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Adding Value = Theft!

Roy Blount, president of the Authors’ Guild, writing in the New York Times, attempts to defend his groups assertion that the Amazon Kindle 2’s text-to-speech capability is cheating authors out of audio-book royalties:

“What the guild is asserting is that authors have a right to a fair share of the value that audio adds to Kindle 2’s version of books.”

And that assertion makes absolutely no sense. The creator of an item does not have a right to impose an arbitrary tax on anyone who adds value to the item. Otherwise we’d be open to all sorts of nonsensical scenarios, like:



The RIAA hits Apple with a lawsuit, claiming that the trippy visualizer component built into iTunes adds value to the music, and demands extra visual-performance royalties.



Movie studios take issue with the “up-scaling” feature built into current DVD players, which increases the resolution of the image to improve picture quality on HTDVs. They point out that the output resolution is comparable to Blu-Ray, making the consumers’ DVDs roughly twice as valuable, and demand the DVD manufacturers cut them a share of that.



The CEO of Exxon-Mobil asserts that his company has a right to a share of the extra value that the Prius adds to every gallon of gasoline. Prius owners are getting more mileage out of it, making the gas more valuable to them, so Toyota should be paying $1 a gallon in royalties to the oil companies.



International Paper Corp. demands a share of the extra value that book publishers are adding to the paper it produces by printing books out of it. “We sell them a ream of paper for a buck,” said a company spokesman, “and they put some ink on it and turn around and sell it as two hardback books for $25 each! All we’re asking for is our fair share, say 10% of that $24 markup.”



IPC’s gutsy move is being watched with interest by Universal Forest Products, which points out that its wood pulp is being used by paper manufactuers and resold at a higher price. It is seeking 10% of the “unconscionable, exploitative profit” that IPC and other paper companies make from the pulp they get from UFP.



In a hastily-arranged press conference, The Lorax—who speaks for the trees—demands massive overdue royalties from the forest products industry, the paper industry, book publishers, as well as Amazon and Apple. Analysts praise the bouncy meter and humorous rhyme scheme of the announcement…

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