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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 04.14.04
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Book borrowing banned, borrowers buggered

WASHINGTON (AP*) | The U.S. Senate [has] introduced new anti-piracy legislation that will target the most rampant violators of copyright infringement in North America.

"We cannot tolerate these menacing malefactors of misappropriation running roughshod over the accomplishments of our assiduous artists who stand to lose coveted capital on their copyrighted work," said Sen. Fritz Hollerings (Rep - SC). "These cultural corsairs have no respect for the capitalistic constraints of creativity and we will no longer allow them to get away with giving it away."

Hollerings was referring, of course, to public libraries.

"These libraries are devious," said the senator, who has also championed a bill to prevent newspaper subscribers from passing on their copies to sisters/nephews/postal workers. He is perhaps most famous for backing the Ebert Bill, which forces mandatory thumb-ectomies on film reviewers who give away endings.

"Do you realize that these libraries purchase a single book, then let anyone read it? For free!" said Hollerings at a press conference co-sponsored by the Publishers Interested in Gigantic Sales (PIGS).

"The technical term is 'borrowing.' Well, if passed, this new legislation will see library users 'borrowing' some considerable coin to pay fierce fines. I say we throw the book at 'em! Get it? 'Throw the book'?"

The new legislation will not directly target libraries since it is not illegal to purchase books and store them on shelves. Nor is it illegal to invite people in to look at your books. But once the books are borrowed or "shared," then they technically become stolen copyrighted material, with publishers and authors losing out on the potential sale of those books.

The legislation is receiving the support of such notable authors as Stephen King and John Grisham, who joined Hollerings at the press conference.

"When I think of Danielle Steel having to sit through another winter in her Aspen chalet wearing last year's diamonds, why, I get the willies," said King, who said he would be a "gazillionaire" instead of just a billionaire if it weren't for libraries.

"I'm no lawyer," said Grisham, "but it seems to me library users can't have their tort and eat it too."

Reporters were unclear what Grisham meant.

The legislation will see the creation of so-called "Book Clubs" consisting of literary sleuths who will patrol library parking lots looking for patrons leaving with "borrowed" books.

By clearly spelling out legislation, the U.S. Senate hopes to avoid the embarrassment that arose last fall after FBI agents stormed a home in Westchester, Maryland and arrested a 12-year-old girl who had borrowed from her library a copy of Harry Potter and the Zit Cream of Zanzibar. Public outrage forced officials to drop the charge of possession of copyright material with intent to commit literacy.

"It was a pickle," said Hollerings of the boondoggle. "But you can't make potato salad without chopping a few dills."

Reporters were unclear what the senator meant. Grisham was no help with this one either.

Hollerings brushed aside criticism that, in fact, libraries actually promote literacy, that they expose readers to authors they might otherwise never come across, and that those readers might go out of their way to purchase that author's next book.

The senator also did not buy the argument that libraries bring exposure to authors, thereby improving their chances of long-term financial success.

"That's like saying kids downloading Britney Spears songs from the Internet might accidentally be turned on to Etta James," said Hollerings. "It's just not going to happen. And speaking of getting turned on, ain't that Britney Spears a cutie-patootie?"

With that, the press conference quickly drew to a close, but not before Sen. Hollerings plugged his autobiography Freedom's Just Another Word For 'Nothing Left For You,' due to be published this July (175 pages, $73.99 retail).

*awful place

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