As of writing (16:00 JST on Wednesday 18th January 2012) Wikipedia is blacked out apart from one page:
This is in protest at two bills currently being debated in the US Congress (PIPA in the House and SOPA in the Senate). These bills are being rushed through at quite a fast track in congress because they are bi-partisan (meaning: the big businesses who drafted the bills, and are corruptly paying congress-critters in campaign donations for their support, have bought peple in both parties).
In early January there was a movement by some opposed to this bill asking various large Internet organisations to black out in January in a coordinated effort to oppose these bills and raise public awareness about them. Most of the major service providers such as Google can’t really afford a day’s blackout. As Wikipedia is a non-profit and doesn’t make money per eyeball it was one of the few high profile sites to be able and willing to take this step.
There are more details from the EFF about these proposals.
On The Register recently there was an interesting article about ebooks and how the book publishing industry seem to be following the music and movie industry down the same path of woe by trying to screw their customers in the move to digital distribution. Leaving aside the actual proportion of costs which the physical printing, distribution and returns of overstock entail, the idea that the digital edition costs MORE than the print edition really is utterly stupid. Modern publishing uses internal digital formats for the files which are then passed to the printer for physical printing. Getting this into the digital distribution medium is trivial one time programming exercise. While I would be willing to accept that the digital price difference should only be small, the fact that new ebooks are selling at higher prices than the hardcover is just stupid.
Anyway, that’s all covered in the article. In the comments the author discusses the issue of the public lending library with some of the commenters. That’s what prompted this post, actually, which is thinking how it might be possible to run a public lending library with ebooks. The whole point of a public lending library is that the library buys the book once (depending on where you are they then pay a royalty fee for usage, or not) and lots of local people get to read it. There was always an issue raised by music publishers about LPs and later CDs being available this way since people were clearly borrowing things from their library and copying them, first onto tape then onto CDRs then into digital music files. The same thing would likely happen with public libraries. So, is it possible to have a system of public libraries (who will operate within the law as much as they can, although their patrons won’t necessarily do so if it’s easy)? Here’s for once where DRM might actually have a use. Consider a dedicated public library ereading machine. This machine has only one data interconnect method, and uses hardware-based encryption to decrypt the file held on its storage and display it on the screen. The device is physically sealed and designed so that cracking it open is hard to do and once done accessing the data transfer between the processor and screen is hard to do. These devices are loaned to the library user with the books they’re borrowing on them. When you go to the library you give them the current device back and get another with the books you want this time loaded up. Yes, you have to physically visit the library to do this, though the devices could be mailed through the post like DVD-rental services, for those in remote areas (postage costs would mean the device would need to be as light as possible, but since it is only trying to be a read-through device and not a general purpose device, this should keep the weight down). The library can, depending on the legal situation, either track how many loans they’ve made and pay the appropriate royalty fee, or limit the number of parallel loans to the number of “copies” they’ve “bought”. The point of this is to provide a replacement for the free public lending library service that minimizes the disagreements with the publishers, all of whom have long argued that public lending libraries unfairly undercut their business, but which still mostly survive in the UK at least, because of public support for free access to information, beyond what’s available for free online.
|Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info|