sue watling

What rights do you have when you own a book? Daniel Reetz has built his own book scanning device (Wired) and comments show how other people routinely make digital copies. Does ownership give you the right to do this? Is there a difference if you’ve borrowed a book from a library, or a friend or found it on the train Bookcrossing style  It’s clear I need to get my head around the law on digital copyright; like using Refworks, or accessing the electronic journal database, it’s not one of my strongest points so any suggestions of where to start will be most welcome.

What I am clear about is that those who have control over access to information have power but it’s those who have the least power in society who seem to be most affected and have the quietest voice. As a result we hear less about the text discrimination they suffer on a daily basis and most about corporation fears regarding revenue losses. The Association of American Publishers (AAP) want the blind to pay for any additional means of access and the US Authors Guild argue that a speaking e-reader counts as an ‘unauthorized public performance’ so should be banned. Amazon are no better; offering authors the option of disabling Kindle’s read-aloud function and I’m totally unimpressed by them saying they will soon produce ‘a blind-accessible Kindle’ – why haven’t they done so already!

Google are going to  pay $125 million to resolve claims by authors and publishers of Google-scanned books and will pay legal fees, as well as create a Book Rights Registry where copyright holders can register works to get a cut of Internet advertising revenue and online book sales. Why can’t Google simply pay what it takes to ensure virtual text can be listened to as well as seen? Why can’t Amazon put the needs of the visually impaired first instead of last? Why can’t there be some joined up thinking on access to digital data to end the current discrimination?

Yes, this is procrastination as the assignment is still largely undone, but it needs to be said and we all need to take responsibility for adding our voices to raise awareness of these issues.



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