Can Blockchain stop the E-Book market? Two start-ups will find out

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Can users own e-books while printing books? Pixabay (Creative Commons CC0)

Blockchain technology has made its way to publish books The e-book platforms of two startups – Scenarex based in Montreal, and Publica based in Gibraltar and Latvia – are surprisingly similar and implement ideas that have been discussed in the world of book publishing for a while, Publica launched its system a couple of months ago, and Scenarex is launching its Bookchain system next month. When these systems come out, we'll see if the benefits offered by blockchain technology will translate to the characteristics that authors and book readers worry about.

C & # 39; is a growing number of startups building solutions for the media industry based on blockchain technology. the most p art of them focused on the music industry and behind the scenes & nbsp; applications such as the drilling rig These new e-book platforms are consumer-facing systems that include online e-book stores, apps to read them … and features to resell, lend and gift them. . They use blockchains to track the ownership of e-books by users. When you purchase an e-book on one of these services, enter a record of & nbsp; your purchase on a blockchain that establishes ownership of the file. Get a token & nbsp; a small digital file that indicates ownership. So you can & nbsp; to alienate – a legal term which means & nbsp; sell, loan, rent or give away – the file to someone else. When this happens, a record of the new property is put on the blockchain and the token passes to the new owner.

Some e-book services & nbsp; they already offer limited alienation capabilities; for example, Amazon Kindle and Barnes & amp; Noble NOOK platforms allow you to lend e-books to other users for up to 14 days, but only if the publisher allows it, which does not happen often. None of the major e-book services allow you to resell your books. This raises the question: when you buy an e-book or another digital file, do you have it?

This question & nbsp; It has been controversial for a long time. If you have a physical work protected by copyright, you get a series of rights under the copyright law, which includes the right to dispose of it. But if you get a digital file that takes up space on the device, the law says that you do not get that package of rights; instead you get all the rights that the dealer decides to give you in a license agreement, which is a contract. Often these rights are narrower than the author rights package and are limited by what the publisher (or record label, film studio, etc.) allows the retailer to offer. Typical license agreements of this type prevent you from selling the file. & nbsp; The law also says & nbsp; that such restrictions in licensing agreements are applicable, despite the fact that they reduce the rights in the copyright package.

But the legal constraints of use are not the same as technical and practical constraints, which may be closer or less rigid than legal constraints. Broadly speaking, there are & nbsp; two current paradigms for this. In one, the files are DRM-free. This means that users are technically able to do whatever they want with their files, including sending copies to their millions of best friends, publishing them online so that anyone can download, sell copies and save revenue and extract samples to create derivative works – as long as they are not discovered, because the licensing agreement with the dealer probably prohibits such activities.

In the other paradigm, files are encrypted with DRM, resulting in technical constraints that make it difficult or impossible to dispose of content, share with others, create derivative works, and so on – regardless of whether the license agreement prohibits or allow such activities. & nbsp; This is the case with movies and television programs; it is also the case of most e-books in the United States and in other countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, France and South Korea.

The concept behind today's e-book / blockchain startups it is to emulate property – as a practical, technical question – more strictly than existing digital content distribution systems. The idea is to use two properties of blockchains that help facilitate digital property. First of all, blockchains have no owner, so a record of ownership of files on a blockchain is not controlled by a central distributor like Amazon or Barnes & amp; Noble. Secondly, blockchains are immutable, so that if a system puts a voice on a blockchain that you own an e-book, that voice is there to stay forever, even if the vendor whose technology you used to buy the 39; e-book exits from commercial activity. And if you sell the e-book to someone else, another voice enters the blockchain that remains there, unaltered, forever.

In other words, blockchains allow transfers of property that are secure and can not be controlled by a third party after the fact. But there are other aspects of the emulation of the property, such as not being able to send copies to your millions of best friends or keep your copy after you have sold it. For this, DRM is required. & Nbsp; The files must be encrypted and the tokens are really improved versions of the license files that most DRM systems use to contain cryptographic keys and usage rule information.

There were & nbsp; a couple of blockchain startups that claim to emulate "properties" for digital music & nbsp; without DRM. & nbsp; I see this is useless . Consumer behavior and the market over the past fifteen years have taken us to a place where music downloads are DRM-free and users have not acquired a digital music file experience; thus users have gravitated on licensed streaming services where payment is optional and the property is below the point – or, to a lesser extent, physical objects such as vinyl LPs where the property is unique. And since the purchased music downloads are DRM-free, a system that uses DRM for downloads no longer has any chance of success.

But e-books are a different matter. Most e-books still have DRM, at least in the aforementioned countries (some European countries such as the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Austria have moved or are moving away from the DRM for e-books). Most users expect it, even if someone does not like it. Furthermore, & nbsp; explicitly & nbsp; models of non-property for e-books, such as monthly subscription services, have been kept at bay mainly by major commercial publishers who will not license their securities under those terms. Therefore, a blockchain-based scheme could work for e-book distribution. And surely, both Scenarex and Publica use DRM forms, although none of them likes to talk about it.

Both of these schemes are aimed at independent authors who want to sell their books outside traditional e-book platforms, as an alternative to existing platforms for indie authors & nbsp; such as Smashwords, Aerio and independent author programs on all major ebook retail platforms (Amazon Kindle Direct, NOOK Press, Kobo Writing Life, etc.)

Both Publica and Bookchain use the Ethereum blockchain, which supports smart contracts. Smart contracts are constructs that allow you to code and apply rules on all copies of a blockchain. In this case, the smart contracts incorporate rules on the ownership of e-books. They ensure, for example, that when you sell your e-book to someone else, they get the rights to e-books and you do not do it anymore. Or if you bought two copies of the e-book and gave it a copy, you only have one for you.

Both allow resale and other forms of sale. Bookchain allows sellers (authors or publishers) to place restrictions on resale, such as minimum or maximum prices, or if part of the resale revenue goes to the original seller; while Publica does not allow such constraints. Both make their money by taking commissions on all transactions (first sale or resale). Both use the standard EPUB format for ebooks and have their own e-reader apps: Bookchain will be based on Web browsers while Publica applications are mobile for iOS and Android.

But the biggest difference between Publica and Bookchain is only Publica accepts payments & nbsp; for e-books in Ether, the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain, or Bitcoin. Converts those in its cryptocurrency PBL ("pebble"). This creates some interesting possibilities for e-books as investment vehicles related to cryptocurrency but does not make the system exactly accessible to average consumers. In contrast, Bookchain will make payments through various standard means, using the Stripe payment system.

These platforms raise two questions: how can a scheme like this really emulate the property? And will their sets of features be attractive enough to wean readers and authors from existing e-book platforms or inject new life into the stagnant e-book market ?

We take these questions in order. My opinion is that the property and the pure digital files are apples and oranges. While you can get closer to a real digital property simulacrum, you can never really get there

What does "property" mean anyway? Two legal scholars, Jason Schultz of NYU and Aaron Perzanowski of Case Western Reserve, recently wrote a book on property in the digital age in which they explain what property means in legal terms, they complain about the deterioration of property digital and propose legal mechanisms to restore it. In lay terms, property means that you get something you can call yours, which does not belong to anyone else; that you can indicate, preserve and protect as a property; that you can alienate yourself as you wish but then it's no longer yours. This means that being able to create a freely available online file for anyone who is copied and used – though certainly desirable to consumers – is actually something other than property. & Nbsp; In practice, it does not coexist with other property attributes.

Let's take a look at how the ownership of digital files can be approximated by both legal and technical indications. & Nbsp; Some lawyers argue that all you have to do is distribute files without DRM and offer ownership by entering property terms in a license agreement. This, of course, is very easy to implement. But while & nbsp; some publishers actually do it, & nbsp; I say that it is not realistic, because nobody actually pays attention to licensing agreements with the end user and they are practically impossible to apply on their own.

the technical side, if you consider that the property of an object should allow you to do everything you want with that object, then a DRM scheme that governs the alienation allows you to copy the text in the Notes and requires the use of a property and the app -reader does not even make you an owner. This is what Publica and Bookchain do.

Schultz and Perzanowki's book presents research suggesting that people & nbsp; expect & nbsp; property rights. But it's not the same thing as suggesting that people & nbsp; see the value in & nbsp; property rights for digital content. This leads to the second question: no matter what the property is or whether regimes like Publica and Bookchain reach it for digital files. Are the features they offer desirable for readers or authors?

The answer, of course, is that we do not know yet, but we will find out that these platforms will proliferate. E-book platforms like Kindle, NOOK and Kobo impose restrictions that affect property rights – not just on copy, paste and print, but also on device restrictions and the risk that your e-books will become inaccessible if the seller goes out of office or & nbsp; removes them remotely from your devices . But they also provide benefits that go beyond ownership, such as the ability to obtain copies of an e-book for each of your (compatible) devices with a single purchase and, in some cases, on & nbsp; copies shared with family members . It is difficult to see how a property paradigm gets confused with this.

This is not the first attempt to create a simulacrum of properties for digital files. In 2010, for example, a technical specification called Digital Personal Property owned by consumers was proposed and transformed into an IEEE standard . This was not very far and is apparently abandoned in 2015. But it was only a specification; it was not used in any consumer-oriented system to help determine whether or not someone was interested in the characteristics of digital property. Now such systems are becoming available, and we will be able to see if the property is still relevant to e-books or if, like music, it will be relegated to physical objects in the future.

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Users can own e-books while printing books? Pixabay (Creative Commons CC0)

Blockchain technology has made its way to publish books: e-book platforms of two startups – Scenarex, based in Montreal, and Publica, based in Gibraltar and Latvia, are strikingly similar: they implement ideas that have been discussed in the book publishing world for some time, Publica has launched its system a couple of months ago and Scenarex is launching its bookchain system alongside As these systems develop, we will see if the benefits offered by blockchain technology will translate into functionality that authors and book readers worry about.

C & # 39; is a growing number of startups building media industry solutions based on blockchain technology Until now, most of them have focused on the music industry and on applications "behind the scenes "as the management of rights and the processing of royalties. These new e-book platforms are consumer-facing systems that include online stores for e-books, apps to read them … and features to resell, lend and gift them. They use blockchains to track the ownership of e-books by users. When you purchase an e-book on one of these services, you put a record of your purchase on a blockchain that establishes ownership of the file. Get a token, a small digital file that indicates ownership. So you can sell off – a legal term that means to sell, loan, rent or give away – the file to someone else. When this happens, a record of the new property is put on the blockchain and the token passes to the new owner.

Some e-book services already offer limited alienation capabilities; for example, the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble NOOK platforms allow you to lend e-books to other users for up to 14 days, but only if the publisher allows it, which often does not happen. None of the major e-book services allow you to resell your books. This raises the question: when you buy an e-book or another digital file, do you have it?

This question has been controversial for a long time. If you have a physical work protected by copyright, you get a series of rights under the copyright law, which includes the right to dispose of it. But if you get a digital file that takes up space on the device, the law says that you do not get that package of rights; instead you get all the rights that the dealer decides to give you in a license agreement, which is a contract. Often these rights are narrower than the author rights package and are limited by what the publisher (or record label, film studio, etc.) allows the retailer to offer. Typical license agreements of this type prevent you from selling the file. The law also states that such restrictions in licensing agreements are applicable, despite the fact that they reduce the rights in the copyright package.

But the legal constraints to use are not the same as practical constraints, technical constraints, which may be more stringent or less stringent than legal constraints. In general, there are two current paradigms for this. In one, the files are DRM-free. This means that users are technically able to do everything they want with their files, including sending copies to their millions of best friends, publishing them online so that anyone can download, sell copies and save revenue and extract samples to create derivative works because they are not discovered, because the licensing agreement with the dealer probably prohibits such activities.

In the other paradigm, files are encrypted with DRM, resulting in technical constraints that make it difficult or impossible to alienate content, share it with others, create derivative works, and so on – regardless of whether the license agreement prohibit or authorize such activities. This is the case with movies and television programs; it is also the case of most e-books in the United States and in other countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, France and South Korea.

The concept behind today's e-book / blockchain startups it is to emulate property – as a practical, technical question – more strictly than existing digital content distribution systems. The idea is to use two properties of blockchains that help facilitate digital property. First of all, blockchains have no owner, so a record of ownership of files on a blockchain is not controlled by a central distributor like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Secondly, blockchains are immutable, so that if a system puts a voice on a blockchain that you own an e-book, that voice is there to stay forever, even if the vendor whose technology you used to buy the 39; e-book exits from commercial activity. And if you sell the e-book to someone else, another voice enters the blockchain that remains there, unaltered, forever.

In other words, blockchains allow transfers of property that are secure and can not be controlled by a third party after the fact. But there are other aspects of the emulation of the property, such as not being able to send copies to your millions of best friends or keep your copy after you have sold it. For this, DRM is necessary. The files must be encrypted and the tokens are really improved versions of the license files that most DRM systems use to contain cryptographic keys and usage rule information.

There have been a couple of blockchain startups claiming to emulate "properties" for digital music without DRM. I consider this useless. Consumer behavior and the market over the past fifteen years have taken us to a place where music downloads are DRM-free and users have not acquired a digital music file experience; so users have gravitated on licensed streaming services where payment is optional and the property is below the point – or, to a lesser extent, physical objects like vinyl LPs where the property is unique. And since the purchased music downloads are DRM-free, a system that uses DRM for downloads no longer has any chance of success.

But e-books are a different matter. Most e-books still have DRM, at least in the aforementioned countries (some European countries such as the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Austria have moved or are moving away from the DRM for e-books). Most users expect it, even if someone does not like it. In addition, models explicitly not owned by e-books, such as monthly subscription services, have been kept at bay, mainly by major commercial publishers who will not license their securities under these terms. Therefore, a blockchain-based scheme could work for e-book distribution. And surely, both Scenarex and Publica use DRM forms, although none of them likes to talk about it.

Both these schemes are aimed at independent authors who want to sell their books outside traditional e-book platforms as an alternative to existing platforms for indie authors such as Smashwords, Aerio and independent authoring programs on all major platforms e-book retailing (Amazon Kindle Direct, NOOK Press, Kobo Writing Life, etc.)

Both Publica and Bookchain use the Ethereum blockchain, which supports smart contracts. Smart contracts are constructs that allow you to code and apply rules on all copies of a blockchain. In this case, the smart contracts incorporate rules on the ownership of e-books. They ensure, for example, that when you sell your e-book to someone else, they get the rights to e-books and you do not do it anymore. Or if you bought two copies of the e-book and gave it a copy, you only have one for you.

Both allow resale and other forms of sale. Bookchain allows sellers (authors or publishers) to place restrictions on resale, such as minimum or maximum prices, or if part of the resale revenue goes to the original seller; while Publica does not allow such constraints. Both make their money by taking commissions on all transactions (first sale or resale). Both use the standard EPUB format for e-books and have their own e-reader apps: Bookchain will be based on Web browsers while Publica is mobile for iOS and Android.

But the biggest difference between Publica and Bookchain is that Publica only accepts e-book payments in Ether, the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum or Bitcoin blockchain. Converts those in its cryptocurrency PBL ("pebble"). This creates some interesting possibilities for e-books as investment vehicles related to cryptocurrency, but does not make the system exactly accessible to average consumers. In contrast, Bookchain will make payments through various standard means, using the Stripe payment system.

These platforms raise two questions: how can a scheme like this really emulate the property? And will their set of features be attractive enough to wean readers and authors from existing e-book platforms or inject new life into the stagnant e-book market?

We take these questions in order. My opinion is that the property and the pure digital files are apples and oranges. While you can get closer to a real digital property simulacrum, you can never really get there.

What does "property" mean, anyway? Two law scholars, Jason Schultz of NYU and Aaron Perzanowski of Case Western Reserve, recently wrote a book on property in the digital age, in which they explain what property means in legal terms, they complain about the deterioration of property digital and propose legal mechanisms to restore it. In lay terms, property means that you get something you can call yours, which does not belong to anyone else; that you can indicate, preserve and protect as a property; that you can alienate yourself as you wish but then it's no longer yours. This means that being able to create a file freely available online so that anyone can copy and use it – though certainly desirable for consumers – is actually something different from the property. In practice, it does not coexist with other property attributes.

Let's take a look at how the ownership of digital files can be approximated by both legal and technical directions. Some lawyers argue that all you have to do is distribute files without DRM and offer ownership by entering property terms in a license agreement. This, of course, is very easy to implement. But while some publishers do it, I say it's not realistic, because nobody actually pays attention to licensing agreements with the end-user and they are practically impossible to apply on their own.

From a technical point of view, if you take the view that the property of an object should allow you to do whatever you want with that object, then a DRM scheme that governs the alienation allows you to copy of text to the clipboard and requires the use of a proprietary e-reader app does not take you to or property. This is what Publica and Bookchain do.

Schultz and Perzanowki's book presents research suggesting that people expect property rights. But it is not the same thing to suggest that people see the value of property rights for digital content. This leads to the second question: no matter what the property is or whether regimes like Publica and Bookchain reach it for digital files. Are the features they offer desirable for readers or authors?

The answer, of course, is that we do not know yet, but we will find out that these platforms will proliferate. E-book platforms like Kindle, NOOK and Kobo impose restrictions that affect property rights – not just on copy, paste and print, but also on device restrictions and the risk that your e-books will become inaccessible if the seller goes out of business or removes them remotely from your devices. But they also provide benefits that go beyond ownership, such as the possibility of obtaining copies of an e-book for each of the (compatible) devices with a single purchase and, in some cases, of sharing copies with the family members. It is difficult to see how a property paradigm gets confused with this.

This is not the first attempt to create a simulacrum of properties for digital files. In 2010, for example, a technical specification called Digital Personal Property owned by consumers was proposed and transformed into an IEEE standard. This was not very far and is apparently abandoned in 2015. But it was only a specification; it was not used in any consumer-oriented system to help determine whether or not someone was interested in the characteristics of digital property. Now such systems are becoming available and we will be able to see if the property is still relevant to e-books or if, like music, it will be relegated to physical objects in the future.

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