Lessig's Free Ebook

Addresses new and interesting links to other sites (not listed on the Genii website) that merit attention.

Postby Bill Mullins » 04/09/04 12:26 PM

Lawrence Lessig is a lawyer/Stanford professor who spends a great deal of time thinking and writing about intellectual property, specifically copyright law.

He is of the opinion that, in the balance between creators and users of IP, the creators have gotten and are holding an advantage that is not good for society as a whole. This is evidenced by the MPAA's crackdown on "screener" tapes, the RIAA's shotgun approach to lawsuits, recent court cases like Eldred vs. Ashcroft and the Bono Copyright extension act. It is not clear that any currently copyrighted material will ever go into public domain, from now on. He thinks that copyright holders are using and extending their monopolies to stifle creativity, to the detriment of society as a whole. I don't know where I stand on the debate, but I agree things are changing quickly, without much regard for the long-term consequences for anyone who reads, writes, or otherwise uses music, literature, film, etc. -- in other words, everyone.

One of his solutions is his work on developing and supporting the Creative Commons license for IP. Another is his interesting blog .

Another is his release, for free, of his newest book Free Culture . Here is an article about what is means for an author to release a book for free, and for what it specifically means for this author to release this book.

The internet has dramatically changed the way we use and distribute information, and magicians are more affected by these changes than most. Here is one of the leading thinkers on the subject, acting instead of reacting to it all.
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Postby Bob Farmer » 04/09/04 06:43 PM

If the professor had to rely on copyrights for a living, I think his view might be different.
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Postby seraph127 » 04/09/04 08:00 PM

No one has to rely on copyrighted material for a living.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/09/04 08:03 PM

Really? Guess again.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 04/09/04 09:55 PM

Originally posted by Bob Farmer:
If the professor had to rely on copyrights for a living, I think his view might be different.
I don't think so. He has said he fully supported copyright law as it existed up until 1976, and maybe even that wasn't restrictive enough. Since that time, however, copyrights have been extended to the lifetime of the author, plus seventy-five years. The intent of copyright law is to grant a limited monopoly to the creator, so that he has incentive to share his works, and everyone benefits. To give three generations of heirs a monopoly doesn't cause anyone to be more creative, nor to encourage dissemination of what they have created. It only locks up our cultural heritage and prevents others from using, expanding, and extending it.
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Postby Bob Farmer » 04/10/04 05:18 AM

Let me put my point differently: I think that university professors should only be paid for 25 years. After that, they should work for free. After all, spreading their knowledge (which they have a monopoly on) for free is much better for society.

I do make my living exclusively from copyrights. The people ready to put me out of business and take the food off my table by either destroying the "copyright monopoly," or by stealing without paying, would probably feel differently if it was their living and their table.

The professor's arguments -- not new incidentally -- are nonsense.
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Postby John Clarkson » 04/10/04 10:56 AM

Bob, are you, therefore, suggesting, in a back-handed sort of way, that the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of university professors should continue to draw the salary the professor was paid during his/her life, adjusted, of course, for inflation? The professor seems merely to argue that the newer law, extending the copyright for 75 years past the lifetime of the author, is excessive and that this excessive protectionism harms society more than it protects a long-dead author. I honestly have not formed an opinion about the issue of copyright, but the professor's doesn't sound like nonsense.

Do you think that nothing should ever become "public domain?" If so, I'd be interested in your argument. If not, at what point would you consider allowing material to become part of the public domain?
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Postby Bob Farmer » 04/10/04 11:41 AM

A copyright, unlike a dead professor, continues to be used and that use should be paid for (so the professor's heirs should get nothing, but the heirs of the copyright creator should).

The professor can put out his free book because he probably has tenure and a guaranteed income until he retires. If books were his only source of income, I doubt his position would be the same (and I doubt his book would be free).

I'd be happy if copyright lasted forever; after all, if I build a house or start a business, I can own it and bequeath it to my heirs and they can continue to own it and profit from it -- why should copyright be any different? Why should a song or book be treated any differently?

Copyright does not protect or create any monopoly on ideas -- just the expression of those ideas. To suggest that copyright somehow restricts or reduces creative output and that by cutting it back, creative output and the exchange of ideas will increase is, I think, more nonsense. Creative people are creative people, they create no matter what (copyright ensures they get paid, that's all).

Sonny Bono has a lot to answer for (e.g., Cher), but one thing he did do right was get the copyright term extended.
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Postby John Clarkson » 04/10/04 12:27 PM

Originally posted by Bob Farmer:
A copyright, unlike a dead professor, continues to be used and that use should be paid for (so the professor's heirs should get nothing, but the heirs of the copyright creator should).
I agree, then, that your example of limiting the pay of a professor to 25 years is not applicable. As to the rest, Bob, the very point at issue is to what extent (if at all) heirs of a copyright holder should be compensated. Merely asserting that they should doesn't advance the argument.

I think I see your point, though. You view intellectual property to be the same as any other kind of property. You own it, and you believe you should have the right to pass it on to heirs. But I also wonder if wealth should be heritable. It seems that it causes pockets of power and privilege-- dynasties, if you will-- not because of the merits of the currently wealthy, but because of the hard work of their grandfathers. But, that is another argument, for another forum.

I wonder, though, if information, or song, or other expressive properties fall into the same category as a house or a lump of gold. Copyright laws seem to indicate that most people view them as somehow different, even if we aren't very good at articulating the difference. Perhaps the difference is that humanity is significantly advanced by Shakespeare, but not by your house. It seems the copyright laws are an attempt to find a fair balance between the creator's right to be compensated and the benefit to the public of eventually allowing the creation to be freely used.

On the other hand, I suppose it could be argued that not allowing intellectual property to be amassed, stored, and passed on to heirs in perpetuity (like tangible property), might actually undermine creative motivation, although I suspect the evidence is to the contrary.

I will agree with you that we should take care to respect intellectual property. I think, though, that the limits of protection should be reviewed occasionally. It's a hard issue. I don't think I'm willing to dismiss either side as nonsense, yet.
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Postby Bob Coyne » 04/10/04 12:54 PM

Lessig is right. Copyright protection has gotten out of control. 75 years past the life of the author is ridiculous. This is all about both what's reasonable and useful to society. The current laws are neither.

Farmer's argument about the professor working for free after 25 years is kind of silly. Copyrights protect intellectual property to a limited extent. Working for free would be slavery. The limits/protections for the two are obviously different things.
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Postby Bill Duncan » 04/10/04 01:40 PM

Originally posted by Bill Mullins:
To give three generations of heirs a monopoly...
...only locks up our cultural heritage and prevents others from using, expanding, and extending it.
Bill,
How did my creativity and hard work become our cultural heritage? Does that mean I should be able to use the images from your old family photos as I see fit to create other works as long as I don't use your original photos?

If you or a family member took those pictures shouldn't you be entitled to a portion of the monetary gain I make from using them?
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Postby Bill Duncan » 04/10/04 01:48 PM

Originally posted by Bob Coyne:
This is all about both what's reasonable and useful to society. The current laws are neither.
Bob,
Protecting my rights to my creations is about what's good for society? Please explain why your right to benefit from my labor should override my right to benefit from it?

Is is a cumulative thing? If there are a lot of people in society who have very little right to benefit from my work do they get to gang up on me and limit my right to benefit from my own labor?
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Postby Bob Coyne » 04/10/04 02:29 PM

Bill Duncan writes:
How did my creativity and hard work become our cultural heritage?
Are you suggesting that ownership of intellectual property is of unlimited duration and can last generations and centuries? It's certainly a good thing that the work of Newton, Shakespeare, and Beethoven, etc is all public domain. And that tradition needs to continue. The point is that there has to be an expiration date on any special or limited protection society grants to originators (via patents or copyrights). Giving protection during the life of the author or something along those lines seems more than sufficient. The current laws are the result of powerful, large corporations being too greedy and are neither fair, nor to the public's benefit.
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Postby John Clarkson » 04/10/04 02:37 PM

Originally posted by Bill Duncan:
...Is is a cumulative thing? If there are a lot of people in society who have very little right to benefit from my work do they get to gang up on me and limit my right to benefit from my own labor?
Apparently, it is, and apparently they do. For instance, governments, by way of taxes, take some of your income (property) to support social benefit programs for you and for people who may have very little direct right to benefit from your labor. Likewise, governments exercise a right of imminent domain to seize land from the few for the benefit of the many. We may complain a lot about it, but that argument seems to have been settled centuries ago.
How did my creativity and hard work become our cultural heritage?
Who knows, Bill? You may be the next Cervantes or Galileo, or Shakespeare, in which case, yes, your creativity becomes a part of our cultural heritage.

Does that mean I should be able to use the images from your old family photos as I see fit to create other works as long as I don't use your original photos?

If you or a family member took those pictures shouldn't you be entitled to a portion of the monetary gain I make from using them?
I guess there is not much argument about whether you should be entitled to a portion of the monetary gain, if you took the photos. The issue is whether (or for how long) your heirs should be entitled to compensation. I'm not sure that passing wealth to subsequent generations is a right nor a necessary benefit of one's labor. Could you say more?
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Postby Alain Roy » 04/10/04 02:39 PM

Bob Farmer wrote:
The professor can put out his free book because he probably has tenure and a guaranteed income until he retires.

Did you read the article linked to from the original post? He both sells the book and gives it away. He claims that offering it for free will increase interest in the book, and because people don't like to read books on a computer, it will increase his sales. In short, he thinks that this will make him more money. I don't know if he's right or not--time will tell.

On the larger topic at hand, I like the proposal I've heard discussed before: copyrights should be renewable for a nominal fee. For instance, the initial copyright might last 50 years, then it can be renewed in 25 year increments for, say, $50. If something like this happened, then people that might still make money from their copyrighted material can do so, but a great number of works would go into the public domain. This might help a lot of works from being lost forever.

-alain
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Postby Bob Coyne » 04/10/04 02:45 PM

Bill Duncan writes:
Protecting my rights to my creations is about what's good for society? Please explain why your right to benefit from my labor should override my right to benefit from it?
I don't think Lessig is suggesting that your rights to what you create shouldn't be protected. The question is to what extent they're protected. It shouldn't be absolute protection forever.

My opinion: Your creation came out of a cultural milieu and the same ideas/expressions might have been stumbled upon (in semi-related form) by someone else. i.e., They're related to other ideas and expresions. So you shouldn't get absolute rights since a) it's all from the same pot and b) once you're gone, your descendants can claim much less rights to it. If Newton didn't discover calculus, then someone else would have -- like Leibniz. It's not that much different with copyrighted forms of expression.

And speaking of Newton, I'm very glad that scientific and mathematical discoveries can't be patented or otherwise owned. According to your logic, I think they would have to be.
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Postby Bill Duncan » 04/10/04 03:22 PM

Originally posted by John Clarkson:
I'm not sure that passing wealth to subsequent generations is a right nor a necessary benefit of one's labor.
John,
Are you suggesting there is ANY condition under which my hard work to ensure the well being of my children should take a back seat to your belief that they don't deserve the money because they didn't work for it? What does that say about my rights of property?
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Postby John Clarkson » 04/10/04 04:17 PM

Bill, I'm not even saying I believe that your children don't deserve your money. Hence the italicized phrase in my previous post, "I'm not sure." I am approaching this simply as an exploration of ideas, not as an immutable statement of policy. If it were my belief, however, I guess it would say I believed your "right of property" may die when you do. That is not an unreasonable position, although, having grown up in an Anglo-American legal system, it seems a bit foreign to me.

I do think, however, that there is good reason to balance the benefit to society of allowing intellectual property to pass to the public domain at some time after the death of the creator against the benefit of letting generations who did not work for it accumulate power and wealth. The question is how to accomplish a fair balance. And, yes, if we balance, then, by definition, at some point, your heirs (whether children or great-great-great grandchildren) will take a backseat to what is perceived to be the greater good for the greater number-- not because it is my belief, but because it would be the accepted social policy.

Is it your belief that no such balancing is required and that the creator's property rights are perpetual and absolute? I wouldn't have much problem with that position, but it has already been considered, and as evidenced by our copyright laws (and those of most nations, I think), rejected.

With respect to those who do believe that intellectual property should, at some point, pass to the public domain, I am further interested in learning by what reasoning they decide that 75 years is better than, say, 50 years or 25 years or zero years after the death of the creator.

As I say, Bill, I don't have a particularly strong opinion. I am more interested in seeing the thought processes that underpin the various positions.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 04/10/04 08:00 PM

Originally posted by Bill Duncan:
Originally posted by Bill Mullins:
To give three generations of heirs a monopoly...
...only locks up our cultural heritage and prevents others from using, expanding, and extending it.
Bill,
How did my creativity and hard work become our cultural heritage?
It hasn't, yet. But Mark Twain's has. And Irving Berlin's. And James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen Foster, George and Ira Gershwin, Steven Spielberg, Joe Simon and Jerry Shuster, George Carlin, Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, Carl Barks, Rod Serling, Jack Webb, Stan Lee, William Gaines, Orson Welles, Isaac Asimov, Bob Dylan, Glenn Miller, and many, many others have created the body of work that is American culture. And Walt Disney's.

Disney is the key, here. The copyright extension act perhaps should be called the Mickey Mouse extension act. The imminent transfer of "Steamboat Willie" into the public domain geared up Disney's lawyers and lobbyists to get the Bono act passed.

Bob, were your creative juices enhanced upon the passage of the Bono act? Are you more motivated now than before it to publish?

No one is saying that creators shouldn't have some monopoly on their works. That they should has been a matter of law for hundreds of years, and rightfully so. Lessig is saying that 75 years past the death of the author is too long, though, and I think he makes a pretty good case.

Do you believe it should be longer? Was Michael Canick out of line to reprint Erdnase? Does magic benefit from the Dover reprints?
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Postby Bill Duncan » 04/10/04 09:22 PM

I feel that the creator's rights of property should exist as long as there is a living legal heir to that property. Setting some aribtrary date after which the family's property ceases to be theirs seems like state condoned theft to me. Just because it's the way things are done doesn't make it right.

I'm might be convinced that a limit on ownership should be set "for the common good" in the case that the original owner or his/her heirs choose to divest themselves of the property. In otherwords if you want to retain your "birthright" you get to keep it forever but if you sell it to someone it eventually becomes public domain.

In growing up I had the odd idea that public domain meant that no one was alive to claim ownership and so everyone could feel honest about using it as there was no one alive from which to steal it.

As for the argument that allowing things to come into the public domain is good for society well that's just silly. If someone sells an edition of Macbeth why is it better for society that they get all the profit for it than that the living heirs get a part of the proceeds?

Paying royalties does not hinder the development of ideas or the advancement of commerce. There's an old adage in business... if you need to use someone's idea use it. If the product is a sucess you can settle out of court and pay royalites. If it isn't they won't bother suing you.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 04/10/04 09:27 PM

Originally posted by Bill Duncan:
If someone sells an edition of Macbeth why is it better for society that they get all the profit for it than that the living heirs get a part of the proceeds?
This is the key difference between Intellectual property and other types (tangible and real). If I sell my edition of Macbeth, I no longer have it. If I sell the right to make a copy of my writings, I still have the right to make further copies myself, and to use them.

For most of history, copyrights did not exist. They have been created out of thin air, and are a legal construct. Their definition is arbitrary in ways that the definition of other types of property is not. Where the arbitrary boundaries of that copyright extend has changed more in the last 30 years, than in the previous history of America. Maybe it has moved too far out, and should be reined in somewhat. Not eliminated, but reined in.
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Postby Bill Duncan » 04/10/04 09:33 PM

Originally posted by Bill Mullins:
It hasn't, yet.
That may be the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me. Have you read my book or are you just being nice? ;)

Was Michael Canick out of line to reprint Erdnase? Does magic benefit from the Dover reprints?
Well, since there are no known living heirs to "Expert" I guess not. How can you steal from someone who has abrogated their right to the profits? And yes, magic benefits from the Dover reprints but that doesn't mean that Hofzinzer's family shouldn't get part of the profits. If you're arguing that Dover wouldn't publish them if they had to pay I'm afraid you're wrong. If I can make a solid profit selling a manuscript of my own ideas on magic I'm sure I could manage to ring a buck or two out of his work and share the profits with his kin.
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Postby CHRIS » 04/10/04 11:37 PM

Originally posted by Bill Duncan:
If you're arguing that Dover wouldn't publish them if they had to pay I'm afraid you're wrong.
I guess that depends. It depends on what royalty the heirs want and what profit margin there is in such a product. I can easily imagine unreasonable heirs that want an impossible cut, making any reprint impossible.

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Postby Bill Duncan » 04/11/04 10:37 AM

Chris,
That's exactly how it should be...

If you can't convince the owner that it's worth it to publish then it shouldn't be published. If they would rather have NO money than SOME money that's the same as my saying I won't sell it for that price. It's your job as a publisher to make it possible for the project to be profitable or to allow someone else to do so.

If the idea isn't worth enough for it to generate revenue it should die a natural death.

The example of Canick's edtion of Expert is a prime example. Do we really NEED another edition of that book? I have so many copies that I even created a left handed version of the parts I really like so that I could see what it's like to read without having to flip everything. And yet Canick thought there was a market for another edition. If the market "will bear" that, then I'm sure that it's profitable to reproduce some version of any text that's worthwhile.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 04/11/04 02:29 PM

Originally posted by Bill Duncan:
Chris,
That's exactly how it should be...
If the idea isn't worth enough for it to generate revenue it should die a natural death.
This is where we disagree. If creative ideas die, then nobody wins. Many films from before WWII are gone forever, because the copyright holder didn't care enough to take care of them. What if owners or heirs are indifferent? By your premise, the work should die. The result is that works by Charlie Chaplin, Valentino, John Wayne, Theda Bara, Lon Chaney (a magician, by the way), Douglas Fairbanks, Greta Garbo, Georges Mlis (a magician, by the way), Clara Bow, Gary Cooper, and most of the movies from the silent era will never be seen again.

Up until 1976 or so, a copyright holder had to make an affirmative action to register copyright (for a limited time) and to renew it (again, for a limited time). Now, copyright vests immediately upon creation, and lasts a very long time (some are arguing that the current situation doesn't have limits, and is therefore unconstitutional). The classic "It's a Wonderful Life" became a classic, because it had slipped into the public domain for a while, and was thus available for regular Christmas broadcast.

The whole reason that society grants the monopoly of copyright is that it encourages useful ideas to get out where they can be used. Part of this process, is that eventually they go into public domain, whence the ability of society to use them increases. If copyrights last forever, that part of the "deal" is broken.
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Postby Bill Duncan » 04/11/04 08:02 PM

Originally posted by Bill Mullins:
If creative ideas die, then nobody wins.
Ideas don't die... only implementations of them. If the ideas are useful they'll appear again and elsewhere. Magic isn't the only endeavor where reinvention occurs naturally.

The classic "It's a Wonderful Life" became a classic, because it had slipped into the public domain for a while, and was thus available for regular Christmas broadcast.
So it was shown on TV because it was free? I don't think so... It was shown on TV because it was free and people wanted to see it.
Do you think that if some other film were shown because it was free that THAT film would be a classic now and IAWL would be forgotten? Ever seen "Wings"?

"Die Hard" is shown more often than "It's a Wonderful Life" was/is and so is "A Christmas Story". Royalties don't seem to prevent them from being "classics"...

Part of this process, is that eventually they go into public domain, whence the ability of society to use them increases.
The ability to use something isn't decreased by paying royalties. In the case you cite above the network charged for commercial time during IAWF. Do you think they charged less because the film didn't cost them anything? Society got exactly what the network wanted to sell them and the network got more money than if they'd offered something for which they had to pay royalties. Do you think this sort of redistribution of wealth benfits society or the owners of the network? The only thing I know for sure is that Frank Cappra's family DIDN'T benefit.
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Postby CHRIS » 04/12/04 05:21 AM

Bill,

you wrote "And yes, magic benefits from the Dover reprints ..."

I think if these books would not be in the public domain, Dover would not have reprinted them and so magic could not have benefited from these reprints.

From a pure business point of view it is very easy to make a clear statement. If something costs more to manufacture, and having to pay royalties makes a product more expensive, it is less likely that such product will be manufactured. It is then a matter of degree, how much royalty has to be paid and how much profit margin is in the product. But that doesn't change the simple fact that an additional royalty makes it less likely.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for sensible copyright laws. For my own dealings, I am actually going above and beyond the copyright law and compensate in several instances the heirs, although the book is in public domain. (Not everything and everybody needs laws to do the right thing.) Nevertheless, I think the current copyright duration is probably too restrictive. I would be in favor to have copyright holders express their continued interest through a renewal process or similar.

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Postby Bill Mullins » 04/12/04 10:12 AM

Originally posted by Chris Wasshuber:

Don't get me wrong. I am all for sensible copyright laws.
Me too. And I think that copyright monopolies, lasting as long as they do now, are not sensible.
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Postby Guest » 04/20/04 11:46 AM

Publishing an electronic book, and selling a printed version has already occured in the software technology industry. Bruce Eckel has published his "Thinking in C++" book (and several)others. This is 2 volumes and is freely downloadable, it also retails in the bookstores.

This is an extremely good book, and each one is approximately 1100 pages. You could ask him to see how this is working out for him.

As a side issue. I have seen many "standard" technology texts go out of print. Since there is a relatively small demand it is unlikely they will be printed again. It does seem a shame to lose this kind of information, especially since a lot of the new texts are crap. A small market is definitely there for an electronic version of these texts. It would cost the publisher little, and price could be set at a reasonable value.
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Postby CHRIS » 04/20/04 12:35 PM

The problem is that most of the established publishers are not willing to release their backlists into the electronic space. I think this is a big mistake. Eventually it will happen. These publishers are too conservative and too close minded to get it.

What is the harm releasing a book, which is out of print, which will never be reprinted again, as ebook? Even if this is done without copyrights managment and encryption and all that kind of inconveniencing stuff. At a minimum it would mean free PR. Most likely it would provide a nice profit stream for little or no work.

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Postby Guest » 04/21/04 11:20 AM

Since my name & the Erdnase facsimile were brought up in this thread, allow me to comment.

First, I didn't publish the book, nor did I feel there was a particularly profitable market for it. I'm merely the distributor, working w/ the publisher, who wishes to remain anonymous. Frankly, this was a labor of love, done to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Erdnase. In fact, if we sell ALL the 750 copies that were printed, neither the publisher nor I will make any real profit; in fact, it will probably end up as a loss for me.

Second, as to the need for "another edition of Erdnase," several issues briefly. I don't believe there's been a hardcover ed. of the book published since the 1940's, so this edition fills the need of those who want a hardcover copy at a reasonable price. Also, this ed. is like no other -- it's an exact replica of the 1st ed; something that has never been done. Considering that a true 1st, when found, fetches thousands of dollars, this is an affordable substitute. Finally, this is a book for those who really love Erdnase & want to appreciate the complete text & illustrations, which have been painstakingly restored. Most of the other eds out there have pages/sections missing, broken type & unclear illustrations.

Regarding paying royalties to Erdnase's family/estate, I can guarantee that anyone who can find the heirs will not only secure him/herself a place in the magic pantheon by solving one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the history of magic, but will earn the admiration of the entire magic community, not to mention helping Erdnase's heirs get a chunk of change <g>.

Finally, regarding the Dover reprints, my understanding from people who have worked for this company is that they are meticulous in researching copyrights & either use works in the public domain or pay for those that are not.
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Postby Matthew Field » 04/21/04 12:53 PM

Jeez. I thought I had mistakenly logged on to the American Bar Association Forum.

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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 04/23/04 06:29 AM

I have purchased every book by Lessig, including his latest. However, I was first able to check out his latest tome from the library. Then I downloaded his free copy from the Web, which I was then able to mark up with personal notes. Since it is loose-leaf in this form, I bought a hardcopy for my library.

Of course, being a bibliobulemic, I often buy the same book in several editions because I like the new dust-jacket or size of the typeface.

Bottom Line: I love almost any text that I can read, hold, store, or shelve. I hate the thought that information (if it is not memorialized in some way) could be lost.

Perhaps the oddest "memorial" of historic text was what I discovered at Rowan Oak (William Faulkner's home in Oxford, Mississippi). Faulkner wrote the entire outline of his book, A FABLE, on the wall of his library.

Onward...
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Postby Guest » 04/24/04 04:56 AM

But Mr. Canick, would a small royalty fee to a foundation or heirs stopped you from conducting the task?

As a 3rd generation of a family business I am a firm believer that there many, if not most, businessmen, authors etc. who are very concerned about their heritage. That is to say, my father would not have to work anymore but I believe he is doing it for me and my relatives.

But back to the actual IP business. If there would be no such thing as public domain wouldn't that mean that there would be better market for copyrights? Thus, companies could allocate much more resources to find good copyrighted material knowing that they can gain revenues from them in a long run. What if every ebook in lybrary.com would have additional 10 cents royalty fee? Would that hinder the sales in any way?

And it is basic market economy. I do not believe that, in a long-term again, we would lose any cultural heritage. All the important works would have been sold to copyright companies or the heirs would have negotiated a sensible royalty fee.

And if there would be a known great granddaugther of Erdnase somewhere, can we really say that she wouldn't have more rights to re-print the book than Dover? I believe she would have.
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Postby John Clarkson » 04/24/04 08:23 AM

Originally posted by Pekka Ketonen:
...
And if there would be a known great granddaugther of Erdnase somewhere, can we really say that she wouldn't have more rights to re-print the book than Dover? I believe she would have.
Well, actually, yes, we could. The heritability of property is not some god-given, inherent right. It is conferred by social convention. It can be limited by convention. In some cultures there is no private ownership of property at all. In both American and English societies we have limited the term for which intellectual property can be passed on to other generations. We could, with equal justification, limit the heritability of other kinds of property. We have, in fact, done so in the past. If I recall correctly, for example, in your own country, there once was a right of primogeniture by which only the first born male child inherited land. That "right" was eliminated by social convention.

I personally like the idea of coasting through life without working because great granddaddy wrote a novel, but I can't see any moral justification for my being able to do so. In this thread, I still have not read a cogent argument that justifies any particular span of time for allowing the descendants of the creator of intellectual property to continue to own the property. It is utterly arbitrary. Right now, we limit it to the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years. What's the magic in the number 70?

I'd be just as happy, I think, if we decided to limit it to the lifetime (or less than the lifetime) of the creator. It might encourage my worthless offspring to go out and create something of their own for once. But, by the time the issue becomes relevant--by current definitions, at least-- I'll be putrefying in a cold, cold grave. Look me up in the afterlife see if I'm bothered by the then-current copyright laws. I'm telling you now, though, I'll probably be more concerned about how to get a glass of ice water.
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Postby Guest » 04/24/04 10:05 AM

Then again I cannot see any moral justification why the intellectual property should not be passed forward. If the copyright holder so wishes.

I can see the logic but not the justification.
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Postby John Clarkson » 04/24/04 11:02 AM

The justification, so the argument goes, is to prevent building dynasties of power and privilege with inherited wealth instead of by merit.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 04/24/04 02:21 PM

The second justification is that copyright law is a balance between the right and need of a creator to be compensated for his work and the ability of society to benefit from that work, by making derivative works.

Walt Disney was able to parley the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm and others into a fortune. Good for him, and everyone who has seen "Snow White" or "Sleeping Beauty" has benefited. But if he had to work out how to pay royalties to the tens of thousands ??? of potential heirs, it would have never happened and we all would be the lesser for it.
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Postby CHRIS » 04/24/04 09:06 PM

Originally posted by Pekka Ketonen:
What if every ebook in lybrary.com would have additional 10 cents royalty fee? Would that hinder the sales in any way?
Pekka, for many of my ebooks I (Lybrary.com) pay royalties, often a multiple of what is typically paid by print publishers. One of the many reasons I started Lybrary.com was to be able to pay much higher royalties as print publishers do. And as I wrote, in some cases I even pay royalties although the material is in the public domain.

If it would only be 10 cents per copy, then it would be a non-issue for me. However, nobody is satisfied with 10 cents. Believe me, I do such royalty negotiations regularly. There is a very small number of people who do not care, not even for 10 cents. Most do care and want significantly more, and here is exactly where the problem starts. I could not publish some books because of too high royalty demands. It is very clear to me that royalties can make a project unprofitable. Therefore the argument that long copyright protection can have a negative effect for society is in my opinion valid. Some heirs are unreasonable or greedy and can so block a republication. Happens all the time. Also, don't forget that there can be copyright disputes between two branches of the family. As long as these disputes are not resolved, no reprint is possible. There are a few of those in magic, too.

Chris Wasshuber
Lybrary.com preserving magic one book at a time.
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Postby Guest » 05/10/04 08:31 PM

Bill, Bob, and other creators are not enforcing their own copyrights. Public officials are. Public officials that are paid for mostly by people who recieve no royalties from copyrights. Are we doing it to be nice to Bob, Bill, and others? No, it is in society's, our, interest to do so.
What I don't understand is why Bob and Bill seem to think society should keep paying to protect copyright's longer than it is in their interest to do so.
The only thing that should be debated by good citizens and honest politicians is how long of a life for copyright is most beneficial to the country. Beneficial to the country as a whole, not just to special interests.
Artists, inventors, and other copyright holders aren't ENTITLED to anything from society. We should only protect their copyrights for as long as it is in our interest to do so. If we pick the right length of copyright protection, there will be enough incentive for artists and inventors to keep creating. If a few don't like how long the copyright protection is for, they can stop creating or inventing things.
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