Please help free millions of books
This is great. REALLY.
Copyright is necessary. But copyright as it is today, especially its length, is ridiculous and counterproductive.
The public domain is the corpus of creative works that everybody can use, modify, republish.. without asking permissions or paying fees to anybody, because it is not under copyright anymore, if it ever was.
We ALL need a public domain as large as possible
Because the public domain is “incredibly important to the preservation of culture and to the creation of new culture”.
This is why I am really happy to read that peple are Scanning and Uploading Books That Are Secretly in the public domain. If you think this is not a big issue, please read what I wrote about the importance (and the absence) of ebooks in Public Libraries. And then read about the Incredible Shrinking Public Domain.
The current mess of copyright
Under current legislation, in the US:
- All books published in the US before 1924 are in the public domain
- Books published in 1964 and after are copyrighted for 95 years from their publication date
- That is, in case you had not noticed, long after everybody who should be compensated for actually contributing to their creation is long gone
- But thanks to a loophole in copyright law, up to 75 percent of all books published between 1923 and 1964 are in the public domain… unless their copyright registration was renewed
More books for everybody
That loophole means that many thousands of books may already be digitized, published online so everybody can read, and maybe even reprint them at the smallest possible cost.
The (big) problem is that, until recently, there was no quick, automatic way to determine which books these are, due to archaic copyright registration systems and convoluted regulations.
A Book Liberation Army
Now, thanks to the digitization of many copyright records by the NYPL libraryand to some programmers, it has just become much easier, and largely automatic, to “make a list of books whose registration wasn’t renewed”, and consequently are now in the public domain.
The actual verification of the list, and above all the actual work of scanning the books is still a huge task. Even convincing everybody who already has a private scan of some book that they are allowed to make it public takes time.
The good news is that everybody can help But everybody can help. If you can, please contact the librarians and programmers mentioned in the article today!