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Old 07-20-2013, 11:55 AM   #76
crossi
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I think of it more as a registration fee than a tax. If you want the protection of copyright protection you register it. Anything not registered isn't protected by anything else than keeping it secret. If you don't want your diary published keep it in a secure location, the government won't spend its money protecting something for you that you don't feel is worth the cost of registering. And the fee isn't based on value it's just payment for the administrative cost of registering it. A $20 fee/year for each item you believe is worth protecting won't break anyones bank.
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Old 07-20-2013, 01:01 PM   #77
SteveEisenberg
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Originally Posted by gmw View Post
Copyright for literature has a purpose that would not be well served by stopping it at a person's death. That purpose is to provide incentive to artists - and after death, their estates - to make their work available.
Makes no sense to me. With a paper book, the publisher has more reason to keep in print when royalty payments no longer need to be made. With an eBook, the main cost of keeping the book available, after the author's death, might not be the tiny royalties, but figuring out who is currently supposed to be getting the royalties.* When copyright expires, the publisher has no reason to withdraw the eBook.

I've tired and, so far, failed to find historical documentation of the rationale for Life + 50, adopted at the Berne Convention in 1886. My guess is that it was to provide for the (usually male) author's widow, at a time when there were no old age pension schemes. I have no evidence for it, but it does make more sense than thinking the existence of an estate would keep an unprofitable book in print.

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Publishers would start looking at an author's age and health before accepting works (they invest thousands to publish a book).
This is a reasonable speculation and a reason why, if I was the world's dictator, copyright would be for a fixed number of years.

The main point remains that eBooks for well-reviewed early and mid-twentieth century works are more more available for those out of copyright than those in-copyright.

____________________
* Or actual royalties might be zero, as many (most) books never earn back their advance. However, there is a record-keeping cost to knowing if the book has yet earned back the advance! If the sales of a book are miniscule, this by itself could render it unprofitable.
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Old 07-20-2013, 10:28 PM   #78
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Originally Posted by SteveEisenberg View Post
Makes no sense to me. With a paper book, the publisher has more reason to keep in print when royalty payments no longer need to be made. With an eBook, the main cost of keeping the book available, after the author's death, might not be the tiny royalties, but figuring out who is currently supposed to be getting the royalties.* When copyright expires, the publisher has no reason to withdraw the eBook.

I've tired and, so far, failed to find historical documentation of the rationale for Life + 50, adopted at the Berne Convention in 1886. My guess is that it was to provide for the (usually male) author's widow, at a time when there were no old age pension schemes. I have no evidence for it, but it does make more sense than thinking the existence of an estate would keep an unprofitable book in print.
Hmmm... Maybe I shouldn't have cut my post back as much as I did, I assumed people would understand that some things get published posthumously, or close to the author's death, if there was no copyright after death there would be much less incentive to do that. Once a book goes into the public domain, now more than ever, the profit margins drop dramatically, a publisher may never recoup their investment even on books published prior to the death.

If you want to see the beginnings of substantive copyright you need to go back to the Statute of Anne (long title: "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned.") Also from that link is this preamble from the statute:
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Whereas Printers, Booksellers, and other Persons, have of late frequently taken the Liberty of Printing, Reprinting, and Publishing, or causing to be Printed, Reprinted, and Published Books, and other Writings, without the Consent of the Authors or Proprietors of such Books and Writings, to their very great Detriment, and too often to the Ruin of them and their Families: For Preventing therefore such Practices for the future, and for the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books; May it please Your Majesty, that it may be Enacted...
If you continue into Wikipedia's History of Copyright you find:
Quote:
In ancient Jewish Talmudic law there can be found recognition of the moral rights of the author and the economic or property rights of an author.
and more recent history, but still 200+ years ago:
Quote:
A debate raged on whether printed ideas could be owned and London booksellers and other supporters of perpetual copyright argued that without it scholarship would cease to exist and that authors would have no incentive to continue creating works of enduring value if they could not inherit the property rights to their descendants. Opponents of perpetual copyright argued that it amounted to a monopoly, which inflated the price of books, making them less affordable and therefore prevented the spread of the Enlightenment.
So you can see the debate is very long-running, but the concept of incentive to create, and to have the rights pass on to their estate, has a long history.
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