Why Piracy Pays

Something to think about from Randall Munroe, not unconnected to Peter Galison’s recent essay on the high cost of secrecy in the book Agnotology.


3 Comments so far

Preetam Rai

I buy stuff from both audible and itunes. I have not hit any practical limitation as of yet and iTunes does offer limiter DRM free music.  I think it is easy to make iTunes and Audible the bad guy here but do you think the music companies would have licensed so much stuff to Apple if Apple had not provided a safeguard?

If anything we should lobby the music and book publishers rather than Apple and Audible.

Posted on October 17, 2008 at 04:56 PM | Comment permalink

Patrick Lambe

I don’t think this comic is meant to be taken too seriously - Randall’s comics make interesting points in very humourous ways. To me the hidden cost of DRM (the motivation for which I understand from the commercial point of view) is that it is not designed to be futureproof. This is going to create very large problems for the digital archivists in the future, when platforms standards and codecs don’t migrate with the evolution in platforms and systems - this is already a huge problem in the national libraries and national archives where digital preservation disasters are already happening.

Posted on October 17, 2008 at 05:06 PM | Comment permalink

Eric Mack

Wallpaper, Toilet-paper, or ePaper?

Patrick, a friend pointed me to this post in response to my discussion of a similar subject dealing with the legality of repurposing content from one format to another. In this case, from paper to digital…

A few years ago, I gave a presentation, in which I evaluated the legality of my scanning in a textbook I had purchased so that I could use it and mark it up on my Tablet PC.

It is indeed a complex issue, as I found out during my research. I went between the doctrines of First Sale and Fair use in my considerations. It was an interesting experiment and an educational one to research, too. I concluded that the doctrine of First Sale permitted me to do whatever I want with the physical book that I purchased – except for copying it. The Fair Use Exemption of the Copyright Law, however, provides guidelines for whether (or not) a copyrighted work may be copied without the permission of the copyright holder. Basically, there are four elements to the fair use consideration. These are: Purpose, Nature, Amount, and Effect. I believe that I made a compelling case that scanning my legally acquired (that is, paid for) textbook for my own personal and noncommercial use, sufficiently met the criteria to fall within the fair use exemption. The topic was part of my 8-week paperless challenge, drew quite a bit of attention and commentary on my blog and on various legal and Tablet PC blogs.

You might find these posts interesting.


In the end, I decided that while it was useful for me to have the book in digital form and while I felt I could support my action to scan in my purchased book for personal use (in the same way I could choose to wallpaper my den with its pages) it was certainly a lot of effort. My hope is that publishers see the value of offering books in print AND digital form as many are now doing. When they do, I typically purchase both forms, allowing me to enjoy either.
PS. I should add, that I am not a lawyer and, were I to research this topic again, I do not know if I would reach the same conclusion. I don’t know if any new laws or statutes have been implemented that would add clarity (one way or another) to this matter. Certainly one change is that some texts are now available in electronic form. Scanning texts for personal use is certainly more costly than purchasing digital versions, when available.

Posted on October 26, 2008 at 09:18 AM | Comment permalink

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