What does a Public Library do?
Public libraries are a wonderful resource. But once I got the internet, I started to steal books.
Public libraries are institutions that buy books and then allow members of the community to freely borrow them. If we were not so accustomed to this process, it would seem quite odd. Libraries get to buy a copyrighted book, the content of which is the property of either a publisher or author, and give it out for free. Not only this but the person borrowing it, under fair-use law, can photocopy the book or article in its entirety and keep it forever.
It is important to keep in mind that all of this material is someone else’s copyrighted property, so what would justify libraries in providing this kind of service?
The standard argument hinges on the claim that no one should be deprived of information because of morally arbitrary contingencies such as race, sex, class, and age.
The Relationship between libraries and copyright laws
The relationship between libraries and copyright laws is peculiar. Libraries provide access to information, whereas copyrights attempt to limit access to information.
Libraries lend books for free. Copyright laws make you pay for books.
The cost of making every member of society pay to gain access to information is outweighed by the benefits that society receives by providing that information for free.
But how is this not also an argument, consistently applied, for the theft of books online?
That is, if one is on board with the benefits libraries provide to societies, then one should be on board with the electronic distribution of books. If I can walk into a library, check out a book and scan it to my computer how is this relevantly different from logging on to a website and downloading a scanned version of the book?
The fact that one can access this information more efficiently is a virtue, not a vice.
Why people steal books online?
1. They have no money to buy it.
2. They have money but are assholes.
The Author’s Money
If you write a book, then you should be entitled to profit from it. So if I download a copy of your book online for free you will not be able to secure royalties.
Although this is true, we must not assume that the reader would have bought the book if neither libraries nor the Internet existed. This means that if all means of acquiring the book for free are abolished that this reader would still not buy the book.
So in either case, the author does not get any royalties.
On the other hand, in the first case, that is the case where the reader is allowed to download the book for free, the author gets more exposure and a larger readership which will provide the author with more incentive to write. Especially if the author is a newbie.
I do not resist copyrights, but what I am saying is ‘Stealing books is fine”.