Your rights when you buy a book

When you buy a book, you have the right to read the book silently or out loud (but not to an audience), you can act on the information it gives you, you can study it to see how it is written in the hope of writing a better book yourself, you can even write a different book based on the same facts expressed differently, and scurvily give the author no credit whatever. You may write and publish a review praising or condemning the book in almost unlimited terms.

On a less intellectual plane, you may set the book on fire, or use it to insulate your basement or to check erosion in a gully. You may give or sell it to anyone you please, or leave it around in public (absent littering laws) for the delectation of the next person to pick it up. You may lend it to your friends or the public, though you may have problems if you take money for this.

All of this applies equally to movies, sound recordings, sculptures, magazines, computer programs, and any other copyrightable works. For computer programs, you also have the (U.S.) statutory right to make copies reasonably necessary for the use of the program or for backup.

Copyright gives the author five and only five rights:

  • to control the making of copies
  • to control the making of derivative works
  • to control the distributing of copies and derivative works
  • to control the public performance of the work
  • to control the public display of the work

(There may also be "moral rights" that depend on the country.)

Let's keep it that way.


Justin said...

Let's keep it that way?

I realize you mean let's not move towards a stricter copyright, (at least that's what I think you mean), but what about the Creative Commons? What about moving away from indefinite copyright extensions and towards a richer public domain?

John Cowan said...

I'm all for it.