The right to read, under fire

” … In 2001, Disney-funded Senator Hollings proposed a bill called the SSSCA that would require every new computer to have mandatory copy-restriction facilities that the user cannot bypass. … “

“Libraries say Supreme Court could make lending foreign-made books illegal.”


This is a court-case against a US student who started importing textbooks and selling them via the internet, undercutting the US price.

The books were from the same publisher as the US copies; but being made externally (cheaply), they cost a fraction of the sky-rise US price. Let’s have this again: The publisher wasn’t making a loss on the copies as they were legally purchased from him (outside US).  Neither did the author fail to get his royalty as these were legally bought copies.

The student however stepped into the role of a book trader, and resold them online.

He was not violating copyright.  Was he violating anything at all?  We don’t know unless we are legal specialists for sales rights in the American market.

The thrust of the court case, though, is to impose “lending licenses” per copy on libraries, and police that private people don’t lend out books.

It is a scary thought that they should ever manage to implement it for paper books.  They have already implemented it for e-books…


“The Right to Read – GNU Project”

The article starts by quoting from a science-fiction (should I call it “Visionary Fiction”) story where certain companies hold almighty control over who reads what.  Far-fetched?  If you think so, read the previous Red Ant blog post (“Your ebook is reading you“).

GNU goes on to discuss the implications, and what laws and programs have already been implemented.


“One of the ideas in the story was not proposed in reality until 2002. This is the idea that the FBI and Microsoft will keep the root passwords for your personal computers, and not let you have them.

The proponents of this scheme have given it names such as “trusted computing” and “Palladium”. We call it “treacherous computing” because the effect is to make your computer obey companies even to the extent of disobeying and defying you. This was implemented in 2007 as part of Windows Vista; we expect Apple to do something similar. In this scheme, it is the manufacturer that keeps the secret code, but the FBI would have little trouble getting it.

What Microsoft keeps is not exactly a password in the traditional sense; no person ever types it on a terminal. Rather, it is a signature and encryption key that corresponds to a second key stored in your computer. This enables Microsoft, and potentially any web sites that cooperate with Microsoft, the ultimate control over what the user can do on his own computer.

Vista also gives Microsoft additional powers; for instance, Microsoft can forcibly install upgrades, and it can order all machines running Vista to refuse to run a certain device driver. The main purpose of Vista’s many restrictions is to impose DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) that users can’t overcome. The threat of DRM is why we have established the Defective by Design campaign.”  (…end of quote)

Red Ant Comment:  As an OS, Vista is a lousy system.  Windows 7 has finally caught up on all the schliff Vista was lacking; however, do you believe MS would have given up the controlling components?

Also, oddly, many of my friends and also myself who were running Windows XP3 and steadfastly refusing to “up”grade to Vista or 7, suddenly got a forced download of an XP3 “upgrade” that smashed our hard-drives to pieces.  As I went online desperately trying to stop the deterioration, I found tons of people complaining of the same problem, and even some wizzes suggesting fixes – which I tried but didn’t work… So many people with the same problem…  Coincidence?


Quote from “The Right to Read”:

“Bad News

The battle for the right to read is already in progress, The enemy is organized, while we are not, so it is going against us. Here are articles about bad things that have happened since the original publication of this article.

If we want to stop the bad news and create some good news, we need to organize and fight. The FSF’s Defective by Design campaign has made a start — subscribe to the campaign’s mailing list to lend a hand. And join the FSF to help fund our work.”

(..end of quote.)

Your e-book is reading you.  Where is this going?

Most computers these days have web cams to enable Skype and other programs. It’s a standard addition. Will it get to the point where without activating the web cam, you can’t go online?  Will Facebook (or Google, or your online bank, or Amazon, or anywhere you have a web account) identify you visually via webcam?  Will your reading behaviour and your facial expressions as you read, be evaluated?  Will they use the data to draw conclusions on you,  place you on various lists – “likely psychiatric patient, potential future murder suspect, good target for fashion ads” – ?


Amazon pulls a “Big Brother” move


“Owners of Amazon’s Kindle electronic book reader have received a nasty surprise, after discovering that copies of books by George Orwell had been deleted from their gadgets without their knowledge.

The books – downloaded from by American Kindle users – were remotely deleted after what the US company now says was a rights issue regarding the publisher,

“These books were added to our catalog using our self-service platform by a third-party who did not have the rights to the books,” spokesman Drew Herdener told the Guardian. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers.”

(…end of quote)

Imagine you’re reading an ebook you bought and paid for quite legally, and suddenly you find it gone from your system and the money for it refunded.

This equates to the bookshop owner breaking into your home by night, going to your bedside table, removing your book and putting an amount of money in its place.

Invasive?  Only, Amazon does it “legally”.

George Orwell, come back!!  We need more of your visionary fiction!


3 thoughts on “The right to read, under fire

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