Rights and piracy

At Dear Author, Jane Litte recently wrote a compelling overview, “How do we solve a problem like geographic restrictions?” Because digital rights are parsed out in the same territorial manner used for physical products, e-book consumers often find themselves unable to buy books they know are available elsewhere.

About a month ago, I sat on two panels and presented on piracy at a conference hosted by Novelists, Inc. One of the panels discussed current and potential models for digital rights, and the moderator asked us if we saw any options to the current situation.

Borrowing from the ideas behind Cursor, I offered “shorter terms and broader territorial rights” for English-language books. The shorter term would give authors (and publishers) options to reassess what works in a manageable time frame (three to five years). The broader territorial rights would support simultaneous release across multiple markets, increasing reader satisfaction.

Although a number of authors found some value in the idea, a range of industry professionals (agents and lawyers, for the most part) struggled to fit the notion into the current model. I think the reason is clear: it’s not the current model.

In my recent presentation at the Internet Archive’s “Books in Browsers” conference, I talked about “piracy as the consequence of a bad API“. Here, “API” is used broadly: the system in place to define and deliver something of value to a reader.

As Eric Hellman pointed out a month ago, making things easier to buy may be a pretty good weapon in the “fight” against piracy [his is a post worth returning to]. And as Jane Litte illustrates, failing to make readers happy is not a recipe for revenue growth.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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