Sunday, February 5, 2012

THE DEBATE: What is legal? Sharing e-books from kindle to kindle, is it legal or not?

The debate of on ethics and it being legal goes on! I would add my voice by pointing out. Kindle e-book copy is a digital copy and hard copy (print copy) cannot be put into this category. Whatever, you do on the internet is in soft copy, it may never be available in a hard copy.

I believe companies needs to evolve new digital-distribution models. Instead of putting people, an Internet-Generation in this dilemma of ethics, responsibility and buy-ability, they are confusing matters for the future.

Yes, to make such a model is impossible. But we are talking about making a bigger, powerful, effective and TESTERS in the business market. Do that, and it'll help.

Going greener and sustainable by replicating the real life business way of life of humans is the way ONLY way forward.

"If there were no restrictions, you would also not have the e-book.
posted by odinsdream at 10:32 AM on May 20, 2009

If there are no restrictions, then it's not shady; it's the existence of rules that causes ethical dilemmas about breaking them.

Yes, the key factors here that make it ethically different from sharing physical books are the rules outlined your agreement with the seller and the laws around digitally copying copyrighted works. The other ethical issues involved (such as whether ebook sharing would decrease demand and therefore drive down revenue) would be the same as the ones that exist for physical book sharing.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:34 AM on May 20, 2009

Well, is it ethical to speed? Yes, most drivers exceed the speed limit. Is it ethical to trade kindle books? I don't know. If most people are okay with it, then it's ethical. Whether it's moral or not is a separate question.
posted by malp at 10:35 AM on May 20, 2009

Is there something inherently different about an e-book that makes it more wrong to share with a friend, as sharing with a friend would involve making a physical copy (more akin to xeroxing a book)?

Sort of. Basically print books are books that have certain legal traits including, most importantly, the "right of first sale" This is one of the things that allows libraries to lend copies of books that have purchased with no issues. in the US. This right is not present in ebooks, or there is a lot of debate about that point.

So I know to a lot of people a book and an ebook are basically containers for the same content -- and ebooksellers would like you to confuse the two as much as possible -- the law in the US (and probably elsewhere but I can only speak to the US law) gives certain protections to the buyers of books that are not given to the buyers of ebooks.

I think swapping Kindles does put you on better ethical footing, but this example you've created serves to highlight what a strange new world this book-leasing thing propels us in to.
posted by jessamyn at 10:38 AM on May 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ethics are not the same as Legalities. Does your personal Moral code say that it is wrong to do this thing (breaking the agreement you made when you bought the Kindle/eBook)
posted by Lord Widebottom at 10:58 AM on May 20, 2009

pdb: If there are no restrictions, then it's not shady; it's the existence of rules that causes ethical dilemmas about breaking them.

Untrue, IMO. If you're going to look at this from a purely abstract moral standpoint, you'd have to look at the question of harm. Does copying an ebook cause harm?

I'd say the answer is clearly "yes". You're denying a sale, and thus revenue for work performed, to the author. This is somewhat greyed by the issue of how many people who copied it would have bought it otherwise, but what's true is that none of them will buy it now. Unlike things like music, which can be licensed any number of ways aside from direct-to-customer, book authors don't have many options for revenue other than... selling the book.
posted by mkultra at 10:59 AM on May 20, 2009

(I'm assuming, btw, that you're holding on to your copy of the ebook when you "share" it with your friend)
posted by mkultra at 11:13 AM on May 20, 2009

It's ethically wrong to enter into an agreement you intend to break. If you "buy" an ebook from amazon, fully intending to lend it to a friend, you are lying when you agree to the contract.

If there was no contract or rules, NOTHING would be unethical.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:25 AM on May 20, 2009

I think another consideration (DRM aside) is that when you have a printed book, it's much harder to reproduce/distribute it. If I loan a paperback to a friend, she may read it, she may not; she might have bought it if I hadn't loaned it to her, she might have not; she's definitely not photocopying it and making it available to multiple people. If I somehow passed on a digital copy of a book, it would be an easy matter for her to make a copy and possibly share with someone (or a group of people) who I don't know who might then distribute it. I think the potential for unethical behavior is much higher.
posted by Kimberly at 12:05 PM on May 20, 2009

If most people are okay with it, then it's ethical.
That view could land you in some sticky philosophical situations. How could you ever judge whether or not a society's laws were ethical if the only test was whether or not most people agreed with them? Say a poll showed that the majority of Americans were OK with the CIA carrying out torture: would that make it ethical?

OP: The ethics of this one don't seem terribly confused to me either: you just have to work out what the proper equivalent of sharing a physical book is. I don't think it's sending the digital file: the file is ultimately a set of instructions for "printing" a book in a digital device. Sharing that with your friend seems (in a somewhat strained way) like giving her a copy of the printing plates to a book.

The real equivalent is more like lending her your Kindle. And nobody would have a problem with that, I don't think, even though in practice it's going to mean lending her your entire library.
posted by fightorflight at 1:35 PM on May 20, 2009

It is a good starting position to think about a contract as the overriding factor in determining the ethics of a situation, but I think that there are issues beyond any one contract between buyer and seller that may apply to a discussion of ethics, in this case, whether it is ethical to uphold all aspects of the contract in the face of its effect on society.

I think the eBook example is complex, so I will take a simpler example to illustrate the point. Let's say that someone is born to a country that filters internet access. Would it be unethical for this person to attempt to circumvent these filters? What if instead of being born in the country, they chose to live there? Would their choice to live in the country change the answer?

I realize that dealing with an e-book merchant seems like a less portentous arrangement than the above, but I feel also that ownership of (e)books and the individual's ability to share books with friends leads to many benefits for society - a more educated and informed populace, for one - that should be a part of this ethical consideration.
posted by zippy at 2:03 PM on May 20, 2009

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