eBook User’s Bill of Rights

In anticipation of the 2012 AALL Boston Vendor Roundtable: e-Books in the Legal Profession, I thought I’d repost the eBook User’s Bill of Rights written by the San Rafael Public Library’s Acting Directory,  Sarah Houghton, and originally posted on February 28, 2011 in Ms. Houghton’s  blog, Librarian in Black.   I’m not sure I agree with every part of  it but I do think that librarians must be very vigilant so that we don’t let technology fundamentally alter our expectations about what it means to own and use books.  I would add to the Bill of Rights a section about the right to borrow ebooks for periods of limited duration from public, academic, and/or private libraries.


Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks.  I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.


More info about the 2012 Vendor Roundtable is found here.


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