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.

To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work


I wouldn't normally recommend fb for anything, but if Egypt can bring down a dictator and Betty White can become famous again and someone named Oprah can get her own show with the help of Facebook, it seems like it could help here.

I'm glad someone is finally standing up over this topic. As I have commented before, I think librarians, educators, and academics everywhere should hold off on their rush to adopt eBooks and eReaders until these demands are met. By using and implementing these technologies before they are really ready - for academic purposes - these communities are creating a three-fold problem:

  1. Buying the products now removes the incentive for the manufacturers and publishers to fix the problem.
  2. Buying and implementing these technologies is expensive and most libraries don't really have the money right now, so other, more appropriate budget items suffer.
  3. Spending the money now means both that you will have less money to purchase and implement the technologies when they finally get fixed and that you will be less likely to get more from funders because ... "We already gave you money for that."

I've been helping out with a project to delineate what the rights are that we should assert as users of digital information in the ebook age, and I'm glad that others are doing work along the same lines. Our version of such a bill of rights is over at

Feedback is much appreciated!

--matt goins

I'm glad to see this--we've been working on a similar project that we call the Readers' Bill of Rights for Digital Books which covers many of the same issues that you've outlined above. The one thing, additionally, that I think is excruciatingly important for libraries lending ebooks and ebook devices is the right to privacy. With digital and networked ebook systems, it becomes increasingly simple for private companies to collect data about what readers are reading, and it is without question that companies like Amazon will not protect the right to read privately like libraries have done historically and continue to do.

Ted Striphas published a great article recently about the right to read and digital books (and specifically about the Kindle), which I recommend:
He points out that with digital/networked reading, a company could collect more data than ever before: not only the books that patrons read, but what pages they have viewed, what notes they have made, etc.

The problems with digital restrictions and corporate regulation of reading are larger than just HarperCollins or Amazon alone. We should own what we purchase, have the ability to do what we want with what we have bought, and be free from surveillance. Thanks for your post!

What do you mean by sharing e-books? If you mean passing one you have purchased on to another while retaining it yourself, then I couldn't disagree more. That isn't sharing, it's stealing. If there were a way to pass along an e-book to another without retaining it oneself, I would be in favor of that. As a librarian, I am also in favor of allowing a library to purchase one copy of an e-book, and loan it to multiple patrons, one at a time. Digital audiobooks are routinely provided in this manner. There is no reason why digital print books can't be as well.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

From October 2000
The purpose is to generate discussion, leading to the creation of a document which would define the minimum amount of features that an ebook reader should have to meet the needs of libraries. In addition, it will also strive to outline the minimum rights that should be accorded to an ebook owner or user. An initial draft has been created to serve as a foundation for discussion.

in a new york state bar association luncheon meeting i chaired several years ago, i asked the then-leading IP attorney of Time Warner if book publishers could shrink wrap books, in a manner similar to that used with computer software. at the time, publishers were thinking of ways to license book owners, so that book purchasers might obtain the right to read the book, but not actually to own the book. (although, i did not ask, i wondered if the purchaser would have to mail the book back to the publisher, postage owing, after he was done reading the book.) he responded that he thought that the first sale doctrine would prevent such a limitation on ownership. at the time, we were talking about traditional (hard- and soft-cover) books, which may soon become an historical footnote. when the library associations brings an action against e-book publishers, i would make the first sale doctrine a lead argument. after all, an e-book is not a computer program, it is a book. when publishers argue that you can freely copy or do a computer search of an e-book, but not a traditional book, i would argue that such a search merely replaces the indices that have generally appeared at the end of non-fiction books. that software and copyright law should prevent unlawful copying of the book. after all, the copyright owner owns the contents of a book, just as he owns the contents of an e-book. the first sale doctrine does not apply to the words in the book, but to the thing itself - accordingly, while copyright law limits copying all or part of an hard cover book and e-book, it should not limit the number of times a person or library could lend the book, as long as not more than one person has access to the (e-)book at one time. imagine, for example, a publisher limiting the number of times someone could lend a copy of Plato's Republic or the US Constitution. the "owner" might be permitted to read it, but would be prohibited from giving it to his children and/or friends to read and them to theirs. one might wonder if the Republic or the Constitution would still be read today under such limitations. so, if a library were to lend e-books, they should attach software limiting use of the lent e-book -- this is what the NYPL has done thus far, when someone lends an e-book from them, the borrowers ability to read the book ceases after a time definite.

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As ebooks are products as well. I would like to have them by law declare their quality and quantity to the customer as concise as possible like movie's grading. Firstly, we have to classify them to grade A B C D or F, A means a set of conditions most favorite for readers and B C or D means declining favorite while F means fail to be favorite.

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