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Old 06-25-2020, 03:22 PM   #1
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copyrighted public domain books

If I were to take a novel from some place that's published it as an ebook and strip out all of their formatting and any forward, preface, etc. stuff that they've added, so that it's only the original public domain book, and reformat it, would it be allowable to upload it here?

In the case that I'm thinking of, the Tom Barber trilogy, the books aren't available as scans on archive.org, or anywhere that I could find, although I did find the first (or last?) one, Young Tom, on Faded Page, which is how I learned of this author.
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Old 06-25-2020, 03:30 PM   #2
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Instead of public domain I should have said books whose authors died over 70 years ago.
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Old 06-25-2020, 03:50 PM   #3
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If I were to take a novel from some place that's published it as an ebook and strip out all of their formatting and any forward, preface, etc. stuff that they've added, so that it's only the original public domain book, and reformat it, would it be allowable to upload it here?
Yes..
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Old 06-25-2020, 05:34 PM   #4
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Wouldn't the epub be seen as a new publication whose copyright term begins anew? If there are changes in the text from the originally published version, then those would be protected by copyright. I would think that you would have to compare the epub's text against the original text word by word, and revert any changes to the original version. But then again, IANAL.

The gutenberg sites are pretty careful about only using scans from editions that would be out of copyright. They avoid modern reprints that might have modifications to the original text (including fixed typos).

Last edited by rkomar; 06-25-2020 at 05:39 PM.
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Old 06-25-2020, 06:16 PM   #5
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I think you are both correct. The ebook is protected by copyright, but only because new creative work has been done to the PD text.

IF all that is stripped out, then what is left is not covered by copyright anymore. However, as rkomar points out, the only real way to be sure you have done so is to do a comparison with the actual original document. Otherwise, you have no true idea if what you have is consistent with the text that is in the public domain. It's possible they have made significant changes to the text itself.

If you strip out the preface and footnotes, you might be left with a PD book. Or, you might not.
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Old 06-25-2020, 06:19 PM   #6
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Didn't that used to be a trick of dictionary writers? They would purposefully have a few incorrect definitions in them. Then, if someone plagiarized their work, they could point to those lines as proof that their work had been stolen.
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Old 06-25-2020, 06:24 PM   #7
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Just curious, but if the source of ebook was published as the original work, say "Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen", and there was nothing in the copyright page, wouldn't it be safe to assume it is the original work, otherwise it would be fraud.

FWIW, IANAL.
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Old 06-25-2020, 08:15 PM   #8
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Didn't that used to be a trick of dictionary writers? They would purposefully have a few incorrect definitions in them. Then, if someone plagiarized their work, they could point to those lines as proof that their work had been stolen.
I'd heard it was done with maps; they'd add some bogus road.
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Old 06-25-2020, 08:38 PM   #9
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I think you are both correct. The ebook is protected by copyright, but only because new creative work has been done to the PD text.

IF all that is stripped out, then what is left is not covered by copyright anymore. However, as rkomar points out, the only real way to be sure you have done so is to do a comparison with the actual original document. Otherwise, you have no true idea if what you have is consistent with the text that is in the public domain. It's possible they have made significant changes to the text itself.

If you strip out the preface and footnotes, you might be left with a PD book. Or, you might not.
That is my understanding of it too. The only way to prove your copy is the same as the PD copy is to have the PD copy for comparison.

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I'd heard it was done with maps; they'd add some bogus road.
John Green's 2008 book, Paper Towns, is named for this practice. Wikipedia - Fictitious Entry - talks about reference works with deliberate errors.
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Old 06-25-2020, 08:47 PM   #10
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Didn't that used to be a trick of dictionary writers? They would purposefully have a few incorrect definitions in them.
This risks terrible reviews. Who would knowingly buy it?

P.S. Just saw #9. Does anyone here have that actual phony word in their Oxford dictionary?

Last edited by SteveEisenberg; 06-25-2020 at 08:50 PM.
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Old 06-26-2020, 05:23 AM   #11
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Wouldn't the epub be seen as a new publication whose copyright term begins anew? If there are changes in the text from the originally published version, then those would be protected by copyright. I would think that you would have to compare the epub's text against the original text word by word, and revert any changes to the original version. But then again, IANAL.

The gutenberg sites are pretty careful about only using scans from editions that would be out of copyright. They avoid modern reprints that might have modifications to the original text (including fixed typos).
Copyright requires originality. Editorial changes (e.g. regularising/modernising spelling, fixing obvious typos) don't count. Project Gutenberg is that cautious because they're operating under US laws, so a later edition with corrections by the author might still be in copyright, but the earlier published work might be out of copyright. (Because of the way that copyright in the US depends on publication date for works published before 1978.)

You don't get a new copyright on a book's text just by republishing it.
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:03 AM   #12
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I'd heard it was done with maps; they'd add some bogus road.
Yes they did and probably still do. A friend used to publish city maps and I remember him showing me a map of Jacksonville, Florida with a noon existent cul-de-sac that he created.
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Old 06-26-2020, 10:10 AM   #13
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I'd heard it was done with maps; they'd add some bogus road.
It also used to be done with tables of logarithms. The last digit on some entries would be one digit off, as a way to prove that something had be copied rather than calculated independently.
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Old 06-26-2020, 10:56 AM   #14
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Yes they did and probably still do. A friend used to publish city maps and I remember him showing me a map of Jacksonville, Florida with a noon existent cul-de-sac that he created.
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I even got caught by one. I was driving out in the middle of nowhere and I think the map showed a road going all the way through and connecting to another road, but it didn't. Can't say I miss those old AAA paper maps.
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Old 06-26-2020, 10:59 AM   #15
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I even got caught by one. I was driving out in the middle of nowhere and I think the map showed a road going all the way through and connecting to another road, but it didn't. Can't say I miss those old AAA paper maps.
That was probably just an error. Map makers add extra wiggles to otherwise straight roads, or a smal cul-de-sac that doesn't exist. They don't (intentionally!) add non-existent connecting roads.
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