Your Libri On Paper, iPad or Calibre

Linford an Christie

Libri, in Latin, means books.  You own a few of those libri, don’t you? Some of them might be on paper, others – uploaded to one or another (or several) of electronic devices you own. You are a rightful owner of the devise (or several devises). You either purchased it or it was gifted to you. You might’ve found it in a dark alley on a moonless night and assumed ownership.

Ownership is defined as (1) The state or fact of being an owner and (2) Legal right to the possession of a thing.

You own the books on you bookshelves. You might’ve inherited a number of them from someone in your family. You can give them as gift, give them away, sell them – do what you like… Or does the publisher retain certain rights to how you might resell the work?

 A young man, Kirtsaeng is his name, came to the USA to study at Cornell and U.S.C. from Thailand. He quickly realized that textbooks in the United States are three to four times more expensive than in his native country. He asked his parents to purchase textbooks in Thailand and ship them to the United States where the entrepreneurial Mr.Kirtsaeng  resold them. Must’ve been a truckload of books, for his net profit was a cool $100,000.

John Wiley& Sons, the textbook publisher, wasn’t amused and sued young Mr. Kirtsaeng for copyright infringement as soon as it learned about his activities.  The district court found for Wiley and imposed statutory damages of $600,000. The case of Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. has been filed with U.S. Supreme Court.

Matt Novak, writing for the Pacific Standard has this to say:

Kirtsaeng is hanging his hat on what’s known as the first sale doctrine, first recognized in 1908 and then established in Section 109 of the Copyright Act, which limits the rights of publishers to control their work after it’s been sold to a consumer.

Essentially, once you buy a CD or a book or any other work in a fixed medium that’s protected under copyright law you’re free to sell that work without having to ask the copyright holder for permission or give them any form of compensation.

The issue of copyright is even murkier and more complicated with electronic books and media. DRM  (digital rights management) code restricts how the legally purchased media can be used and shared. Unlike a DVD of those TV shows that could physically change hands, there’s no easy way to lend, borrow or inherit the legally purchased media, say, on iTunes.

Who Owns the Books You Read? Good question, and hyper-linked at that.  Let those who are in the know, or think they are, enlighten us. It would be interesting to learn the outcome of the Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. case it’ll definitely change and/or clarify the way things stand with copyright laws and their reinforcement today; the hearing started in October 2012.

It’s difficult to summon any measure of either wit or snark when discussing this subject.

Re-visit my Smile page for some stale jokes and cartoons and some new ones I added. 5 minutes of silly laughter has the same health benefit as a jar of sour cream. If you are on a diet and sour cream is a no-no, then don’t laugh, just stare it down. Ingest a teaspoon of diluted apple cider vinegar instead, and try to smile… enigmatically.


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