Law Books

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The fear of piracy has forced many publishers into using unfriendly DRM systems that halts the sharing of stories. With OpenBooks.com readers are free to make copies to send to friends and continue spreading great literature from our rapidly growing indie author community. There are no restrictions on making copies and sharing them with others. In fact, we encourage it.

Which, in view of how restrictive DRM’d e-books can be, sounds good; but when I downloaded one of their e-books, the second page opened like this:

We know that you cannot wait to start reading your new ebook. Our lawyers however insist to inform you that this file is subject to the End-User Agreement (which is quite unusual, so better at least check the main points) and by continuing past this welcome page, you are agreeing its terms.

Like many researchers, I read a whole lot of PDFs, often skimming in places. Like many readers, I don’t customarily study the front matter of books. So it was quite a shock to be told I would be entering into a binding legal agreement by scrolling to the third page. (I’m used to Creative Commons licences, but they relate to making copies available, which is already governed by copyright law.) An odd attempt at establishing a meeting of minds, and a sad thing to see from a proudly DRM-free outlet; replacing digital locks with dubious legal hacks still erodes what we used to be able to expect when sitting down to read a book. Websites’ terms of use are often already unspeakable, and it would be bad if document files went the same way.

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