Ebook 'Owners' Don't Have Many Legal Rights

By Andrew Lu on December 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Ready to trade in your paperback for a digital version of your favorite book? Well, you may want to think twice after learning more about an ebook owner's legal rights.

Like a growing number of Americans, you may have purchased a digital ebook to read on an iPad, Kindle, Nook, or other device.

But just because you bought an ebook does not necessarily mean that you own the book, reports the Los Angeles Times. So what exactly are an ebook owner's legal rights?

First, to say you are the "owner" of an ebook is misleading. To be more accurate, you're actually a "licensee." Because unlike a paper copy of a book which you are free to give away or use as you please, your rights are much more limited with an ebook, reports the Times.

For example, you may not be able to read your ebook on different digital devices. And technically speaking, as a licensee you also may not be allowed to let your best friend borrow your ebook; similarly, you may not be allowed to give away your favorite ebooks to your kids.

Because digital copies can so freely be copied and pirated, there are many laws that protect the creators of these works. But the laws that protect the artists and publishers of digital works may have swung too far and given too few rights to consumers, the Times columnist suggests. This was acutely demonstrated in 2009 when Amazon deleted copies of "Animal Farm" without any notice to Kindle users when it realized that it had oversold the book.

As a fan of ebooks, you may be wondering what you can do to protect your rights. Unfortunately, unless the laws change, there isn't much you can do.

Typically, ebooks cost less, so you may want to just change your perspective and consider yourself a renter of an ebook. If you truly want to keep a copy of a book and share it with everyone you know, you may want to spend a little more for a paper copy.

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