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"Used Book, Read Only on Sundays"
April 11th 2002, 20:06 CEST by Caryn

Most of us believe that if we're able to grab a few mp3's we like, we're likely to go out and buy the CD, thus rewarding the artist for their work. But what if we buy that CD used? None of that money goes to the artist -- so do used CDs constitute some kind of indirect theft?

I put this into the submission bin because it's marginally related to the subject of warez and ROMs and music that's been coming up here lately. This New York Times article (you have to register but it's free) came across my writers list and it's being heavily debated on both sides of the issue.

The gist of the article is that there's a group of authors and publishers up in arms about's network of consumers that buy and sell used books. They contend that it's a disservice to authors because it decreases royalty payments to authors and profits for publishers.

I've always kind of wondered how used music CDs impact the music industry and if parallels can be drawn between that and passing around mp3s. I almost always buy my music CDs used if I can find them, and I'll generally buy used books if they're available in good shape. The article does mention that used bookstores have been around for a long time and that Amazon's service is no different, but the arguing authors have points to make against that.

As an author, I'm not sure where I sit on that. I dislike the idea that if I'm getting paid for the work I've put into a story by people buying my book and I lose that payment if they buy a used copy from someone else, I'm somewhat cheated out of compensation for my work. At the same time, I like the idea that my work would be getting into more hands, and thus the set of people who might be willing to buy more of my stuff new would be increased.

Has the music industry ever protested the sale of used CDs? If not, why not? Doesn't it do the same thing? And is it just another form of theft, albeit an indirect one?
Home » Topic: "Used Book, Read Only on Sundays"

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#1 by Fugazi(werking)
2002-04-11 20:08:01

Garth Brooks and Mariah Carey both protested the sale of used CDs since they did not get royalties after the first sale.


"Good health" is merely the slowest rate at which one can die.
#2 by "Shadarr"
2002-04-11 20:08:07
Yay! Finally the thread everyone's been waiting for.
#3 by Hugin
2002-04-11 20:11:18
Hm.  Third?  Yay?
#4 by devttys0
2002-04-11 20:11:44
And in other news, the sky is blue and water is 'wet'.

The worn out golf shoe I sold at the garage sale won't net me any profit either after the first sale.
And you know what? That's reality.

'artists' my ass.
#5 by Caryn
2002-04-11 20:12:09
I've been mulling over this topic some more and how it relates to games. Games, books, and music can all be sold used -- I tend to buy used Gameboy Advance games if I wait a few weeks after release and can find the ones I want. How do the developers who post here feel about that? If someone buys a used game, you don't see any of that money.

"It's not stupid -- it's advanced!"
#6 by Ergo
2002-04-11 20:15:24
This is a dead horse. I can't forsee a solution to this problem that everyone or a least a majority would agree to. Outside of shutting down every used book/cd/game/etc. store, which is not a solution.

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, he'll sit in a boat all day drinking beer.
#7 by LPMiller
2002-04-11 20:16:58
no, but don't be shocked to see libraries, CD stores and the like forced to pay a royalty on everything sold.

Will warez for food.
#8 by Greg
2002-04-11 20:17:25
Caryn, with books though (and cds if you are a "good" person), once you sell the used copy, you no longer have a copy at all. At least, that is how I would defend selling used books.

You can apply the same argument to software, although it is easier to resell a piece of software without relinquishing your own copy. And yes, it is possible, though cumbersome, to copy a book entirely before reselling it.

Some retailers actually like used books. College bookstores love selling/buying back used books, that way they can have the books sold for entirely too much in the first place.


-Swallow it all and be glad, for a shilling I've paid and a shilling's worth I'll be having!
#9 by Gabe
2002-04-11 20:19:35
A primary difference between this and warez is that only one person is using the book, CD, whatever.

You could learn a lot from a dummy.
#10 by jjz
2002-04-11 20:19:52
There was an issue where Garth Brooks wanted to make it illegal to resell his CDs, I think.  I'll have to look it up.
#11 by Caryn
2002-04-11 20:20:51
I wonder: do used sales of anything really impact that industry at all? Do used book/music/game sales make any noticeable difference in profit? (I have no idea, I'd love to find out.)

"It's not stupid -- it's advanced!"
#12 by Hugin
2002-04-11 20:22:38
Caryn, if a single item is legally puchased, the creator of that item gets the money due to them.  If that object sits in a basement for the next ten years, the creator gets no more money.  If the object is destroyed in a fire, the creator gets no more money.  If the object is handed down to the purchaser's child, the creator gets no more money.  So..if the orignal purchaser sells it to his neighbor...why should the creator get more money?  I'm not talking about endlessly redistributing copies.  Just reselling the single item that was legally paid for and is now the property of the person who paid for it.

I don't see how a store doing it makes much of a difference.  It's not the responsibility of a store owner to maximize profit for the maker of the objects they sell.  If Amazon increases its own profits, or customer loyalty, or both, by offering used be it.

Now, I can argue that it's short sighted to do so, that in the long term, it's in Amazon's best interests to maximize (or at east not undercut) profit to the creators of the content it sells.  But thats a strategic decision, not a moral one.  i.e., Amazon selling used books may be stupid, but I'm not sure it can be said to be wrong.
#13 by Foodbunny
2002-04-11 20:23:58
I buy the majority of my books used.  Most of the ones I don't buy used I borrow from family.  I buy very, very few books new.  The same applies to CDs, which I don't really even buy anymore.  Not because I'm a huge mp3 fiend, but because I just don't like much music.

They're cute, they're cuddly and jam shoots out their heads.  I want 'em all!
#14 by None-1a
2002-04-11 20:24:38
The problem is amazon's system isn't so much that they're simply selling used books, but that they're being rather overt about it. Normaly used books/cd/whatever are sold in a sperate section of the store or web site. Amazon on the other hand list the used books on the same page (on a nice screen size on the same screen) as the new book, in some cases the used price is listed right under the new price.  

I like the idea of used stuff, but you've got to wonder how many more people end up buying used vs. new simply because the price difference is right there in their face rather then needing to compare with different sections.
#15 by jjz
2002-04-11 20:26:02
Eh, every link I quickly found seemed to have things like, "I'm reminded of when Garth Brooks wanted make it illegal to resell his CDs."  So, maybe if you want more information look it up yourself, but I don't see an easy-to-find first-hand source.
#16 by Greg
2002-04-11 20:26:53
About used games:

I worked in a local Babbages for a year in 1995. Used games were starting to become a pretty hot selling item, and our store also bought back games in exchange for store credit. The prices we affixed to the used games were generally pretty fair (both for buying back and reselling). However, it seems that in recent years stores are trying to either exploit or reduce (I'm not sure which) used-game buying. If I go look to buy Tony Hawk 3 for XBox, I can find it in a store for $50 new, but $45 used. If I'm going to pay $45 for TH3 used, why wouldn't I just pony up 5 more dollars to be assured of getting a brand-new working copy? Now, if the used game were only $30 then maybe I would consider getting it.

Should the publisher/developer receive a royalty because I am buying their game (but not the first time it was bought)? I actually think no. Someone paid for that game brand-new, and the royalty was included in that sale. When they sold the game to their local used-game store, they relinquished their copy of the game. But the royalty was already paid. So why should there be another royalty payment?  Actually, the used game store bought it as well. Would they have to pay the publisher to be able to buy it back?

Does GM get money if I sell my car to a friend? Should Toll Brothers get money if I buy a house from someone?


-Swallow it all and be glad, for a shilling I've paid and a shilling's worth I'll be having!
#17 by Duality
2002-04-11 20:27:26
Well what's moreso at issue than anything else in terms of Amazon is that they have it listed on the front page right under the full price link.

I have no idea if that makes that much of a difference or not.  But that is what fueled the issue further, I think.

You're the new nazis.
#18 by "Shadarr"
2002-04-11 20:29:48
The main way for Game manufacturers to combat this is to make better games.  For example, I would never even dream of selling off my copy of Total Annihilation, because I know that 6 months or a year from now I'll want to play it again.  

A lot of other games though, I play them for a few weeks and that's it.  It's even more true for CDs, because generally speaking nobody sells an album they like.
#19 by Greg
2002-04-11 20:30:02

On a similar note, Gamestop has a pretty ugly habit of putting a new box of a game right next to a used copy, and the used copy doesn't have any big distinguishing visual on it that it is used. Yes the word "Used" is on the label, but there is nothing drawing attention to it.


-Swallow it all and be glad, for a shilling I've paid and a shilling's worth I'll be having!
#20 by Caryn
2002-04-11 20:30:36

Good point. Well, I guess that about wraps it up. Next topic!


The way I thought about this was, admittedly, a little short-sighted...I imagined a certain number of books being printed and distributed for sale, new. A set of consumers buys SOME of those books, reads them, and then they begin selling them to another group of consumers...who reads them and sells them to another group (although I doubt books change hands more than once or twice). These two last groups never bought the product new (so no money went to the creators) but might have had they not had the option of buying it used.

Your points are true about EVERYTHING that can be created or sold. But in these cases (books, music, and games), the creators rely (theoretically) on the fact that they're selling copies of their creative property in exchange for a fee. When artists are up in arms about people trading mp3's, it makes me wonder how different it is in the final analysis from me selling someone a copy of a CD instead of just giving them an mp3. Either way, the artist doesn't see any money. So why is one bad and the other not? Is our idea of compensation for creative energy in need of a makeover?

"It's not stupid -- it's advanced!"
#21 by jjohnsen
2002-04-11 20:33:46
I sell most of my games on Ebay when I'm done, unless I really like them.  Sell a couple of games and I have mney for another new one.

#22 by "Shadarr"
2002-04-11 20:34:17
With regard to the actual topic, the issue here is that authors are linking to Amazon as a place to buy their books, and Amazon is selling used copies which the authors get no cut of.  Obviously it makes sense for the authors to link to a different site, and the Guild is just telling them that.

I don't see it as a huge moral issue, consumers have a right to buy things used and the original manufacturer never gets a cut.  The issue here is strictly one of the Guild looking out for its members best interests.
#23 by jjohnsen
2002-04-11 20:35:37
Artists might assume that if a used copy of a cd was not available, then the consumer would buy a new one.  So they are missing out on the sale.  Books, games, etc are all the same.

That means buying used products is the new warez.

#24 by "Shadarr"
2002-04-11 20:39:02
So why is one bad and the other not?

The issue is that when you burn a CD for a friend, you still have the original.  Thus you are creating an extra copy of the product which was never purchased new.  It's similar to counterfieting money.  I think most people would agree that there is a difference between giving someone a $5 bill and giving someone a photocopy of that bill.
#25 by Gabe
2002-04-11 20:39:26
So why is one bad and the other not?

I imagine because in one instance there is only one copy being used and in the other there are is no limit. Now if someone were to copy a CD and then sell the original, that's stealing.

You could learn a lot from a dummy.
#26 by jjohnsen
2002-04-11 20:44:42
I imagine because in one instance there is only one copy being used and in the other there are is no limit. Now if someone were to copy a CD and then sell the original, that's stealing.

But either way the artist does not make a profit with warez or used copies.  In a forward to a collection of Stephen King stories he talks about how much he hates libraries now that he profits from books.  Every person that gets a book from a library is one less sell to him.  (i'll try to find the ewxact quote)

#27 by Caryn
2002-04-11 20:44:54
Yes, that's the technical definition. But you listened to the creative work -- you got value out of it, and now someone else is getting value out of it without giving money to the artist who created it.

I'm not trying to deliberately be nitpicky, I think I'm just having a hard time vocalizing what my point is. It seems to me that in the end, no matter how they got it -- via CD purchased used or mp3 passed along -- two people got value out of the work, and only one person actually "paid" for it (meaning that the money went to the artist). So it seems to me that a lesson can be learned there in how artists think about mp3's. I don't know what it is.

"It's not stupid -- it's advanced!"
#28 by jjohnsen
2002-04-11 20:45:10
or the exact quote.

#29 by LPMiller
2002-04-11 20:45:59
no it ain't.  While you own it, you can do with it as you please, including making a copy. If you lose the original, you don't automatically lose the right to the copy - that's the whole point of the copy. If you sell it, I don't know that it is all that different - You still paid for it.

Will warez for food.
#30 by Fugazi(werking)
2002-04-11 20:46:00
I worked in a little indie record store for 5 years. My boss lived off of the sale of used CDs because he could actually make a decent margin (40-50%) on them. His margin on new stuff was only about %15 (except for vinyl). He would pay $5 for a used CD and then sell it for $10. Since the cases were already open, people could listen to a CD at their leisure in the store...they were also a lot more open to taking a chance on material that they weren't overly familiar with.

Sometimes we would have crazy sales too. One guy had 6000 CDs in his boss bought all of them for $2.18 each. He sold them for $5 a piece. He made a mint and he also made a lot of people really happy because they could buy four used CDs for the price of 1 new CD.

Used vinyl is a much different kind of market. Used CDs are not worth much more than $10...used vinyl is usually worthless ($1), but there are also of a lot of collectable vinyl that is worth thousands. It's amazing how creative people can get with vinyl pressings. One of the most interestings things I saw when I worked there were these Polish postcards (showing interiors of cathedrals and castles) which had a Doors single impressed upon them. There were about 30 in all. Pretty damn cool...and Doors fanatics loved 'em.

"Good health" is merely the slowest rate at which one can die.
#31 by LPMiller
2002-04-11 20:46:10
now, selling the copy, that would be stealing.

Will warez for food.
#32 by jjohnsen
2002-04-11 20:46:51
I'm not trying to deliberately be nitpicky, I think I'm just having a hard time vocalizing what my point is.

I think the problem I'm having is we have spent the last 7 or 8 threads talking about how warez hurts the artist, but I can't see how this legal practice of used cd's/books/software is any different to the artist.

#33 by LPMiller
2002-04-11 20:49:05
They sold the music, they made money on it. Now it is out in the wild, like any other product. With no other product is it even considered logical that the maker of said product would continue to profit on it after the original sale. Not cars, Houses, or Twinkies.  Why should it be different for artists?

They want to make more money - they produce more product.

Will warez for food.
#34 by LPMiller
2002-04-11 20:49:29
Besides, I'd kill to see my name on a book in the library.

Will warez for food.
#35 by Gabe
2002-04-11 20:49:50
But I can no longer get value from the work if I don't have it anymore. I have my memories I suppose. Would the royalty rate for used things be a sliding scale based on how well I remembered the work later? Do I start getting money back as my memory fades? Get alzheimers and receive a huge check in the mail at the end of my life!

You could learn a lot from a dummy.
#36 by Caryn
2002-04-11 20:50:25
I think the problem I'm having is we have spent the last 7 or 8 threads talking about how warez hurts the artist, but I can't see how this legal practice of used cd's/books/software is any different to the artist.

Exactly. And yet artists consider downloadable mp3s to be the new nazis, but they don't ever talk about used CD sales. The book industry does not have an equivalent (downloadable books), and the games industry does see some warez but it clearly isn't on the scale of mp3s.

Don't mistake my topic to be a condemnation of used sales -- that's not it at all. Rather I'm proposing that there is a practice that gives very similar results in the end to the artist that's been around a long time, and maybe they should look to it for some perspective on the subject of mp3s.

"It's not stupid -- it's advanced!"
#37 by Gabe
2002-04-11 20:53:29
MP3s as practiced now means potentially unlimited copies. Used sales are the physical medium, not copies where multiple people can simultaneously benefit from one purchase. Seems like a pretty straightforward distinction.

You could learn a lot from a dummy.
#38 by LPMiller
2002-04-11 20:56:40
Actually now that I think on it - when a car is stolen, it isn't GM that is considered the victim, it's the guy that bought it. Yet if a game is warezed, it's the dev that is the victim. Yet, really, isn't it the guy that bought the game and ripped it to ISO that is the only of that actual item? Sure, he is a participant in the 'theft', and mayhap that is wrong, but I dunno that it automatically follows that the game house is the victim.  The dev owns the copyright to the work in question, but the user owns the right to the actual item.

Dammit, I think I just confused myself.

Will warez for food.
#39 by Caryn
2002-04-11 20:57:11
True. I think the ubiquitious nature of used copies of stuff these days on, etc. makes me feel like they're so much easier to get.

(marks a point in Gabe's column)

"It's not stupid -- it's advanced!"
#40 by LPMiller
2002-04-11 20:58:36
That's not true gabe, because used copies get duped to tape all the time - the point of going to the library to borrow an LP or CD was to tape it.

The copies were always made, but the medium changed. Volume may have gone up, but it follows the same exact logic that duping to tape did.

Will warez for food.
#41 by mrbloo
2002-04-11 20:59:13
I've seen some books available in .pdf format on Amazon.  The price for one was $15 compared to $20 for the hardback, so I didn't find it a very compelling purchase :)

I believe Michael Moorcock said once that he didn't consider his books completely on the market until they were in the remainder bins.  But he's a strange case by any standards.
#42 by Leslie Nassar
2002-04-11 21:00:07
The book industry does not have an equivalent (downloadable books)

Actually, they do have an equivalent, it's just not very big segment.

i like monkeys.  are you a monkey?
#43 by LPMiller
2002-04-11 21:01:11
Now I go the other way - wasn't the original intent of copyright to prevent others from making money off of your work? So...wouldn't used sales violate that idea then?

Will warez for food.
#44 by Caryn
2002-04-11 21:01:40
I wonder how many people buy a new or used CD, copy it, then immediately turn around and sell that CD and make most, if not all, of the money back?

"It's not stupid -- it's advanced!"
#45 by Leslie Nassar
2002-04-11 21:01:45
Oops, I meant to link to Powell's eBook section, not B&N.

i like monkeys.  are you a monkey?
#46 by Gabe
2002-04-11 21:02:39
LPMiller, but that is illegal isn't it? I thought we were discussing the currently legal practice of selling used copies.

You could learn a lot from a dummy.
#47 by Caryn
2002-04-11 21:02:41

Yeah, I thought about eBooks, but unlike CDs, you can't immediately turn around and turn a printed book into an electronic copy, whereas I can do that if I buy a new CD or a new game.

"It's not stupid -- it's advanced!"
#48 by LPMiller
2002-04-11 21:02:58
Actually, I can answer my own question - no, it doesn't violate that, because the intent was to prevent others making money off of your works as if it was their own.

I'm sorry, I'll stop freeversing now.

Will warez for food.
#49 by LPMiller
2002-04-11 21:04:30
Gabe, I'm sure it is, but it still happens is my point.

However, I'm not sure it is illegal to copy a used CD you bought, then resell it and keep the copy.

Like I said, my brain is riding a wave right now.

Will warez for food.
#50 by Gabe
2002-04-11 21:06:53
That's just mixing up the conversation though. Yes, making copies of someone else's work and then selling them is wrong, and I believe illegal.

You could learn a lot from a dummy.
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