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New Zealand author thinks libraries are a form of theft

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In a post back on September 23 New Zealand author Brian Edwards puts forth the proposition that our public libraries are just a form of theft and that people who lend their friends books are thieves.

Yes you read that right. Every time you take a book out at the library you and the library are stealing money from book authors. It seems that Mr. Edwards feels that book authors should be paid every time a library lends out a book. In his opinion the act of lending books is tantamount to taking food out of his mouth

Every public library in New Zealand bought at least one copy of Helen. And they lent each of those copies to other people to read for… nothing. Last year there were still 227.4 copies of the book in New Zealand public libraries. If each of those copies was taken out by one person a month, that’s 2,729 people who read but didn’t pay for my book – my six month’s work. At $4.50 per unsold copy (ed: his share of book sales in stores), that’s a theoretical loss of income to me in one year of $12,280.

He continues on and accuses libraries of grand theft copyright

But there’s a principle here: when one person buys a book and lends it to another person to read, they effectively become an accessory to theft. Their generous act amounts to little more than stealing the author’s work. When a public library buys a book and lends it to thousands of other people to read, it’s grand theft copyright and really no different from illegally downloading music or movies or copying CDs or DVDs on your computer.

I’m still shaking my head over this one. Michael Masnick at Techdirt puts it best

Edwards also seems fully enamored with the myth that copyright law is based on some sort of “labor theory” — that the more time you put in, somehow the more money you deserve to get out. While I’m unfamiliar with New Zealand copyright law, in the US, such theories have been widely discredited in the courts repeatedly. And, of course, they make no sense when viewed alongside the actual purpose of copyright law. Edwards seems to believe that copyright is welfare for creators, rather than an incentive to create.

In the meantime, perhaps the public libraries of New Zealand can do Mr. Edwards a favor next time he publishes a book: don’t buy it. Ditto for anyone who might think of lending it… er… I mean, being an accessory to a crime in distributing copyrighted materials.

I would add that maybe the libraries in New Zealand should pull his books – just to be on the safe side of the law.

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