News, trends, and the future of publishing
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Post by herbelly » July 21st, 2012, 3:22 am

If I buy an ebook and put it on my paid membership website for others to read and download, is this illegal? Whats the difference between that and selling used tangible books and CD's? I am not taking credit for the ebook, nor am I selling it, although it can be downloaded. Whats the difference?
Last edited by herbelly on July 22nd, 2012, 7:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ebook

Post by Mark.W.Carson » July 21st, 2012, 3:58 pm

Selling is not the issue. The Copyright (right, not write) lets the owner of that right dictate how it can be distributed. If you do so outside of that dictate, you are breaking the law, and the lawsuit can be quite substantial.

I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice, but what you plan to do is probably going to get you in lots of trouble.

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Re: Ebook

Post by Sommer Leigh » July 21st, 2012, 4:09 pm

There are several legal issues you're flirting with there.

1) I'm going to assume you want to sell/giveaway the ebook as many times as you want. In your analogy (which doesn't exactly fit - intangible vs tangible products) you can only sell a used CD once and acts more like a transfer of ownership. An ebook, by the nature of its intangibility, has unlimited copies within its one purchase. You are therefore, not transfering ownership of the one object, you're making a profit off individual copies that weren't yours to sell. To make the analogy work, you would need to purchase a copy of the ebook for every copy you give away.

2) It's illegal and there's no way to get around it. Every ebook has some version of this statement in its copyright pages: This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. This is a legally binding contract between you and the author when you purchase the book you are agreeing to abide by the terms and conditions laid out. By breaking that contract, you open yourself to lawsuits and potential criminal charges.

3) Even if you convince yourself what you are doing is not illegal or shouldn't be, it doesn't change the fact that it very much is. No matter what you want to do, you will always be in the wrong in this situation if you try to break copyright protection with an author and they will have the legal backing of copyright law to come after you for compensation. Don't put yourself at risk.
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Re: Ebook

Post by Mira » July 21st, 2012, 7:08 pm

I agree with Mark and Sommer. It's illegal. No question.

It's also unethical, in that you are making money off someone's work. I imagine you are having some uneasy feelings about doing this, which is why you posted this here. I'd listen to that unease.

I'm glad you checked!

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Re: Ebook

Post by Ryan » July 24th, 2012, 1:25 pm

Maybe if you sold it ONCE the same way you sell a hardcopy to a used book store then I'd say fine. Distributing the book without giving a cut to the publisher and author is illegal without a doubt. If you have a high traffic site and then maybe you can work something out with authors, take a cut, and be distributor.
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Re: Ebook

Post by Margo » July 24th, 2012, 1:43 pm

Not only illegal but DISRESPECTFUL of the author and his/her right to determine what is done with THEIR work. If the writer wanted the book to be distributed for free, the writer would have done so.

I should also mention, if you do this, and the book is from one of the big publishers, the writer is the LEAST of your worries. Expect contact from the lawyers for the publishing house. They have staff JUST for dealing with this. If it's an indie author, expect a cease and desist letter leading to a lawsuit. And don't think they won't find out. It's as simple as setting up Google notifications when something with your name appears on the internet or using searches that find passages of a book online. This is why the pirate sites are moving all the time. They get caught all the time.
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