Online Store Can Sell ‘Used’ Ebooks, Court Rules

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A Dutch marketplace for second hand eBooks is being allowed to continue operating after the Amsterdam Court dismissed complaints from book publishers. The Court ruled that "Tom Kabinet" operates in a legal gray area which requires further investigation. Meanwhile the used eBook business is booming.

tomskabinetPeople who buy an MP3, digital movie or an eBook assume that they have the right to do whatever they want with it, but copyright holders see things differently.

Platforms that allow people to resell digital goods are meeting fierce resistance from the entertainment industries, who view them as a threat to their online business models.

For example, the major record labels previously pointed out that MP3s are simply too good to resell, as they don’t deteriorate in quality. Similarly, movie studios complained that the ability to sell “used” videos would kill innovation.

The book industry is also concerned and in an attempt to counter this threat several publishers launched a lawsuit against Tom Kabinet, an online marketplace for used eBooks based in the Netherlands.

The publishers fear that the site will negatively impact their business, and that it can’t prevent people from reselling pirated copies. The companies asked the Amsterdam Court for a preliminary injunction against Tom Kabinet, but the request was denied this week.

The Amsterdam Court concluded that selling used eBooks is a legal grey area and not by definition illegal in Europe.

Previously the EU Court of Justice previously ruled that consumers are free to resell games and software, even when there’s no physical copy. That case applied to licensed content, which is different from the Tom Kabinet case, so further investigation is needed to arrive at a final verdict.

The court therefore dismissed the publishers’ claims and ordered them to pay €23.469,56 in legal fees. Tom Kabinet, meanwhile, is still allowed to facilitate the sale of used eBooks.

It’s clear that the publishers didn’t get the result they hoped for. In fact, things have gotten worse, as Tom Kabinet’s visitor numbers have exploded. Shortly after the verdict was announced the site went offline because it couldn’t handle the surge in traffic.

These connectivity issues have been fixed now, and the site’s owner is happy with the outcome thus far.

“There is still a long way to go before legislation is clear on eBooks, but we’ve made a pretty good start,” Tom Kabinet informed TorrentFreak.

The publishers on the other hand are considering further steps, and it’s likely that the case will head to a full trial in the future.

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