Libraries can't afford to ignore Itunes' awful licensing terms


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This is not the first time I’ve heard of this issue, and I’m only a casual library user. The library world has been talking about this for years - but who listens to them?

I’m pretty sure any music that can be bought on CD can be lent by a library. Mine sure has a big music section. Too bad in this case it sounds like a noteworthy performance won’t be released that way, and the final paragraph about the recording being lost is sad but true.

Hoping for a legislative solution doesn’t seem likely. Citizens United ensures that money speaks louder than citizens, and I suppose iTunes generates a fair amount of money. As long as our legislators can be bought and sold, this situation will get worse, not better.

I’ve said it before, never suffer from the illusion that you “own” itunes or the books on your kindle or whatever. Now there’s nothing wrong the idea of digital downloads in principle, just like there is nothing wrong with renting a home or car rather than buying one. Which is best for you depends on your personal situation. But we are creeping into a world where ownership is not an option. Where you simply CAN’T get the set of rights that owners of a copy have under copyright law, instead only having the far far more restrictive rights granted to you by the contract of adhesion EULA license. It’s a sort of digital feudalism, where everybody is a tenant.

Resale, fair use, in-class educational use, all these limitations on the rights of the copyright holder in favor of the copy owner are irrelevant if nobody is ever allowed to actually own a copy. Combine that with perpetual copyright on the installment plan that we have when the extend copyright on extant material whenever something is about the enter the public domain and the future is a darker place.


Unfortunately digital lending libraries ruin the economic model. The real goal is to get all of the N users to pay their fair share of the development costs. But if there’s one great digital lending library, then everyone will “borrow” from that library for the millisecond they listen. N-1 sales disappear and the only purchaser is the library.

Libraries aren’t free. They are incredibly expensive for the services we get out of them. 70-80% of the budget for most libraries goes for the heat and the salaries. Very little goes to support the content itself. The overhead is just too high in the digital world.

It seems like, in the long run, libraries are doomed anyway. Digital distributors, such as Amazon or iTunes, would much rather set up sharing/lending on their terms, and that means cutting out the middleman.

That said, the outrageously awful way it treats its customers seems to be hard-coded into Apple’s overall philosophy. Don’t expect anything to change until people stop buying their shit.

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One of the reasons why we’re trending away from it is that people don’t want to pay extra for ownership. They don’t see the extra features as worth it.

Consider the textbook. You can buy it for $200 and resell it next year for $150. Or you can rent it for $70. It’s cheaper to buy and resell it, but then you have to lock up $200 of your money and then go through the hassle of finding a buyer willing to pay $150. Both are an inconvenience.

Ownership is a pain. It involves risks and responsibilities. Not everyone wants those.

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Absolutely, renting or licensing a smaller set of rights is often a better deal than ownership. But we get many incensed stories where people are offended that they aren’t allowed to do the thinks that they thought that they would be allowed to if they owned it. And that miss-perception affects the price that they are willing to pay. At some level, it would be nice to have fairly standardized, easily understood licenses rather than 30+ pages of legalese that just about nobody reads before they agree to.
The problem isn’t that people have the option to get a license. The problem is that we’re moving towards a world where most of the time, as in this case, there is no option to own.

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The idea seems to be for digital rights owners to never make anything available for people (or libraries) to actually own. That way, they can change the rules of the game any time they see fit, and the rights you thought you had when you got that digital copy go out the airlock in its underwear. Frequently, you can’t even get that. I tried for 6 weeks to track down who owned the rights to “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, because I wanted to use it as part of our holiday programming. I traced ownership through several different distribution companies and even contacted the Schultz estate, with no success. No one would admit to being the rights holder; I wasn’t even told ‘no’ (which would have been painful but acceptable.)

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