The eBook User’s Bill of Rights


I am reposting this document, drawn up by Sarah Hougton-Jan and Andy Woodworth because I support this effort and I hope to see it expanded.

What do *you* think? Are there parts you would change? Is there something forgotten? I’ve seen at least two other related efforts– one claims to be an “eBook Buyer’s Bill of Rights” which makes some very good points as well, and an earlier effort by other librarians, “The Readers’ Bill of Rights for Digital Books”.

I am excited to see the energy around this issue, and I just hope it will be sustained. In the meantime, one way to keep track of the action is a website put up by Brett Bonfield and Gabriel Farrell, which will document the status of whether librarians should be boycotting Harper Collins or not:

Some aren’t sure that a boycott is the right response at this point– but I don’t think anyone engaged in any negotiation or argument knows exactly what the right tactic is at any given point. It’s important that we begin to do something– something serious enough to convey to the other players that we’re not going to be left out of the conversation without a fight.

To those who afraid we’re short-changing our patrons if we boycott Harper Collins, I say that’s exactly how we got into this powerless position in the first place. I’m sorry, but trading short-term mediocrity for longer term solutions does not serve our patrons. It just makes us look like fumbling idiots who can’t deliver a quality product to their fancy new eReader they got for Christmas.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights is a statement of the basic freedoms that should be granted to all eBook users.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights


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.

These rights are yours.  Now it is your turn to take a stand.  To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others.  Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

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