Book Publishers Unveil Anti-Copying Devices

Fake News written by James Baughn on Monday, February 4, 2002

from the don't-even-think-about-fair-use dept.

NEW YORK -- Publishers from all across the country met this week at the first annual Book Publishers Assocation of America (BPAA) meeting. Many of the booths on the showroom floor were devoted to the single most important issue facing the publishing industry: fighting copyright violations. From "End Reader License Agreements" to age-decaying ink, the anti-copying market has exploded into a multi-million dollar enterprise.

"How can authors and publishers hope to make ends meet when the country is rapidly filling with evil libraries that distribute our products for free to the general public?" asked the chairman of the BPAA during his keynote address. "That blasted Andrew Carnegie is spending all kinds of his own ill-gotten money to open libraries in cities nationwide. He calls it charity. I call it anti-competitive business practices hoping to bankrupt the entire publishing industry. We must fight these anti-profit, pro-copying librarians and put an end to this scourge!"

Everybody in attendance had their own plans for eliminating unauthorized copying. One publisher has already started to print "End Reader License Agreements" on the cover of all his books. "By opening this book you agree to the following terms..." the license starts. It continues, "You may not share, sell, rent, or loan this book to any other person. You may not read this book aloud, quote passages, or make copies of any length without the express written permission of the publisher. You may not write or distribute negative reviews of this book under any circumstances..."

Not everybody agreed with this legalistic method. "Laws were meant to be broken. But anti-copying devices are much more difficult to circumvent. Take my patented MacroInk technology, for instance. My books are printed with a special ink that completely fades when exposed to light for more than 30 minutes. This gives a single reader plenty of time to read each page, but when the second freeloading reader comes along, all the pages are blank and unreadable. With this invention, I'm going to cut off the air supply of every stealing... er, I mean 'lending' library in the world."

Another publisher unveiled his "CactusWordShield®" device, a combination lock that prevents the book from being opened without registration. "It's quite simply, really," the inventor explained. "When a user purchases a CactusWordShield book, they can open it freely exactly five times. Beyond that, the lock will engage and the user must obtain the combination by registering their book through the mail. Then they can open the book 50 times before the combination changes and the book must be re-registered. This mechanism allows us to track usage of the book and dispatch our team of lawyers if we suspect that more than one person is illegally reading it."

At one Birds-of-a-Feather meeting, a group of publishers discussed the possibility of "greasing the wheels of government" to get Congress to enact stricter copyright laws. "We need a bill that requires all newly published books to include some form of anti-copying technology," said one executive. Another commented, "First and foremost we need to eliminate the Library of Congress. Why should Congressmen have free access to our work? We need to make them pay like everybody else!"

In his closing speech, the BPAA's chairman seemed to sum up the feelings of most of the publishers in attendance. "Won't somebody please think of the children of authors?" he bellowed before a crowd of nearly 10,000. "If everybody and their brother can obtain quality books for free from libraries, then authors and their families will starve. If everybody and their brother can loan their books to friends without purchasing additional reading licenses, then publishers will no longer be able to buy gold-plated toilets. We can't let that kind of dystopic future materialize. We must smite our enemies now while we still can!"

[Editor's Note: The preceding article may or may not have appeared in the February 4, 1895 issue of the New York Democrat-Republican newspaper.]

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