You are here

A 21st Century Family Library

Over the years, our family has bought three copies of the Crosby, Stills & Nash album. My wife and I each bought a vinyl copy back in the '70s. Recently we bought a "clean" (not copy protected) copy from the iTunes music store. I expect that's the last time anyone in our family will have to buy a copy of that album, including all our descendants.

I believe that music sharing is "fair use" within a family. I'm inclined to feel that way about video, and no doubt I'll feel the same way about digitized books. Cousin Jon sent me a couple of links describing "do it yourself" book scanners. I need to get myself one of those. But a family library of digitized books has an interesting implication for publishers: it will decimate the reprint market. My (not-yet-existing) great grandson won't ever have to purchase a copy of Pride and Prejudice and should never have to buy any other books I collect in digital form.

I don't feel any particular pity for publishers here. I think that copyright is being misused in relation to its Constitutional intent. In practice, media creators (publishers, movie producers, musical artists, etc.) expect to pay for a production in the first few years. If the sales don't immediately cover the production costs, the work is judged a failure. Additional sales are a nice source of income, but they don't motivate the producers. Everyone wants a 'hit.'

The reprint market has never been the big thing in publishing. It's a revenue stream, and so the companies are trying to protect it through political influence - that's a natural response. On the other hand, the point of patents and copyrights is to promote creations, not to stifle them. Once the creators are fairly repaid, the creation belongs in the public domain. Then it becomes the foundation for remixes, reinterpretations, and other new creations.

Copy Protection

There is no place for copy protection in a family library. I consider copy protected works to be "throw away" works. I avoided buying music from iTunes and such as long as it was copy protected.

I have a huge collection of copy protected DVDs. Fortunately, the content scrambling system is now so thoroughly broken that I'm not afraid of losing their contents long-term. If DVDs fall out of favor in the consumer electronics business, I suspect there will always be computer software to play them. At worst, we may see commercial services that will copy legitimate DVDs onto "soft" copies for their owners.

As a practical matter, our family hasn't tended to share copies of videos. I'm rarely motivated to copy a video. When I do, the DVD usually contains family videos. First, I copy the whole thing to an ISO file using the "dd" command. From there I burn copies for relatives.


Book copying will hit textbook publishers especially hard. Someday soon, groups of students will routinely buy a single hard copy textbook, copy it, and share "soft" copies among themselves. This will become common as e-readers become common.

I'm hoping this trend takes another decade or so to really take hold, since I'm currently writing a textbook.

Long term, I'm not sure what will replace textbooks. A textbook has two essential ingredients: its content and its reputation. Many publishers try to fabricate a textbook's reputation initially through peer review. There's no process to do that on-line. So far it's been impractical to do that in a free, cooperative forum like Wikipedia.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer