Monday, November 11, 2013

Should eBooks Be Resold Like Used Paper Books?

The Department of Commerce is asking for comments about Digital First Sale and the possible changes to copyright law that would allow an ebook to be resold.  

If you’d like to comment, hurry because the deadline is November 13th.

Here’s my letter.

The biggest problem with the resale of “used” e-books is e-book piracy.  Some think that cheaper books mean less reason to pirate books and that’s true to a certain extent, but used e-books also mean that authors and publishers will no longer be able to prove that an online copy has been stolen.

Right now, publishers and authors license their books to specific resellers/distributors like Amazon Kindle, B&N’s Nook, and Smashwords.  If a book is available at any other site, the publisher and author know instantly that that book is pirated, and they help the authorities take these sites down.  

These sites are fairly common, and some look like legitimate book-selling sites so the consumer is no wiser that they are buying stolen books.  Some of these sites actually sell the books, others are scams which steal credit card information and install viruses on the victim’s computer.  

If e-books are sold used, the scam sites will be able to fly under the legal radar.

Pirate sites will claim that their books are being given away for free by legal owners so they can continue their dispersal of illegal copies.  

If e-books are sold used and a site or individual can sell thousands of copies of the same ebook by saying that they are selling one used, there will be no way for the author/publisher to prove this.  This will essentially make book theft a crime that can’t be punished.

Even readers who want to do the right things by buying legally won’t be able to tell who is a legitimate reseller and who isn’t.  

Readers looking for bargains will buy illegal books instead of legal ones, the profit margin for authors and publishers which is small now will plummet to the point that publishing will no longer be profitable for anyone, and those who make the money will have done nothing to create books.  

Allowing the sale of used e-books will destroy all value to copyright.

Marilynn Byerly, Author

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