Public domain works are available to everyone to do whatever they want, including publishing and selling it. If I publish a book of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, I can put a copyright notice on my physical book. This means that you can't photograph or scan my pages and then publish and sell it yourself. What is copyright is my expression of the book; how I've laid it out, illustrations, like that. What you can do is copy the content; ie the words from my publication, because the words comprising A Christmas Carol are in the public domain.
Originally Posted by ProDigit
The issue is, what stops someone from copyrighting a public domain creation?
Something that seems to me a huge problem with copyright law the world over is that nothing protects the public domain.
In spite of its name, copyright is not actually a "right" but a state granted monopoly, and so is different in different countries around the world. Charles Dickens was enormously annoyed with the United States because at the time he was a superstar, the US did not respect any other country's copyright, and his works were copyright in England. Thus anyone in the US with a printing press could (and did) print copies of Mr. Dickens works, and he received not a penny in royalties. Under English law this was piracy, under American law not. This is the kind of thing which led to the development of international copyright treaties.
What often happens today is something called "copyfraud" where someone claims copyright on a public domain work. They may go so far as to sue others for infringing their copyright; certainly they attempt to intimidate others from reusing the work. I wrote a blog post about it here http://laurelrusswurm.wordpress.com/...modernization/
because it is something that I think copyright law should address. At most people doing this get a slap on the wrist, even though copyfraud is an act of piracy, not from a private rightsholder, but from the public. This is against the public interest no matter what jurisdiction, but it seems there is no one lobbying for the public.
Governments have been inventing new classes of copyright over the last century, and even applying them retroactively.
Because copyright law is made by different countries, each country can make their own rules, and then break them. Possibly the most famous literary work to come from Canada, "Anne of Green Gables", has been placed under a weird special perpetual copyright because it is too good a cash cow to let go. England has done something similar with "Peter Pan," which proceeds fund a hospital I believe. I've recently learned that the "Authorized Version of the King James Bible (1611) is held under perpetual #copyright in the UK by the British Crown to this day." https://twitter.com/#!/parlementum/s...72750161813506
Originally Posted by ProDigit
I think it would make a nice conversation on mobileread, to give easy step by step instructions, and/or easy access to link a work to public domain, or to some form of protected status. I don't mind anyone using or modifying it.
I don't mind anyone creating their own works around it.
I do think it's fair, if someone is receiving money from it, to pay royalties to the sources, and in this case does not have to be me, but a part of the profit to perhaps mobileread to keep the servers running, or other goodwill organization (although I will never say no to someone wanting to donate some money to a man such as myself
Both Canada and the UK have "Crown Copyright" which means that IP work paid for by the government is under copyright owned by our respective governments. Citizens must first get permission to use such work, even though our tax dollars paid for them. It wasn't so bad before when copyright terms were 14 or 28 years, but in Canada copyright expires only 50 years after the death of a creator. The US government actually places work it pays for directly into the public domain. That said, ordinary people don't make the laws and copyright laws in many places don't allow creators the right to place our own work in the public domain. Creative Commons licenses use copyright law to allow creators or rights holders to license our work as we like, including licensing into the public domain. This can be overridden by the laws of the land, or, since copyright now long outlives creators, by our heirs, unfortunately.
It's a big mess these days because there are too many people wanting a piece of the action. The big media companies want to turn back the hands of time to the days when they controlled everything, and rather than adapting to the changes brought by technology, they are trying to achieve this by having the laws rewritten to suit their interests (SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, DMCA, DEAct, C-11 etc.) rather than the public interest.
I do suggest that you look at Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/
and possibly at the GPL http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html
to see what would work best for this.