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Jane at Dear Author posted about some sort of harebrained idea by some novelists to expand the reach of copyright law to the sale of used print books.

NINC on the sale of used books:

Used book sales, particularly sales of used books through the Internet, have a significant negative effect on the income of publishers and, therefore, authors, as there is no remuneration to them for any sales of used books.

Ninc recommends that commercial used-book sellers be required to pay to publishers a “Secondary Sale” fee upon the reselling of any book within two years of its original publication date. A percentage of these fees would then transfer to authors in accordance with contractual agreements between authors and publishers, thereby reinforcing the Founders’ intent, as stated in Article I of the Constitution, to protect authors’ exclusive right to benefit from their work.

Oh really?

Many of the comments over there expressed my bewilderment over such a preposterous idea, but then there was this gem by Misi:

Well, one day there will only be e-books and all you’ll get is a license to read, not ownership, just a lot of software is now. You can’t even resell the disc (legally) under those terms. Well, you can sell the discs, but only if you delete the content.

The current copyright law is outdated. Again, used bookstores aren’t the problem. It’s the online places that have changed the situation. The law should be changed to.

I’m almost speechless here.

I mean, my mind is just a jumble of extrapolations. I guess we could say that at some point only the person who actually paid for the book should be able to read it, and that any other person reading the same physical book should pay royalties to the author for the privilege.

I ask again, what the fuck?

19 Comments »


  • Karmyn
    December 28
    11:37 am

    As someone who gets most of my books at a used book store or via paperbackswap.com, this would be bad news. A lot of times, I get the book after it has been out for a bit or something from an author’s backlist. I’ve gotten some hard to find books that way.
    How would one get royalties on a book sold for $.60 anyway? How do you calculate that?

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  • Sparky
    December 28
    12:30 pm

    This is insane…

    I gave my brother my old three piece suite recently – does that mean that I have a significant negative effect on furniture sales? We can buy just about anything second hand – cars, furniture, books – about the only industries safe from second hand sales are the food and phramaceuticals industries!

    What makes books and publishers so special that they should be exempted from not just a common practice but a UNIVERSAL practice? Yes, software has stepped outside the mark on this – but even they are (supposedly) moving to stop COPYING of their work rather than resale.

    Arguing that only the person who bought the book has the right to read it and not transfer it is as daft as saying (or expecting) only me to have the right to plant my backside in my sofa and never to be able to transfer it

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  • joanne
    December 28
    3:59 pm

    Should Hyundai or GM get a cut when I sell my cars?

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  • I think that would pretty much knock all used book sellers out of business. Which is the point, I guess. We should send all those books we have no desire to keep to LANDFILLS where they belong, eh? Anyone who wants to go dumpster diving for our literary trash needs to pay a fee first 🙂

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  • http://www.ninc.com/writers_resources/used_book_sales.asp

    This is the link to the position paper in full.

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  • What would happen to charity resale shops? Or library used-book sales? I buy bags full of books, literally, at these places.

    Guess it’s better not to introduce readers to authors who are new to them or to encourage reading in general. As Jody said, it’s far more important to add more paper products to our already brimming landfill sites.

    WTF indeed.

    Sheesh.

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  • What would happen to charity resale shops? Or library used-book sales? I buy bags full of books, literally, at these places.

    To be fair, they want this applied to books published within the last two years. Most books I’ve bought used from libraries are a lot older than that.

    Their point about ISBN numbers is valid, too.

    That doesn’t mean this isn’t largely unworkable, though…

    They might be better to prohibit new bookstores to sell used books side by side with their new counterparts–if Amazon kept its used titles in a separate section, for instance.

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  • I would offer my gut reaction to this proposal, but I don’t like using profanity around ladies. I will say if such actions were to go into effect, it won’t be long till we see the rise of the Secondary Sale Mafia. You can just see ’em now, making the rounds to shake down in-debt book readers at church bazaars, flea markets, hospitals, orphanages and old age homes.

    What idiots.

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  • Anne Brighton
    December 28
    7:11 pm

    In a time when ebook authors are having to struggle to make money because pirates are stealing their work, uploading copies to torrents left and right, illegally copying and giving them away or trying to sell them on Ebay, here comes some idiot to muddy the waters!

    I know for a fact that author Charleen Boyette-Campo has founded a Yahoo list for authors and publishers and editors who take the situation of ebook piracy seriously and are trying to find a way to curtail if not stop it. This silliness about used print books makes the efforts of those being hurt by piracy all the more brutal. How utterly stupid!

    We should support the authors in their bid to stop pirates from stealing their work but we sure as hell don’t need some idiot coming up with a scatterbrained idea that doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of being passed.

    If you want to help the eauthors, go to Charleen’s website at http://www.iwofa.net and see what you can do instead.

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  • Marianne McA
    December 28
    7:25 pm

    I’m not sure that Misi doesn’t have a point.

    Surely copyright in it’s current form is one of the consequences of inventing the printing press? And, if that were true, and if e-words overtake printed words as the primary medium of communication, why should we assume that the model of payment that worked in the age of print will be the best for the digital age?

    Say it became possible to track every story read, and recompense the author that way – why couldn’t it work? Instead of paying £7.99 for a new book I download it for – guessing, of course – 25p, and for that, I can read it once. After that every time I read it, I pay another… say 12p. (My imaginary e-reader is doing this automatically in some hi-tech way.)
    So no book is too expensive – letting people read more – but books that are reread and reread – The Very Hungry Caterpillar – can earn large amounts for their author. And if books are very cheap, there’s less incentive for piracy.
    And yes, no second hand books, no right to resale, but if books never went OOP and only cost a tiny amount new, who would lose out?

    Used book sellers admittedly would. But any advance in technology renders some jobs obsolete – that has always happened.

    I know there’ll be faults in that model – I’m not suggesting it would work as is. But as a thought experiment: I wouldn’t have any problems paying royalties to an author incrementally, by paying a tiny amount every time I read their book, rather than in one lump sum on first purchase.

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  • I haven’t read up on Ninc’s stand on this, mostly because I know what it’s like to be broke and needing books.

    I do wish that Amazon would stop their method of selling used books right there on the new book’s page. it wouldn’t be that fricking hard for them to set a ‘used’ bookstore.

    I’m definitely more worried about the pirating of books, both ebook and print, especially since I just tabled one series and I’ve made other decisions regarding what I’m doing for my ebook publishers starting in 2009.

    BUT…I do know that whatever Ninc has planned isn’t something that’s never been done-down in Australia (I think) authors do get some percentage of used books sold and books in circulation via library systems.

    Regardless of what Ninc’s stand is and why, I can’t support something that’s going to hit the book industry in a bad way-the book industry is already on shaky ground. I worry that the changes they want could impact those who sell our books. I don’t want that.

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  • Keri Arthur
    December 28
    8:13 pm

    Shiloh said: BUT…I do know that whatever Ninc has planned isn’t something that’s never been done-down in Australia (I think) authors do get some percentage of used books sold and books in circulation via library systems.

    Here in Australia, the government compensates us for books borrowed from libraries, but not for second hand books. I really don’t see how second hand sales could be monitored–there’s just too many avenues for reselling.

    I do wish Amazon wouldn’t resell books on the very same page as new books though.

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  • joanne
    December 28
    11:31 pm

    Why should printed books be treated differently from any other commodity? Should we pay a painter or sculptor every time we view their work? What about the sale of used DVD’s and CD’s? Should the library or bookstore pay whenever they read aloud for children’s storytime? Surely the lowliest kitchen gadget, automobile, major appliance, article of clothing, or any other patented or copyrighted item came from the imagination, ingenuity, and hard work of an inventor, artist, or designer originally. They make back their investment on the original sale. What happens after that doesn’t really concern them. How would that work for swapping websites like PaperBackSwap?

    It’s not as if reselling old books is somehow a new phenomenon. I’m sure people have been reselling used books since Gutenberg. The only thing that’s changed is the internet. Last time I was at Borders, it was jam-packed, so it’s not like people aren’t buying new print books. This whole thing sounds silly and greedy. Way to turn off the book buying public!

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  • Piracy as it stands is about making two where one existed before. At least it does in books.
    So if you photocopy a paperback and give it away, you’re guilty of piracy. If you copy an ebook and give it away, then you’re pirating.
    Not strictly true in the letter of the law, but I’m happy with that rule as it stands. It works. There’s also “fair use,” which allows you to backup your books. I’m not sure how the law stands on that, but I’m not risking losing all my books in a hard drive crash.

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  • one day there will only be e-books and all you’ll get is a license to read, not ownership

    I don’t think point is invalid. At the moment, there’s no legal way to resell ebooks, so for all intents and purposes, what we buy is a license rather than outright ownership.

    Like Marianne McA, I think the subscription model is worth trying, whether royalties are paid upfront when a book is added to a subscription service, or taken out every time the book is read, or paid yearly when the subscription service opts to keep the book in its catalogue. Sort of like a virtual library, or a DVD rental company (do they pay royalties?). Currently, my university library subscribes to databases that store back issues of academic journals. Maybe something similar could be done for books?

    Also, I haven’t seen it yet to judge how well it’s working (because it’s in another state), but one of our bookstores has a print-on-demand service for books. So if you couple this with a subscription service, it gives everyone the best of both worlds (print option, and cheaper overall cost per book via subscription, with decreased risk for publishers).

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  • Dorothy Mantooth
    December 29
    11:51 am

    Ditto what Anne Brighton said. If we stopped ebook piracy, publishing on the whole would be in much better shape. Remember it’s not just ebooks that are pirated; new harcovers and ppbs are scanned and online within hours of sale. It’s time for the industry and for the government–in the form of law enforcement–to get involved.

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  • Let me start at the beginning and work through…which means this might be a little long.

    The idea of royalties for library lends of print books is a European one, as Keri mentioned. Sorry, Sparky…it is much more common, worldwide, for authors to get these royalties than not; it’s just not common in the US. They already have the system overseas for libraries, and some people wish the US did, as well. I suspect they don’t realize the problems inherent in taking it to used books. I can pass on that whole system (libraries and USBs, as well), as an author, believe it or not. It would be a nightmare to change over, and I have bigger fish to fry.

    Misi is not entirely right, IMO. I don’t think the print book will ever disappear. I’ll skip all my reasons why, but I have my reasons for it. e-Books aren’t about destroying the print market. They are about choices for readers.

    HOWEVER, she is right about how the copyright laws apply to e-books. In addition, DRM brings the Millennium Act into play. e-Books ARE licensed software, though they are book software. For more information, try these links…
    http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=3151
    http://brennalyonsden.blogspot.com/2008/12/how-pirates-hurt-writers.html (complete with links to a few other articles)
    http://jude-mason.blogspot.com/2008/12/e-piracy-what-it-is-and-how-it-hurts-us.html

    Sorry again, Sparky. Stopping the copying of IP (intellectual property) materials has been illegal under simple copyright for well over a century. The USB issue has nothing to do with copying anything. That’s why it’s an expansion of rights…one that I will note again I’m not for, at this stage of the game.

    Anne! You have your head on straight. Thank you for mentioning the efforts to curtail piracy. I should also mention that print authors are not immune to this, since OCR scanners are being used to pirate print-only books as e-books. I’m sure Charlotte/Charlee will be ecstatic that you’ve noticed what we’re trying to do.

    Joanne, I actually cover how the sale of used DVDs and CDs differs from the sale of used e-books in my articles. It does differ, even if the e-book started out on a disc, but you are right that there is no more problem with selling a used DVD than selling a used print book…and shouldn’t be.

    Brenna

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  • Moira Luz
    December 29
    3:18 pm

    I was going to correct Charlee’s name, too, Brenna. It’s Charlotte Boyett-Compo. She’s a legendary ebook author, a brilliant writer and I know this because I was one of her editors back in the day. She’s always been involved in helping her fellow authors so it doesn’t surprise me she started a group to help slow piracy.

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  • While I am not personally in support I would note that similar laws have been proposed for other creative professionals–for example visial artists. Sometimes a painter will sell a work for a few hundred dollars and speculators end up reselling it for millions. Then there are cases like Bettie Page who got a few dollars for her work at a flat rate–the photographer went on to get rich off it, literally–never paying her an extra dime.

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