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Old 11-18-2009, 01:40 PM   #1
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A copyright question

I am looking to save some shelf space and by far the biggest space hogs are my old Norton Anthology books from university. Some of it is modern stuff you probably can't get on-line, but much of it---the first volume, certainly---is all PD stuff. I am thinking of making a digital version and am wondering if, should I do so, it's legal to share.

I don't care about the introductory notes, footnotes or anything like that, just the content, all of which would be stuff that's public domain. But I am wondering if I could get in trouble for copying the order---is such a thing even copyrightable? For example, let's say the book is 100 poems long, and the first poem is Such and Such, the second is So and So etc. I know the poems themselves cannot be copyrighted by the Norton people as they are PD, but is 'this set of poems arranged in that order' something they could have 'rights' on and I would get in trouble for copying and sharing?
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Old 11-18-2009, 01:48 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by ficbot View Post
I am looking to save some shelf space and by far the biggest space hogs are my old Norton Anthology books from university. Some of it is modern stuff you probably can't get on-line, but much of it---the first volume, certainly---is all PD stuff. I am thinking of making a digital version and am wondering if, should I do so, it's legal to share.

I don't care about the introductory notes, footnotes or anything like that, just the content, all of which would be stuff that's public domain. But I am wondering if I could get in trouble for copying the order---is such a thing even copyrightable? For example, let's say the book is 100 poems long, and the first poem is Such and Such, the second is So and So etc. I know the poems themselves cannot be copyrighted by the Norton people as they are PD, but is 'this set of poems arranged in that order' something they could have 'rights' on and I would get in trouble for copying and sharing?

Yes, the order can be copyrighted in the US. But that's shouldn't be a problem, order them differently...

Then put your own notes in, and copyright it yourself

Just release it in creative commons, and everybody's happy....

(Of course, I release my stuff in PD, but I'm a cranky old dinosaur....)
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Old 11-18-2009, 02:04 PM   #3
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Obviously, it would be a free release I am not going to do all that work and just keep it for myself. I think it might be good to integrate some backgrounder stuff from Wikipedia, since that is Creative Commons licensed. I think it would be amazing to have a free e-alternative to the bulky, costly Norton Anthology. I sure could have used one when I was in university, but ebooks were not really out there at that time.
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Old 11-18-2009, 02:17 PM   #4
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Looking forward to it.....
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Old 11-18-2009, 03:57 PM   #5
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OPne thing to be aware of: If any of the prose in the anthology has been translated from its original language or is an edited version of the original, both the translation and the editing are copyrightable.
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Old 11-19-2009, 12:02 PM   #6
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Wow. That is an awesome idea. Open source literary anthologies would help students so much. Collaborative notes on stories? Essay topics? Why is there not this already? Is there?
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Old 11-19-2009, 12:13 PM   #7
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Yes; it's called "Project Gutenberg".
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Old 11-19-2009, 12:26 PM   #8
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Remember, if there's translating or editing involved, the copyright applies to the new version. As a student, I remember reading from a different edition of Macbeth--and some of the lines and words varied in my version from those of other students.

Good luck--and yes, you might find it easier to create a meta-anthology linking to Gutenberg than going to all of the trouble of re-scanning and re-proofing paper content that has already been Gutenberged.

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Old 11-19-2009, 12:55 PM   #9
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Write to the Norton company, permissions department, and ask them if it's legal to do what you want to do. It's a very nice group of people there.
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Old 11-19-2009, 01:12 PM   #10
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The order is not copyrightable; "mere lists" are not copyrightable. However, a thematic arrangement is copyrightable. (Sort of. I don't think there have have ever been successful copyright infringement cases based only on list order.)

But the easy fix to that worry is to rearrange the order into one of your own choosing.
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Old 11-19-2009, 01:17 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Elfwreck View Post
The order is not copyrightable; "mere lists" are not copyrightable. However, a thematic arrangement is copyrightable. (Sort of. I don't think there have have ever been successful copyright infringement cases based only on list order.)

But the easy fix to that worry is to rearrange the order into one of your own choosing.
If an extra item was inserted would that mean it was no longer under copyright; even if the rest of the items retained their sequence?

(You could insert a haiku at the start .)
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Old 11-19-2009, 01:49 PM   #12
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The order is not copyrightable; "mere lists" are not copyrightable.
Careful. That might be true in some countries, but the UK for instance has a "sweat of the brow" doctrine which means they are copyrightable (and there's an explicit database right, seperate from copyright, which may also apply in some situations).
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Old 11-19-2009, 03:59 PM   #13
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I guess it's hard to say how 'artistic' the order is since the anthology is organized chronologically. So maybe there is a choice to include this Shakespeare sonnet over that one (and I might disagree with some of their choices and replace them with other ones anyway), but Shakespeare is always going to come before Yeats if one is going for a chronological presentation, right?

If I decide to add in the Wikipedia content, I might break this into several smaller ebooks by era. Then I could have the Wikipedia overview for that era, followed by my selections, and each ebook would be a reasonable size.
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Old 11-20-2009, 07:42 AM   #14
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Yes; it's called "Project Gutenberg".
Yeah, that's like saying the public library is an anthology.
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Old 11-20-2009, 07:48 AM   #15
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Yeah, that's like saying the public library is an anthology.
Not really. What's in PG is entirely dependent upon your contributions. You said that you wanted a place where you could share things like essay notes with other people. If you want to contribute such things to PG, they will happily accept them. The way to make it what you want is to contribute the type of material that you'd like to see there.
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