Saturday, February 5, 2011

Libraries and the Kindle Licensing Problem

The primary reason why libraries seem reluctant to loan out Kindles and the ebooks that can be downloaded onto them, appears to be the license agreement that comes with the Kindle. This blog post by Erika Wayne on Legal Research Plus - Kindles and Libraries - discusses two reasons why loaning a Kindle and ebook content is or will become problematic.

1. The first, the method of payment and access via Apple Apps, is an impending issue. It is outlined in the blog post and at this NYTimes story - Apple Moves to Tighten Control of App Store. This issue will undoubtedly be resolved by the market. Apple and Amazon will reach some kind of agreement in which they share fees for ebook downloads.

2. The second, and more serious reason discussed by Wayne in her post, concerns the restrictive license that Amazon places on use of the Kindle and on the ebooks from the Amazon Kindle site. As part of her discussion she cites a recently published article in the Baltimore Law Review by Gregory Laughlin - Digitization and Democracy: The Conflict Between the Amazon Kindle License Agreement and the Role of Libraries in a Free Society. Wayne quotes from Laughlin's article:
“Amazon, in the license agreement to which a purchaser of a Kindle e-book must assent prior to downloading the e-book, retains ownership of the “Digital Content” (i.e. the e-book), and imposes a number of restrictions that are inconsistent with transfer of ownership to the purchaser, including prohibiting redistribution. If libraries are not owners of the Kindle e-books they acquire, then by the explicit terms of the Amazon license agreement, as well as Section 106 of the Copyright Act, they may not lend the e-books to their patrons.”
This is not a new issue. Peter Hirtle in the Library Law Blog, raised this issue last June in his post - May a library lend e-book readers? This appears to be an intractable problem that will not be resolved by the market. Instead, unless Amazon relents in its insistence on strict compliance with the terms of the license agreement, a change in law will be required.

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