Richard Stallman on e-books and the restrictions they don’t share with traditional books:
I love the novel The Jehovah Contract, and I’d like everyone else to love it, too. I have lent it out at least six times over the years. Printed books let us do that. I couldn’t do it with most commercial ebooks; it’s not allowed.
And that’s not the only issue.
Many other habits that readers are accustomed to are not allowed for ebooks. With the Amazon Kindle, for instance, you’re not allowed to buy a book anonymously. Kindle books are typically available from Amazon only, and Amazon doesn’t accept cash so users must identify themselves.
And anyone wondering why that might be an issue, well, look no further:
In a country like Britain, where you can be detained for downloading a forbidden book, this is more than potentially Orwellian.
He’s referring, it seems, to the infamous trial of Ahmad Faraz.
Any one of these encroachments on our freedom is reason aplenty to say no. If these policies were limited to Amazon, we’d bypass them, but the other e-book dealers’ policies are roughly similar.
Then bypass them altogether by…sticking to old-fashioned books.
The reason publishers give for their restrictive e-book practices is to stop people from sharing copies. They say this is for the sake of the authors; but even if it did serve the authors’ interests (which for quite famous authors it may), it could not justify DRM, EULAs or the Digital Economy Act which persecutes readers for sharing.
I do like the way the evidence that it may suit famous authors is just dismissed. Who cares about them, eh, Richard?
In practice, the copyright system does a bad job of supporting authors, aside from the most popular ones. Other authors principal interest is to be better known, so sharing their work benefits them as well as readers. Why not switch to a system that does the job better and is compatible with sharing?
Because the biggest hurdle is who is going to pay for it and build it and get everyone signed up to it?
But Richard has a cunning plan:
A tax on memory and internet connectivity, along the general lines of what most EU countries do, could be used to do this.
Whoa! Step away from the bong, there, hippie!
A tax on memory and internet connectivity would hit everyone who uses a computer. Not just e-book readers!
Why should the chap down the road, who uses his PC to shop at Tesco online and Facebook with his kids in Australia, pay an extra supplement so that I can download the latest Stephen King?
And that’s not his only crazy idea:
To support them well, two points are crucial: the money should be divided among all authors and we mustn’t let companies take any of it from them; and the distribution of money should be based on a sliding scale, not in linear proportion to the book’s popularity. I suggest using the cube root of each author’s popularity. If A is eight times as popular as B, A gets twice B’s amount (not eight times B’s amount). This would have the effect of supporting fairly successful non-stars much better than they are supported now.
Well, that’s all very egalitarian of you, but do you really think the top selling authors are going to go for that? Because I damn sure wouldn’t!
Sharing is good, and with digital technology, sharing is easy. So sharing must be legal.
Well, push for that by all means, but you’ll find a lot of resistance until you start making your ideas a bit less socialist, and a bit more sensible.