we buy the music we hear on radio stations that are owned by huge media corporations. We go to the concerts that are produced by the record labels. Essentially, our pop culture is produced, packaged and distributed and sold to us. We ingest it and come back for more. Like it or not, pop culture defines too many people's thoughts and ideas, so in effect, the media/entertainment industry owns culture and therefore owns our ideas.

    Now comes the internet and a way to disseminate information anonymously and without cost. It is a boon for the free thinkers in the world who were beginning to become scarce. We can now exchange ideas without worrying about license fees and become famous without selling our souls and living rights to a mega corporation. The internet seems to threaten these very same media types' very existance. They can't control everyone and in this world, there are plenty of talented musicians, writers and artists that are not published for one reason or another who are more talented than the tripe they sell us in conventional avenues. Take MP3.com. I listen to music from there all the time and love it. I especially love it because the music is great and I would never have heard their music before without the site. A writer who has written an incredible work of fiction can now get world wide exposure and popularity over the net. From there they can enter the mainstream world of publishing. There are plenty of ways to make money under this business model. Just look at Linux. The point is, the net, and computers for that matter, appear to have become the magic genie in a bottle that breaks the strangle hold over the current businees model, which seeks to line the pockets of these greedy corporations and allow them to own everyone's creativity for their own purposes. It has been proven time and time again that the music industry would control every aspect of your music listening enjoyment if they could. Historically they have fought every type of recording, playing on unauthorized decks, and fair use. Luckily, the courts have told them you can't own a person's right to fair use. But what if this new digital age has played right into their hands?

    With computers, they can now strictly determine how and when and where you enjoy their "art". They can control how much, what reader you use and who is enjoying it. They would have it so that you can't even loan your music out. Remember DIVX? You couldn't even share movies or play them on another person's DIVX player. And you had to keep purchasing more playing time. It was one of the first tests of this new trend. We are heading down a road where you can download a book or album and listen to it at your convenience, provided you use their player or reader, and you don't give it to anyone under ANY circumstances whatsoever. How many times has someone loaned you a good book, you read the book, and promptly went out and bought that author's other works? That will be gone forever if they had their way. Remember, they want you to enjoy their product on their terms, not yours. And they can do it now, with computers. When in the past they were frustrated with thir inability to completely control their product, now they see a way in which to do. And that brings me to the privacy issue.

    On the internet, information is gold. Demographics. Tracking. Spending habits. AOL has made a fortune on selling user profiles. Equifax until recently sold your credit report to any company wishing to target consumers more efficiently. DoubleClick is poised to become the king daddy of all privacy violators if they are not already there. The fact is, my spending habits are gold to these people, another revenue source for them to exploit. Ebooks and downloadable music are just another way to gather more information so that they can sell it. And your privacy goes out the window. And don't delude yourself into thinking that privacy is not at stake here. Remember, these are people who actually say "We are customizing our service so that your shopping experience will be easier and more enjoyable. We are doing this for you because you asked for it." We didn't. I didn't ask for my every movement and purchase to be tracked so that it can sold to who ever has a large expense account. If you walked into a Blockbuster video and they suggested a movie you might want to see based on preferences, you might ask them why do you think I would want to see it. They then proceed to tell you all the things you have watched and bought all week long and every video store and bookstore and department store you visited. You would feel violated. That is what is happening on the web right now. Who needs Big brother when free enterprise can watch over you for them?

    My suggestion, fight them. Don't use ebooks. Don't use downloadable music with a purchasing scheme. Use Gnutella instead of Napster (distributed and open source instead of central and closed. Read their company profile and who is funding them and see what road they are heading down.) Don't use any form of entertainment that helps fulfill their dream of total culture domination, because once all of culture is controlled like a product, then all is lost. Fight them anyway you can. Look at DIVX, which is a perfect example I mentioned earlier. They were tracking people's viewing habits so that they could target ads, and they were trying to lock you into being able to watch their movies on only approved machines with a purchasing model that assured a constant revenue if you wanted to watch the same thing again. Without these contraints, they has no business model. There was no choice in their scenario and it failed miserably. Why? We fought back. We put up web pages. We encouraged all not to buy one and convinced them it was wrong to buy the product. And we won. We can fight back.

  • Wow, here we go around the "rms is a communist" maypole again. Karzan tells rms to "shut up" instead of actually debating his points, and finally ends with some demogogary about us all working in coal mines. Riiiigggghhhhht. Next time you want to call rms a communist, why don't you read what he has to say on the issue [gnu.org] and debate those specific points instead of flat out accusing him of being a communist. Oh, and calling people who disagree with your views on intellectual property law "anti-intellectual-property cronies" pretty much rules out informed and reasoned debate. IMO this post doesn't deserve a single moderation up... but today I'm no moderator.

    So, let's deal with your assertions:
    Ok, first of all, eBooks are NOT going to replace real books; people like paper books. Books are static information, and people like to have an object associated with that information, something with a smell and a feel that reminds them of the last time they read it, etc. I'm sure this has all been said before anyway.
    What a ridiculous assumption. Paper is expensive to manufacture and dangerous to the environment, especially considering how much of it we throw into landfills after a single use (never mind the toxic waste released during manufacture). The limit to electronic print distribution is the initial cost of a reader plus the limited display technology of current readers on the market. Don't expect a Palm III to become the standard for electronic newspapers. But new display technology coming down the road makes your point moot:
    • Xerox PARC's Electronic Paper [xerox.com] This technology takes two plastic sheets and immerses tiny beads, one side coated black the other white, inside a wax-like substrait sandwiched between the two sheets. With a small electric current any arbitrary ball twists in the substrait and thus changes it's color. This technology should allow for a flexible 8 1/2 x 11" sheet which can represent at least 300dpi... easily good enough for an electronic newspaper or book.
    • Then there's AT&T's eink [eink.com], another technology which promises similar display capabilities.
    Based on what I've read these two technologies aren't the only up and coming new display systems for electronic printing, but they do appear the most promising. They should be cheap to manufacture, they're flexible, and they provide reasonable display resolution for the task at hand: reading. If you could buy a re-usable reader like this for twenty, fifty, or even a hundred dollars why would you ever want to buy a printed paperback book, magazine, or newspaper?

    Regarding rms's opinions on Copyright law... did you read the article he wrote? Did he say that all copyright law should be abolished? Did he say that all capitalism should be abolished? Did he suggest we would be better off working in Coal mines because that's real work? I sure didn't see anything like that in what he wrote.

    Personally, given the DMCA and subsection 1201(a)(1) I'm seriously concerned that we're heading toward a society where even basic "fair use" rights for libraries, citizens conducting scholarly research, and the right to read an item multiple times are in serious jeopardy. Given the technical restrictions imposed by 1201(a)(1), a publisher could limit a reader to a specific city (just stick a GPS chip in that ebook reader), a specific user (just stick a fingerprint or retina scanner on the reader), and even have the publication wipe itself out upon first reading. As others (and myself in a previous post in this thread) point out, this could herald a real Orwellian world in which newspapers and publications could rewrite history after the fact; destroying the public historical record. And what happens if libraries, and their users, aren't exempt from paying a license fee for each access of an electronic publication?

    And finally, where did Adam Smith ever claim that Capitalism depended on intellectual property law? That's a pretty ridiculous claim on the surface.
  • The great thing with atom based economies was that the merchants had a monopoly on the manufacturing process. Consumers were incapable of reproducing the product at negligible or economical cost. I don't think this reader software really comes to grip with the problem, and I certainly don't think anyone really knows how, least of all Stallman who doesn't really need to care about making money in this environment.

    First of all I want to say that fundamentally I disagree with your final point, but that I find this an insightful and well written comment. I'll repeat what I understand of your point so that we can find common ground upon which to debate:
    • The medium is not the information -- when information is tied to a physical medium it's possible to control copying the information by restricting access to manufacturing the medium.
    • By monopolizing the manufacturing process for mass distribution of any arbitrary information, a manufacturer (in this case publisher) could make money exploiting the considerable capitol expense of "tooling up." IOW: printing presses weren't cheap so for end users it made more sense just to pay for the service of mass printing.
    • This created a natural economic cycle of publisher producing a product and service for consumers which electronic copying breaks, because to copy electronically requires almost no capital expense (don't need to buy no expensive printing press).
    • Therefore, publishers need some form of legal regulation which limits copying and allows imposing some form of "per-use" fees so that publishers and artists can earn a living, or the economic incentive to create new works will dissipate -- along with said artistic expression.
    Are we on the same wavelength here?

    OK, so here's where I disagree given the DMCA that's currently our law:

    While I think it's reasonable for publishers to require a fee for multiple use, the DMCA goes way too far. For example, I can accept that when I purchase an ebook I should have to pay twice if I want to display that ebook on two display devices at once; just like I should have to pay twice to run a program on two separate computers at once (or two separate instances of a program). Though I argue that an exception should be made for libraries -- readers who enter a library should have access to all the materials therein without the requirement for paying copying fees. But the DMCA, and specifically section 1201(a)(1) of the DMCA provides for Draconian copy protectionschemes. For example it would be possible to electronically limit a newspaper (eventhough there's an exception for newspapers in the DMCA the newspaper lobby is working hard to remove these exceptions; here's their reply comment [loc.gov] to the US Copyright office regarding the DMCA and section 1201(a)(1) to this effect.) like so:

    • Wrap the newsprint in an encryption copy protection scheme in order to enact the 1201(a)(1) DMCA Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for access control technologies.
    • Now enact all sorts of draconian limits on per-use of copyrighted work through technical limitations in the electronic newsprint reader, such as: Install a GPS chip in the reader and limit reading the news paper to a single city, make it illegal to pass the reader to another person (use biometrics such as fingerprint on reader, retina scans, whatever or even legally prevent (though unenforceable) someone else reading over your shoulder.

    This could have the chilling effect of destroying the history of newsprint -- creating just what Orwell prognosticated in 1984 with newspapers that were edited for "truthfullness" after the fact -- and no one could either legally stop, or even track such changes to the historical record.

    The way 1201(a)(1) in the DMCA is worded could very possibly kill off libraries in this country if we go all electronic in the publishing industry. This is far more serious than just the DeCSS and Matel (CyberPatrol) cases, though they threaten to set legal precedent which could harm citizens liberties dramatically in the near future.

    I think what most people are reacting to here is not that these companies want to earn money selling artistic works... fine by me. But that they plan on implementing a monopoly on distribution which could very well effect the rights of individuals to distribute their own copyrighted works. Just look at UCI TA [infoworld.com] (Infoworld article) and how the provisions in these state bills (and at least one law -- Virginia) derail basic "Fair Use" for legal reverse engineering, copying for archival, and even allow for remote disabling software on demand by publishers... this is not democratic, nor does it even meet the basic guidelines of original Copyright intent. What people fear is that big business, along with our congress critters, are getting together to forge new laws which will greatly undermine our basic civil liberties WRT information flow and copyright. They've shown themselves quite willing to trample all over our basic human rights set forth in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (War on Drugs -- government stealing property without due process, spraying protesters willy nilly with chemical pepper spray and limiting their right to hold signs of protest in Seattle, police killing innocent unarmed citizens and then releasing confidential juvenile records in defense, using electronic surveillance technologies to spy on the world for private corporate gain, illegally funding the Contra war in direct violation of congress... the list goes on and on). So citizens are rightly fearful of what kind of authority might be handed over to monopoly content distributors over the next several years.

    I really DO fear the possibility of these outcomes. This is NOT grand conspiracy theory; it's reasonable prediction based on past events. When ya'll figure out it's the grays, those bug eyed alien fiends behind all this -- well then we can start arguing about grand conspiracies. :-)

  • by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @06:14AM (#1129790) Homepage Journal
    I've long thought that what we need in software is a return to the old "like a book" licensing schemes that companies like Borland and others used to use. Allow any sort of copying as long as the user guarantees that two people never use the work at the same time.

    Obviously this would be just as ideal here.

    I also think that a huge part of the problem is that these companies are hellbent to drive out every little abuse, by both technical and legal means. This is counterproductive. Most people are basically honest. If you just tell them, ("treat this like a book") most of them will. They'll follow a reasonable license agreement.

    Some won't, of course, but I suspect that the money spent to catch them, or to implement technical solutions to prevent it far outweighs the extra money made in sales were you able to perfectly prevent it. Yes, millions of teenagers copy crap around, but the truth is, those teenagers likely wouldn't have bought anything (or much at least) had they been prevented.

  • by dsplat ( 73054 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @06:55AM (#1129791)
    Simson Garfinkel [simson.net], author of Database Nation [slashdot.org] among numerous other books, write an article [simson.net] for the Boston Globe nearly two years ago. His warning in that article was remarkable considering what happened with DeCCS [slashdot.org]. For those of you inclined to view RMS as an alarmist, read Garfinkel's article and consider the fact that he got it right.
  • by dsplat ( 73054 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @05:51AM (#1129792)
    RMS also wrote a dystopian story story Right To Read [gnu.org] which was supposed to depict a worst-case scenario. It is a quick read. Take a look and consider the question it indirectly poses: How do we retain the freedoms we love?

The relative importance of files depends on their cost in terms of the human effort needed to regenerate them. -- T.A. Dolotta