At the beginning of this year EFF identified a dozen important trends in law, technology and business that we thought would play a significant role in shaping digital rights in 2010, with a promise to revisit our predictions at the end of the year. Now, as 2010 comes to a close, we're going through each of our predictions one by one to see how accurate we were in our trend-spotting. Today, we're looking back on Trend #2, the future of books and newspapers:
Since 2000, the music industry has most spectacularly flailed (and failed) to combat the Net's effect on its business model. Their plans to sue, lock-up and lobby their way out of their problem did nothing to turn the clock back, but did cause serious damage to free speech, innovation and fair use.
These days, the book and newspaper industries are similarly mourning the Internet's effect on their bottom line. In 2009, Rupert Murdoch changed the tone of the debate when he called those who made fair use of his papers' content "thieves." We think 2010 and beyond will see others in the print world attempt to force that view, and break the fair use doctrine by lobbying to change accepted copyright law, challenging it in the courts, or by placing other pressures on intermediaries.
A cluster of similar battles around user control are also gathering around e-reader products like Kindle and Google Book Search, many of which rewrite the rules for book ownership and privacy wholesale.
We were largely right about this one, although in a way we didn't forsee. This year we saw the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper join with some lawyers called Righthaven and lurch down the RIAA's dark path by launching hundreds of "copyright troll" lawsuits against individual bloggers and others. As with the music industry's failed "sue the customers" gambit, this one has done nothing to help the newspaper industry, but has already caused damage to free speech and fair use. In 2011 we hope to see the tide turn, though, as the judges hearing the Righthaven cases are starting to raise concerns about fair use and other problems with this ugly business model.
On e-Readers, though, 2011 was still a year of early market growth, with the iPad entering into the fray and the publishing industry still generally embracing DRM (it took the music industry a few years to give up on DRM so it's disappointing but no big surprise to see the publishing industry do the same). On Google Books we're still waiting, since the federal Judge hearing the big lawsuit took a long day of testimony in the in February but has not yet ruled.