To Lend is the Right of an Owner – That is, Not You.

Three years ago, I predicted that publishers will inevitably declare war on book-lending:

“Let’s pretend that a Nook book (or any similar DRM’d ebook) could be lent in exactly the same manner as a physical book: to whomever you like, whenever you like, for as long as you like – with the added benefit of instantaneous, guaranteed, and toll-free shipping in both directions. This suggests that one could set up a library – a perfectly legal thing to do with physical books. The library (let’s call it Cranny) would consist of an online service which automates the process of requesting a Nook book from anyone who owns a copy but isn’t reading it at the moment. It would also allow you to send a request to recover any of the books you have lent out, with the same speed and ease. Consider: how many of the physical books on your shelves are you currently reading? In the course of any given hour? day? week? month? There is no reason to suppose that this situation would be any different for electronic books. The result: once a Nook book has been purchased by some critical number of Cranny users, just about all future readers would be able to enjoy it for free, with the aid of a vast global library. In fact, the entire process of pretending that a limited number of copies of a work exist (with the resulting need to ration access) becomes a farce. The Cranny scenario is clearly unacceptable to B&N, and (unsurprisingly) they have crippled the Nook’s lending mechanism to prevent it – just as I predicted upon first hearing of the device…. …publishers understand that the freedoms traditionally enjoyed by book owners (such as the freedom to lend without restriction) will ultimately lead to the collapse of their business model.”

“The Nook, the Cranny, and the Lend Me Not.” (yours truly, October 21 2009.)

And now, my prediction has come true in the most literal sense imaginable:

“LendInk, an innovative site dedicated to helping readers share their legally purchased ebooks with one another, has chosen to shut down in the face of legal intimidation. Despite the fact that the site was apparently operating within the terms of service of the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook, its hosting company was targeted with “hundreds of threats,” including cease-and-desist letters.  LendInk didn’t even host any ebooks itself: it simply connected users seeking a particular title with other users who had a legally-purchased ebook to lend. The site planned to eventually make money by providing links to purchase books through the Amazon affiliate program, but for the past year it had been operating without income.”

“Content Industry War on Sharing Claims Another Victim.” (Parker Higgins, Electronic Frontier Foundation.)

The scarcity industry eagerly pushes to destroy the physical property rights of ordinary people (the freedom to tinker, the right to borrow and lend goods, freedom from outright sabotage of your personal computer, and so forth) in order to preserve their intellectual property regime.

I can see one of two futures: one where everyone is issued copyright-protection goggles, not to be removed on pain of death; and one where the “content industry” as we know it has gone the way of the slave trade.  This is not a moral judgement, merely a statement of fact.

To those who would retain their right to personal property: your only true allies are the pirates. Not “lending libraries”, not “reasonably priced” and “humane” iTunes-like services.  The pirates are the only people presently defending the no-compromise, My-Computer-is-Mine point of view.

The ‘you don’t own your computer’ paradigm is not merely wrong. It is violently, disastrously wrong, and the consequences of this error are likely to be felt for generations to come, unless steps are taken to prevent it.

This entry was written by Stanislav , posted on Wednesday August 15 2012 , filed under Copyright, Distractions, Hot Air, Predictions . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

25 Responses to “To Lend is the Right of an Owner – That is, Not You.”

  • Cosman246 says:

    Hell, it doesn’t depend on your view of physical property rights.

    The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonism, on the exploitation of the many by the few.(…)Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of the petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.

    Or do you mean modern bourgeois private property?

    But does wage-labor create any property for the laborer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i. e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labor, and which cannot increase except upon condition of getting a new supply of wage-labor for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage-labor. Let us examine both sides of this antagonism.

    To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a social status in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion.

    Capital is therefore not a personal, it is a social power.

    When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class-character.

    • Stanislav says:

      Dear Cosman246,

      I was talking about private property in the commonplace (rather than Marx’s) sense, as in your toothbrush. Or, rather, your programmable computer. Which the copyright racketeers wish to ban, and replace with a superficially-similar imitation which ultimately takes its orders from them, instead of you. Make no mistake, the right to own a fully-programmable personal computer is under attack. And it will remain under attack for so long as the “content” racket continues, because there “ain’t room enough in this town for the both of them.”

      Yours,
      -Stanislav

  • Cosman246 says:

    Hmm, it doesn’t seem like blockquote worked. The quote above is from The Communist Manifesto

  • Mikhail says:

    Well, we can always hope for inevitable demise of publishers — and the DRM as we know it. Seth Godin raising $280,000 for his new book using KickStarter is a pointer in that direction.

    • Stanislav says:

      Dear Mikhail,

      KickStarter, etc. and the resulting products will chug along, and remain accessible to those interested (a tiny fraction of content consumers as it is) until we get this. Which we will, barring some unforeseen pleasant surprise. The media cartels have more money and influence than you can possibly imagine, and will not go to their graves willingly. Enjoy the unfiltered Internet while it lasts…

      Yours,
      -Stanislav

      • Mikhail says:

        Stanislav, see, I’m actually contemplating creating my own Internet, unfiltered, black jack, hookers and all. Someone contemplating creating a proper operating system would probably not consider this an idea too far fetched. :-)

        • Simon says:

          Sounds like a fair plan. The current internet is getting more and more broken. Bring back archie, I say. But then I’m another nutter making a proper operating system.

        • Stanislav says:

          Dear Mikhail,

          Please let me know when you have launched your own communication satellites and laid your own trans-Atlantic cables. I will then eagerly subscribe to your alt-Internet.

          Yours,
          -Stanislav

          • Simon says:

            No need. All you need to do is work out a way to parasite your protocols across the only channel that is guaranteed to be left open for everyone in your futurenet – advertising.

            • Stanislav says:

              Dear Simon,

              If we’re thinking about full-bore digital dystopia: ad traffic will be signed. And routers won’t route unsigned traffic. (Leave it up to the ever-plentiful unprincipled engineers to figure out just how this will be implemented. But once implemented, it will become mandatory.)

              Yours,
              -Stanislav

              • Mikhail says:

                Well, you can always resort to signing your parasite ad traffic.

                • Stanislav says:

                  Dear Mikhail,

                  Only if you can steal the enemy’s private key. (If you don’t know how a cryptographic signature works, read up on the subject. It is a thing worth knowing.)

                  Yours,
                  -Stanislav

                  • Mikhail says:

                    I’m assuming there will be more than one ad provider, and any willing corporate entity will be able to obtain such a key, incuding a benign one. Panetary-scale monopoly seems a bit stretched, even for this prescient blog. :)

                    • Mikhail says:

                      That was planetary-scale, of course.

                    • Stanislav says:

                      Dear Mikhail,

                      > any willing corporate entity will be able to obtain such a key, incuding a benign one.

                      A key might be easy to obtain, but will stay valid only as long as you play by the tyrant’s rules. As in the Apple App Store. (Check out the published lists of exactly what has been banned – de-facto as well as formally – from the latter. It is a very educational read.)

                      Yours,
                      -Stanislav

              • Simon says:

                Okay, assuming I can’t self-sign, I’ll encode my message using timing of requests.

                Meta-protocols are easy…

                • Stanislav says:

                  Dear Simon,

                  You could also encode the message using variations in white space between words, inserted into elaborately faked spam. Or in a thousand other ways: steganography is nothing new. Transmitting information covertly will always be possible, if difficult. You can write it on the inside of a wine bottle label stowed in a ship’s hold with ten thousand others. You can print it on a single frame of an otherwise-unexposed film cassette, fed to a carrier pigeon. And so on, and so forth. But what you cannot do in this way (or using any electronic stegosystem) is to start an untraceable conversation (in one or both directions) with a total stranger. That is a key function of the uncensored Internet which would be difficult, if not impossible, to replicate on a darknet. Communication with trusted parties is the far easier problem.

                  And you are still assuming an Internet much like the one we have now. Consider the following scenario: It would be a trivial matter for our rulers to construct and mandate a replacement Internet where packets are only routed in one of two cases: if they originate from a “lordly” (read: official media organ) IP address, and are part of a message signed with the organization’s RSA key, or, if they originate from “prole” IPs (yours and mine,) they must be part of a public-key-encrypted reply to a message previously sent from a lordly IP. So no more “P2P” routing, period. (Except between lords.) And, needless to say, all IPs will be static, drawn from a 128-bit space, and uniquely bound to individual persons in some quite bureaucratic and tyrannical manner.

                  You can be reasonably sure that the above is being designed and built as we speak.

                  Yours,
                  -Stanislav

                  • Chris Smith says:

                    It’s simpler than that and already here. Your device+location combination is likely to have a one time uniquely identifiable number under IPv6 anyway (network+host parts). IPv4 doesn’t suffer as badly with this as the address reuse rate is high (I have 450 hosts behind a /24). This already has various privacy implications.

                    The best way to solve all this is go back to the 1970-1993 period, throw latency, immediacy and industrial sized packet switching out of the window and go back to store-and-forward network architectures. Transport layer can be WiFi point-to-point, USB sticks, short distance radio links, DX’ing, IR beaming, line of sight optical links. All of these are uncontrollable.

          • Mikhail says:

            Right. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Mikhail says:

    Stanislav, you make good points and create nice models of what a tyranny can do. But this leaves little to no space for any alternative: what’s to prevent the enemy from shooting commercial satellites out of the sky and from severing commercial oceanic cabling?

    • Milton says:

      If you have a system that encourages competition rather than cooperation then this is the behaviour you get. If you have a society where profit is the objective (read: all of today’s societies) then you will have people making up all kinds of meaningless concepts in order to profit. Restrictions of the type Stanislav points out are just a symptom of the problem I’m pointing out.

      The alternative is to refuse and destroy what creates the tyranny and replace it with something else, something like what is advocated by the venus project.

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