I’m an advocate of time-shifting and space-shifting content. When I say content I mean books, movies, TV-shows, games, whatever. Time-shifting refers to the process of utilizing something at a different time than it’s origin. In terms of media, the old analog is taping a show to watch later. These days it means Tivo, Netflix or Hulu. You’re simply watching something at a time other than when it was broadcast on television.
Space-shifting is slightly different. Instead of moving whatever you’re wanting to watch to another time, you’re moving it to another medium. I want to watch this television show on my phone, or on my computer. It usually incorporates time-shifting, but not always.
I feel like this is not a big deal. If I want to watch a show on a Saturday on my phone instead of on Tuesday on the TV, I’m probably only making a few advertisers unhappy. But I’ve been doing that for years. I mute the TV when the ads come on, or I’ll walk out of the room. I never owned a Tivo, but if I had, I would’ve let it cut the commercials out all together. Advertisers have begun to respond by getting their commercials into the show via product placement. Seemingly the most intrusive ones being in NBC’s “Chuck” where I’m constantly being bombarded with Subway sandwiches and Captain Awesome talking about how awesome his Toyota mini-van is. I digress…
Because I feel like it’s not a big deal, I figure I can be somewhat flexible with the means by which I get stuff. If I own a copy of Ender’s Game that I legitimately bought, I see no problem downloading an epub version of it off the seedy underbelly of the Internet. I already own the book, and paid for it. If I want to read it in a loose-leaf notebook or on a digital device, I see it as my perogative to be able to do so.
So time shifting and space shifting has never really been a big deal to me. I got my second E-Reader this past Christmas, and I love it. I’ve been of the mind that if I own a physical copy of a book, then I ought to be able to read it on my reader. I figure I’ve compensated the publisher and author, and essentially bought the right to read the book.
But then, this morning I came upon this awkward situation: If I buy the book used, then I haven’t compensated the author or the publisher – only the bookstore I bought it from. If I believe in duly compensating the author and publisher, I’d need to go buy a new copy.
In the United States, we have a law that broadly protects the sale of copyrighted materials called “First Sale Doctrine”. Basically, it says that you can a piece of copyrighted material (a book, a movie, etc.) if you don’t own the copyright provided the material is yours. When you purchase a book, you’re purchasing the physical object itself, the ink on the pages, but not really the words themselves, or their arrangement. This is where the breakdown of copyright happens. There’s no obvious answer as to how to handle a work in the ethereal sense.