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Old 07-07-2013, 06:24 PM   #1
guanaco
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How Copyright Makes Books and Music Disappear

More food for thought

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A random sample of new books for sale on Amazon.com shows three times more books initially published in the 1850’s are for sale than new books from the 1950’s. Why? This paper presents new data on how copyright seems to make works disappear.
The full paper, written by professor Paul J. Heald from the University of Illinois, is available here.
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:58 PM   #2
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I'm about to publish my third book. Why would I not want it copyrighted? Writing, proofing, and editing a novel takes a very large effort. Why would anyone take on such a task without copyright protection?
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:59 PM   #3
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Using Amazon as an example of books available for sale might be a little bit suspect academically.

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The 2317 random titles of new books available on Amazon during the fall of 2012 are charted in Figure 1 below by the decade of their original publication date. Both fiction and non-fiction titles are included. Titles now in the public domain (those published prior to 1923) constitute 72% of the total (1665/2317), while titles still under copyright constitute 28%
The above statement is problematic for me in that if the books were truly randomly selected, would these figure not be reflected in brick and mortar stores.

I have been in a lot of bookstores, both new and used and have yet to see one that books originally published 75 years ago outnumber newer works. I am sure they exist as specialty shops, but are probably few and far between.

And how many of these random books are physical books. Anyone can sell a public domain ebook on Amazon at little or no cost. At least with an paper book, there is an real cost to publish it.

Basically the gist of the article is that if the book is free more people will try and exploit it. Nothing really wrong with that any more than other forms of legal exploitation such as selling something way above market price to people to stupid to know better. Not something I would do or approve of, but not my decision to make. Caveat Emptor.


If the author of the article is referring to a truly random sample of new paper books, which I strongly doubt, than at least he has a somewhat shaky platform to stand on. If he is referring to ebooks, as 'new' simply because all ebooks can be termed 'new' or 'not used' than IMO he is just talking to hear himself and should be laughed out of town.

And saying that books disappear and are lost is contradicted several times in this paper, as many of the 1923 and earlier works came back into existence on Amazon at least in tremendous numbers according to him.

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Old 07-07-2013, 09:02 PM   #4
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Powerful copyright lobbyists presently circle the globe advocating ever longer terms of copyright protection . . .
This is overheated, and the footnote -- citing another secondary article -- doesn't strongly support it. I don't believe that the US or UK copyright length is in danger of being further extended. There allegedly is a little pressure on Canada (see home page at www.gutenberg.ca) because of ongoing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnertship. But, in the internet age, extending copyright is quite unpopular. Maybe the author of the OP article would say that only will be true if people like him keep on opposing it.

I do believe that eBooks (even more than print books) published before the US copyright cut-off of January 1, 1923 are more widely available than those published in the first several decades after. It's not just best-sellers that become unavailable after the cutoff, but also many Pulitzer prize winners. This indicates to me that US copyright is currently too long.

P.S. For example, there are post-1922 works of Winston S. Churchill unavailable as eBooks, and also out of print. One is The World Crisis (1923-31, 6 volumes). Every book Churchill published before 1923 is at gutenberg.com.

Last edited by SteveEisenberg; 07-07-2013 at 09:37 PM.
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Old 07-07-2013, 11:48 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by speakingtohe View Post
Using Amazon as an example of books available for sale might be a little bit suspect academically.



The above statement is problematic for me in that if the books were truly randomly selected, would these figure not be reflected in brick and mortar stores.

I have been in a lot of bookstores, both new and used and have yet to see one that books originally published 75 years ago outnumber newer works. I am sure they exist as specialty shops, but are probably few and far between.
[snip]

Basically the gist of the article is that if the book is free more people will try and exploit it. Nothing really wrong with that any more than other forms of legal exploitation such as selling something way above market price to people to stupid to know better. Not something I would do or approve of, but not my decision to make. Caveat Emptor.
Yeah, there are significant problems with using Amazon as his sample, one of which is that *a lot* of people will publish their own editions of public domain books and try to get 99c for it. If you look for works by Jane Austen, you'll find dozens (more; I stopped counting) of editions of the same thing, all from people who have repackaged PG copies of Austen's work as their own and are trying to sell them for 99c.

Here's my favorite cover, BTW:

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Old 07-08-2013, 10:24 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveEisenberg View Post
I don't believe that the US or UK copyright length is in danger of being further extended.
Does anyone seriously expect Steamboat Willie to enter the public domain in 2023?
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Old 07-08-2013, 10:51 AM   #7
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As I can't see the full article, I'll respond to the quote.

It seems the number of public domain vs. copyrighted works is likely skewed by the fact that any one can (and does) publish PD works. For popular authors (Dickens, Austen, etc) there can be dozens, if not hundreds, of editions available.

If filtered simply for in-print/out-of-print, and eliminating multiple editions, I think the gap would close significantly. I still think PD would be a significant portion, but not such an overwhelming majority.

At least that's my gut reaction. Someone with the time and data crunching inclinations could prove me wrong.
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Old 07-08-2013, 11:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ntsimp View Post
Does anyone seriously expect Steamboat Willie to enter the public domain in 2023?
And this (along with ebooks/epublishing) is really the issue and why copyright law needs a revamp.
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Old 07-08-2013, 11:18 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lazer View Post
I'm about to publish my third book. Why would I not want it copyrighted? Writing, proofing, and editing a novel takes a very large effort. Why would anyone take on such a task without copyright protection?
Well except for some zealots, I don't think too many people are advocating a total elimination of copyright. The question is, are your interests really served by copyright lasting for 70 years after you die? Unless your work happens to be one of those handful of books that keep selling well for decades, your existing publisher will have little incentive to renew the contract on your books nor will new publishers have an incentive to pick them up. If you are independently published, will your children or grandchildren be interested enough in making sure your books remain available?

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Old 07-08-2013, 11:22 AM   #10
speakingtohe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RHWright View Post
As I can't see the full article, I'll respond to the quote.

It seems the number of public domain vs. copyrighted works is likely skewed by the fact that any one can (and does) publish PD works. For popular authors (Dickens, Austen, etc) there can be dozens, if not hundreds, of editions available.

If filtered simply for in-print/out-of-print, and eliminating multiple editions, I think the gap would close significantly. I still think PD would be a significant portion, but not such an overwhelming majority.

At least that's my gut reaction. Someone with the time and data crunching inclinations could prove me wrong.
There is a download link on the page which downloads the PDF

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Old 07-08-2013, 10:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bill_mchale View Post
Well except for some zealots, I don't think too many people are advocating a total elimination of copyright. The question is, are your interests really served by copyright lasting for 70 years after you die? Unless your work happens to be one of those handful of books that keep selling well for decades, your existing publisher will have little incentive to renew the contract on your books nor will new publishers have an incentive to pick them up. If you are independently published, will your children or grandchildren be interested enough in making sure your books remain available?

--
Bill
The questions you ask were relevant to the publishing of old, where books went out of print and simply couldn't be obtained. Keeping books available now, with ebooks and print on demand, is a minimal cost or inconvenience. This is likely to mean that children and grandchildren can make sure the books remain available, even for what may be quite small residual payments. AND, I would add, they could even - with minimal or no cost and inconvenience - choose to make it explicitly public domain, if they choose, rather than letting the work disappear altogether. In other words: the availability for public interest issue is no longer much of an argument against copyright.
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Old 07-08-2013, 10:23 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ntsimp View Post
Does anyone seriously expect Steamboat Willie to enter the public domain in 2023?
It's indisputably out of copyright in many countries, and might be out of copyright in the US as well:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steambo...pyright_status

Could Disney still sue for copying Steamboat Willie? Sure. And they might win today.

But as for further extending copyright, I think the SOPA defeat last year shows the netizens are now too strong for that.
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Old 07-09-2013, 09:29 AM   #13
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The current copyright period is waaaay too long. The public interest is in no way served by life + 70. It's ludicrous. Just look at the whole William Faulkner debacle. The man's been dead for 50 years, god rest his soul.

I only get paid for the work I do once, and that's it. If I want to get paid again, I have to do more work. Obviously it's different with artists, but c'mon, I think 50 years - a whole half century! - is more than fair. Can you imagine, the Beatles catalog would be coming into the public domain. Obviously, the powers that be will never let that happen.

Last edited by usuallee; 07-09-2013 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 07-09-2013, 09:44 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usuallee View Post
The current copyright period is waaaay too long. The public interest is in no way served by life + 70. It's ludicrous. Just look at the whole William Faulkner debacle. The man's been dead for 50 years, god rest his soul.
On the flip side reading some of the comments over at Teleread some feel that works should never go into the PD...
http://www.teleread.com/copy-right/c...ks-study-finds
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Old 07-09-2013, 10:31 AM   #15
QuantumIguana
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I don't think there is any chance of copyright terms being reduced, but it is still possible to keep copyright from being extended indefinitely. Advocates of eternal copyright like to point to Mark Twain's objection to copyright periods, but when he was writing, copyright had a maximum term of 42 years from publication, now it is life+70. If we had eternal copyright, he couldn't have written A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
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