Slashdot brings us the story of LendInk, a completely legitimate site that was knocked off the internet due to authors’ and publishers’ fear of piracy.
LendInk’s business model was pretty simple: it connected readers who wanted to borrow a book with readers who had that book to lend. This is a built-in feature of Amazon’s Kindle and B&N’s Nook: many books, once purchased, can be loaned out to a friend. You can only loan the book once, and only for two weeks, and you can’t read it while your friend is borrowing it. Aside from the fact that you can share the book with someone on the other side of the world, it’s actually much more restrictive than lending a physical paperback.
Sites like LendInk just make it easier to find someone with the book you want to read. It makes it easier for the person who bought the book to lend it out … a right they paid for when they bought the book. And authors/publishers agree to the lending program when they sign up. This is from Kindle Direct Publishing’s Terms of Service:
5.2.2 Kindle Book Lending Program. The Kindle Book Lending program enables customers who purchase a Digital Book to lend it subject to limitations we establish from time to time. All Digital Books made available through the Program are automatically included in the Kindle Book Lending program. However, for Digital Books that are in the 35% Royalty Option (as described in the Pricing Page), you may choose to opt out of the Kindle Book Lending program. This will disable lending of the Digital Book by customers who purchase it after you have opted it out, but this will not affect the right of customers who purchased it when lending was enabled to continue to lend it. You may not choose to opt out a Digital Book if it is included in the lending program of another sales or distribution channel. If we become aware that a Digital Book you have opted out is included in the lending program of another sales or distribution channel, we may enable it for lending. Digital Books that are in the 70% Royalty Option (as described in the Pricing Page) cannot be opted out of the lending feature.
Nothing nefarious is going on here. But for people in the entertainment industry – music, books, movies, whatever – piracy is the boogeyman their parent tell them about to get them to eat their vegetables. The thought of someone doing something with your work without your explicit permission, the idea that someone might enjoy your work without – gasp – paying for it, is terrifying to some people.
I can understand this. My own stories mean a lot to me, and the money I make of them helps me pay my bills. But I also understand that readers are my friends and my customers, and that making them jump through razor-lined, flaming hoops in order to get my books is only going to make them more likely to pirate, not less. That’s why my books are available on as many sites as I can manage, and are all DRM-free.
Anyway, LendInk was a completely legitimate service, helping readers use the rights they paid for. But that didn’t stop a swarm of authors from taking the site down. A torrent of complaints rolled in to the ISP who, under the DMCA, was required to shut down the service. The ISP has said that they’ll turn the site back on … if the owner responds to each and every complaint, personally.
As a reader, you should be outraged. And as authors, we should be embarrassed. There are pirates out there, and I’ve filed DMCA takedown requests with a few of them. But that doesn’t give us the right to go after legitimate readers … or the tools that help them.