April 15, 2014

Can You Explain First Sale Using Only the Ten-Hundred Most Common Words?

xkcd 1133 300x272 Can You Explain First Sale Using Only the Ten Hundred Most Common Words?

I think we can all agree: First Sale is important.
With important fundamental concepts, it’s often a useful exercise to distill them down to their essence, in order to better understand them and better explain them to others.

Which is why I was excited to see the release yesterday of an excellent primer on First Sale [PDF] from the Library Copyright Alliance, via Brandon Butler of ARL (@ARLPolicy on Twitter and Policy Notes on Tumblr).

It’s an elegant distillation of First Sale, and gets at some of the issues currently being considered by the Supreme Court in the Kirtsaeng v. Wiley case.

Jokingly, I said on Twitter that the one-page document was great and all, but could he do the same thing using Up-Goer Five-speak, which limits your available vocabulary to only the thousand (“ten-hundred” in Up-Goer Five parlance) most commonly used words. The text-editor that makes it all possible was inspired by a wonderful comic from Randall Munroe, which illustrated the Saturn Five Rocket in very basic and frequently beautiful terms (hence “Up-Goer Five,” since Saturn is not even close to one of the most commonly used words).

But then we started playing with it, and had some serious fun.

You can see Brandon’s take on the ARL Policy Tumblr:

If you own books, they are yours. Or so you think! But, and this is sad, police don’t know what “owning” means. It might mean books not from the US can’t really be owned. Maybe you can’t give books to friends, or give books to a store for money, if the books are not from the US. Instead, you would have to ask the people who make the books, and they could ask for money, or say “no.” You would be stuck…

LJ News Editor Meredith Schwartz took a crack at it, and definitely wins the Hemingway award for shortest and most direct average sentence:

You buy a book. You want to give the book to a store and have the store give you money. Then the store can give the book to someone else and get money from them.

You are allowed to do that now. But soon maybe you will not be allowed to do that anymore. You would have to ask the people who made the book if it was okay with them.

If they said yes you might have to give them some of the money. And if they said no you would have to keep the book or throw it out.

You also could not give it for a little while and get it back and give it to someone else. And it is not just books. It would also be movies or even just stuff that anyone wrote anything on the box of.

I decided to go with a little bit of a more narrative treatment, and tried to get at some of the details from the Kirtsaeng Case:

The Story of “First Time Buying” Idea for Book-Sharing Places

The Book-Sharing Places (which for sure have more than just books and have lots of other great things, though today we will call them Book-Places for short) for a long time have spent money on books and then shared those books all around to let other people work to make the world better at thinking and deciding on things. This sharing was an okay thing to do, because there are Important Words That Everyone Follows or Else that say it is okay.

But some people a little while ago said the Important Words (that everyone follows or else) that make the Book-Places able to share the books are not right. They said that if the books are made Over There instead of here, giving money for books does not mean what we think it means — it could mean that Book-Sharing Places can’t share the books the same way. Instead, they might have to pay more, or buy only books that are made right here, which is not very many books at all.

Everyone who thinks this is important went and told The People Who Pick the Important Words how they were feeling. The People Who Pick the Important Words listened a lot to everyone, and have been reading and thinking deep thoughts.

Soon, The People Who Pick the Important Words will decide who was right. The good news would be if the Book-Sharing Places could keep doing the sharing that they are good at doing.

The not-so-good news would be if book-sharing ideas get very hard to understand, and there are no clear new Important Words.

In that case, All the People Picked from All the States would have to decide, and they are not often good at deciding things that are important.

Keep paying attention! Important things are happening!

How would you approach explaining First Sale in Up-Goer Five speak? Give it a shot in the text editor, and paste your version below. (But really, if you need a proper, simple Fair Use explanation, see the original PDF from the Library Copyright Alliance.)

This article was featured in Library Journal's Academic Newswire enewsletter. Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to your inbox for free.

Josh Hadro About Josh Hadro

Josh Hadro (jhadro@mediasourceinc.com; @hadro on Twitter) is the former Executive Editor of Library Journal.

Share

Comments

  1. Davis Erin Anderson says:

    Here’s mine! Best fifteen minutes I ever spent.

    “Many people and places like to give words and pictures that they bought to others for money or to use for free. Some other people believe this should not be possible for words and pictures from places other than here – instead, the people and places should ask first.

    These two groups of people are now talking to Those in Power to see who is right about that. Will the people and places still be able to share the words and pictures? Bigger places who give words away for free want to keep going. I agree.”

  2. Here is another go at it as well…

    If you love books a new warning is for you as books on a computer can be different.

    Often with a book on a computer, you may NOT own it, give it away, but you can read, use and store it only in the way it was made to be. With a normal book, you MAY own it, give it a way and use it in whatever way you want to read it.

    The dream is that the books on a computer that have the “may NOT” will turn into “you MAY” some day.