Why the closure of library.nu is not the same as for other pirate sites

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A couple of interesting posts on the closure of pirate etextbook/academic/arcane book site library.nu.  The first is by Alan Toner, and intellectual property and communications researcher, on his blog knOw Future Inc.:

On a final note, the case of library.nu is significant because the demand for the works offered there demonstrates that filesharing is not just about pop music, porn and cams of action movies, but also those forms and sources of knowledge whose acquisition are ritually celebrated within ‘enlightenment’ culture. Many of those whose works were offered derive income not from royalties, but from related activities such as teaching and research. Such people were themselves an important component library.nu’ user base. Some have other means to access the same materials, others, especially those in countries with weaker education infrastructures and more emaciated library budgets, do not. Outside of formal education, the millions of online autodidacts may be denied access to material, seriously impinging on their lives and possibilities. When one considers the cost of text books and more especially scholarly articles, that is no hyperbole, and applies not only to the global south but the post-industrial north as well, awash in its dreams of knowledge economies and human capital.

The second post is from Glyn Moody on Techdirt and picks up on the above and adds:

That suggests two things. First, that publishers are missing out on a huge audience that is hungry for knowledge, but simply can’t afford text books, say, at current pricing. Once again, piracy is driven partly by a failure to serve the market properly.

The other point is that although publishers may rejoice that Library.nu has been taken down, readers around the world will suffer in terms of losing access to these works that they can’t afford. Some may say that’s just tough, or that these people should work harder or make greater sacrifices elsewhere in order to be able to afford such books. But in many locations, those books are not available legally at any price.

As a result, when sites like Library.nu disappear, there is a cost to society as a whole because of the knock-on effects of reduced information flow, and of practical knowledge that is unavailable for application as a result. In this respect, sites with large collections of digitized textbooks are quite different from those that are principally offering music or video downloads for entertainment.

23 Comments on Why the closure of library.nu is not the same as for other pirate sites

  1. It’s never good when the poor and disadvantaged can’t get access to something they want or need; however, illegal is illegal. If people really felt bad about this, they can pay for copies of said books to be donated to needy students… vote with your wallets. “But poor folks like it!” is simply not a good enough reason to keep a piracy establishment running.

  2. +1 to Steven Lyle Jordan. Well said.

  3. Some of the people using library.nu actually owned or had rights to use the books, but needed electronic copies in order to use machine translation for sections that strained their language skills.
    Most legal ebooks make that task as difficult as starting from a paper book.

  4. I dont know how to write my thesis without this site and its free books, Im a poor student who cant offord buying a lot of books.

  5. I really think that Library. Nu. made us comfortable to learn and teach. Blockage made it difficult for me and several others. The new knowledge is of the “Westerns” now. Do some body fell fear from The scientists from China, Japan, India etc.?

  6. In my opinion library.nu was the third most important site on the web after google and wikipedia. For a nice article on why it should continue its operation and how it can be (legally) done read this: Free illegal knowledge and how (not) to deal with it

  7. All my friends, pls do something.

  8. I’ll make torrents for books I’ve got. Screw the rules, system, society that heavily restricts the ways to survive and develop yourself.

  9. robopithecus // March 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm //

    without library.nu my laptop looks useless to me :(
    I can t believe how can they restrict somebody to know, to learn.
    please do something plzzz

  10. robopithecus // March 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm //

    ;(

  11. @Steven Lyle Jordan: “But rich folks will get richer slower!” seems like a pretty bad reason to shut something down, especially when that thing is providing access to knowledge and learning to millions of the world’s less well off, who have no other way to access it. The publishing racket is obscene.

    Read UCLA Professor Chris Kelty: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/2012227143813304790.html

  12. Pardon me, but where in my comments did I say anything about the impact on rich people? I simply said, “illegal is illegal.” So Kelty has an “elastic” opinion about what constitutes crime. Let him tell it to the courts, and see what their response is.

    If people (including you, wilo) really are concerned about this problem–and yes, providing education to those who can’t afford it IS a problem–then they need to work together to provide LEGAL means to obtaining these books. Stealing them is not the answer.

  13. It’s an outrage that this is illegal in the first place, that’s the point. Copyright, to borrow phrases from Jefferson, is “social law”, not “natural law”. It exists to protect the rights of the rich against those of the poor. If people really care about this problem, the answer is to do something about this ever-extended legislation (the so-called “Mickey Mouse Protection Act”). The mass-media do a good job of persuading people that it is some kind of natural law that they should be able to restrict access to knowledge for (at present) the lifetime of the author plus 70 years, but it doesn’t take much reflection to realize it’s not so. This is an arbitrary limit, whose justification is, supposedly, a balancing of the interests of the various parties in society. Clearly the balance is waaay off-kilter, as the example of library.nu illustrates better than most.

  14. The “Mickey Mouse Protection Act” is a bad example to bring up, since it is primarily concerned with entertainment media, not educational media.

    And there’s nothing outrageous about the concept of copyright. Copyright is not about “rich and poor,” it is about protecting the rights of the creator (who can be as poor as a church mouse) against natural law (bullies who crack him on the head and take his creation), thereby giving the creator a reason to create in the first place. Anyone who lives in a civil society should be able to understand and appreciate the value of legal protection for your property.

    The point is that there should be legal means to educational materials. Library.nu circumvented legal systems to provide content for others. The intent was good, but the means was flat wrong. It’s the equivalent of feeding the neighborhood by robbing the grocery store; quite obviously wrong.

    So, instead of arguing the value of an illegal system, we need to expend our energy to create a legal system that provides the same service.

  15. “It’s the equivalent of feeding the neighborhood by robbing the grocery store;” — it’s really not. The false equivocation of “knowledge” with “property” is right at the root of the problem here. It is a deceptive myth. Knowledge is not a divisible resource: it is not possible for me to “steal” it from you, since I cannot deprive you of it. Legal protection for real property, the kind that I no longer have if you take it from me, is a different matter, of course.

    The present system does not protect the rights of knowledge creators. As an academic with books in print myself (“as poor as a church mouse” seems about right, yes!), I can tell you that the only people who benefit from the current system are the publishers. I generally can’t afford to access the production of my colleagues! (In my case, I have a major institutional affiliation which means I have options, but the overwhelming majority of people don’t).

    My incentive to create is certainly not financial! In fact my true incentive to create, the dissemination of my knowledge and ideas and to a lesser degree my own reputation and standing as a result, is frustrated by the current system. The control that academic publishers exercise over the academic career path makes it difficult, especially for young scholars such as myself, to make a stand against them. However, the academic community is rising (cf., e.g., http://thecostofknowledge.com/).

    We need to find ways to make sites like library.nu legal. The obvious route, of course, is to do something about this crippling and oppressive legislation. Circumventing it is one way to point out the huge public discontent with it, the advantages of doing away with it, and, ultimately, its ineffectual nature to do anything but retard the quality and egality of dissemination.

    It will never be more difficult to copy and share than it is at present. It will only get easier. The corporate lobbies, and the government agencies that advance their interests against those of the people, can (and no doubt will) continue with their King Canute impressions for the immediate future, but in truth that ship has already sailed. Those of use who care about knowledge, its production and its dissemination, are beginning to address the issues that the new paradigm will require us to confront — primarily those of reliability, reference-ability, and responsibility in the academic sphere (i.e. how do we ensure that knowledge is properly and accurately attributed to those who have created it).

    The twentieth-century restrictions on the dissemination of knowledge, already an anachronism, will be looked back on with curiosity in the future. They did not exist historically, and people still created, and they will not exist in the future, and people will still create. Anyone who creates solely to line their pockets, may drift away, but, to be honest, I think I can live with that.

  16. stupid copy right.every thing is money

  17. ebook help every one to increase wone book

  18. Entitled Intellectual // March 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm //

    I’m sick of all the brain-dead “intellectuals” claiming everything should be free. I earned a PhD, and bought a ton of books and journals in the process. Yes, I was poor. I also wrote a couple of grants, and got them funded, to pay the piper.

    Look, I write stuff for free, for altruistic reasons. I mostly develop software these days, and large percentage of my creative output is available for free. I believe in giving to the community.

    However, I ALSO write books. Books that not everyone could write, where I try to take what I have learned over thirty years of research and boil in down to simple terms that a dedicated student can understand. To pull the knowledge out of my brain and pass it on. The process is laborious, and it doesn’t benefit me intellectually (remember, I already know this stuff!). In a sense, everyone who opens my books becomes my apprentice, and shouldn’t I get SOMETHING from the deal? I charge for the books, lining my big fat wallet with the payments of those who want to learn what I’ve struggled to master.

    Suddenly it’s easy to steal my work and that of thousands of others. We should apparently not only perform our day jobs for a pittance, but happily see my pocket picked by these entitled, puffed-up, self-important “intellectuals”. Balderdash.

    If you want to learn calculus for free, I believe you can find Newton’s books at Gutenberg, and good luck to you. If you want something that guides you by the hand, with modern examples, solved sample problems, and computer software to assist your feeble brain, then you can damn well pay the people who spent a few thousand hours producing that for you. I’m embarrassed at the self-serving two-dimensional rationalizations parading as reason surrounding this topic — go steal some books on logic and rhetoric next.

  19. Entitled Intellectual // March 11, 2012 at 3:09 pm //

    Hurumph. I see at least two typos and and grammatically incorrect sentence in my post. Looks like need a copy editor, or maybe some blood pressure medication. *Walks away muttering . . *

  20. @Entitled Intellectual — you have a mixed-metaphor or two in there too. I really hope you actually did have a copy-editor for your books, or I rather imagine you wouldn’t have too much to worry about: those who aren’t well off enough to line your pockets wouldn’t bother downloading the books…

    If people like you (who would rather see people refused access to your work than get it without having to pay an inflated price) stopped publishing, I reckon I could probably live with that, to be honest.

  21. I think it’s a massive loss for those countries, libraries, students, researchers, readers etc. who does not support to buy such books, specially in this financial crisis era. I appeal to all those publisher, please let library.nu to serve the people who are thirsty of getting knowledge and education.

  22. So what has happened to the OLD library.nu?

    http://library.nu/lnu.html

  23. library.nu (RIP) alternative > legalreads.com

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