What Rights Do Ebook Owners Have?

By NotFromUtrecht (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By NotFromUtrecht (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion around the ownership of ebooks.

The LA Times reported in 2012 about how ebook owners had few rights when it came to their ebooks. Instead of owning ebooks they purchased, they were merely licensing them:

Unlike the owners of a physical tome, they won’t have the unlimited right to lend an e-book, give it away, resell it or leave it to their heirs. If it’s bought for their iPad, they won’t be able to read it on their Kindle. And if Amazon or the other sellers don’t like what they’ve done with it, they can take it back, without warning.

In 2013, Motherboard wrote about how in some cases you can only access ebooks in certain territories or countries. For example, one professor from the U.S. traveled to Singapore and lost all his ebooks stored on his Google Play app, all because the Google Play bookstore wasn’t available in Singapore. To get his books back, he had to go back to U.S. and redownload them all. Also,, :

You can’t give away, loan to a friend, trade or sell your book when you’re done reading it, because it’s bound to the account of your Kindle, Google Play, iBooks, or whatever ecosystem you bought it from. This really ruffles the features of voracious readers, since sharing books is a classic and much-loved tradition

And in 2014, Guelph Mercury reported on ebooks that were disappearing in Japan. One ebook retailer announced it was shutting down, and issued refunds to users, but those users were no longer able to access the ebooks and comics they had purchased. According to the article:

It is technologically possible to make such e-books readable on other service providers’ platforms after one company discontinues its service.

But Toru Sampei, chief of the secretariat of the Japan Electronic Publishing Association, said, “All the companies are reluctant to do so because it takes time and is costly.”

Fortunately, there is more discussion lately over how to protect readers from losing their ebooks. In 2014 the state of Delaware passed a law that gave “heirs and the executors to estates the same rights over digital content which they would have over physical property,” according to The Digital Reader. Although this only applies to residents in Delaware, it is a strong first step.

Have you heard about any more recent steps to protect ebook owners? Please share in the comments!

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