The eBook Users' Bill of Rights

This one is via Christina Pikas, Bobbi Newman and Sarah-Houghton-Jan, who originated it.

It's released under a CC0 license, so please feel free to repost, remix and whatever else strikes your fancy.

This arises from the current controversy in the library world (and beyond) about a particular publisher restricting the number of checkouts a library ebook can have before the library needs to pay for it again. Bobbi Newman collects a lot of relevant posts here if you're interested. I may post about the situation in more detail later this week.

The eBook Users Bill of Rights:

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

Houghton-Jan further comments:

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks. I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users' rights.

These rights are yours. Now it is your turn to take a stand. To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others. Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

Amen to that!

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This should be generalized into a Digital Customer's Bill of Rights. We have long needed one to counter e.g. the DMCA.

Publishers are shooting themselves in the foot on this issue. As well as alienating a lot of the potential market with idiotic proprietary formats and frustrating DRM schemes. I do wish that more publishers would follow the example of Baen Books with their no DRM multiformat approach to epublishing.

By William Dix (not verified) on 01 Mar 2011 #permalink

Yeah, I hear ya. The problem is that the book publishing industry fears napsterization. And with good reason. This is a all just a rear guard action in the losing battle to directly monetize digital content.

That kind of monetization grows out of scarcity and the last time I checked there was not scarcity of text to read online.

The scarcity is of *good* text, of course, particularly fiction, and I guess the publishers need to find a way to insert themselves into the equation by convincing people that filtering the wheat from the chaff is worth paying for.

Libraries, by potentially blowing up the scarcity of digital content by mutualizing community resources to share purchased or licensed digital content, I think are seen as a direct threat. Publishers need to find a way to cut libraries and their "dangerous" missions out of the picture entirely.

Of course, the situation in academia is somewhat different and the sources of scarcity are different but a lot of the same kinds of forces are at work.