Empty Days

Sunday, October 10, 2004



Russia - copyright.

For a long time runet (russian internet) has been a sort of giant free-library full of copyrighted books generously scanned by some kind zealots for the enjoyment of a new internet generation.

Recently this whole concept seems to have taken a giant blow due to a barrage of law-suits perpetrated by some ambitious money-making site intent on keeping those copyrights for itself. I think some popular authors have also resorted to such lawsuits against some online libraries - I don't know how successfully.

The problem is though: while this approach might make sense for relatively well-off populations in Moscow and St-Petersburg, for the rest of the country (which is pretty huge btw) forbidding free access to online reading would be equivalent to taking away any chance to read those books at all - because they're out of price and the local library won't get them either as it has no budget in any case.

Interestingly enough these free-online libraries work on a sort of community-cooperation basis - scan the book and send it in for posting. The oldest of these libraries operating since 1994 http://lib.ru gathered a huge collection of books by this method - it is *the* library of the runet and it looks totally ugly because it's all text-based - but with masses of people still connecting at 28k this is how it should be.

To put it shortly - this is not some wanton exploiting of internet resources, it's really a cultural community movement based on sharing rather than greed. There are no banners, commercial ads, or whining for donations. I don't know how these servers are financed though. I think some ISPs provide space/bandwith due to popularity of the site - which is their way of participating in the community effort.

While most of the well-established online libraries practice the policy of immediately removing any material if the author contacts them for copyright-violation, I guess it still causes some problems because once a book has been put online it is sure to be copied and distributed elsewhere by individuals rather than big online libraries - letting the cat out of the bag, so to speak.

Curiously enough however, the internet generation in Russia is different from its american equivalent because people are still willing to read huge books online - the mind-numbing 15-sec attention span is not applicable. And while in the West a similar movement developped around MP3-sharing, in Russia it's actually mostly about books - music matters too, but books matter most.

A quote from the owner of lib.ru regarding copyright:

I'd like to reference a few well-known articles about how the internet rejects the artificial introduction of the copyright law by the government. Fortunately, the law-making in this country is not completely governed by some american legal precedents ;)
A few intelligent people on the net are of the opinion that a rigid copyright enforcement hinders development instead of helping authors to make money.


I do agree.





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