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U of Michigan and Amazon To Offer 400,000 OOP Books

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the had-no-idea-so-many-people-loved-object-oriented-pumas dept.

Books 160

eldavojohn writes "Four hundred thousand rare, out of print books may soon be available for purchase ranging anywhere from $10 to $45 apiece. The article lists a rare Florence Nightingale book on Nursing which normally sells for thousands due to its rarity. The [University of Michigan] librarian, Mr. Courant said, 'The agreement enables us to increase access to public domain books and other publications that have been digitised. We are very excited to be offering this service as a new way to increase access to the rich collections of the university library.' The University of Michigan has a library where Google is scanning rare books and was the aim of heavy criticism. (Some of the Google-scanned books are to be sold on Amazon.) How the authors guild and publishers react to Amazon's Surge offering softcover reprints of out of print books remains to be seen."

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160 comments

What good is that if we can't even browse?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28799721)

I have to say that Firefox is getting a lot worse lately. The user experience is in serious need of improvement and development is the pits. I installed the latest "big deal" Firefox update on June 30th. (For some reason they skipped a full four secondary updates, but whatever.) Upon restarting, which took several minutes, I began using Firefox 3.5 [mozilla.com].

At first, Firefox seemed strangely familiar. I thought they had changed very little unnecessarily until I visited the Acid3 [acidtests.org] test. Lo and behold, I was still using Firefox 3.0.0.11 [mozilla.com]. What the fuck? I manually invoked Check for Updates and repeated my first attempt only to find, upon restarting, the same thing.

Finally in desperation I downloaded the installer manually from Mozilla [mozilla.com]. The install ran surprisingly quickly and, after a few minutes, I was launched with the new version. I had to check, though, because again I thought it looked like very little had changed.

In fact, did Mozilla bother changing anything beside the JavaScript? The new SpiderMonkey is great and all, but they could have at least made it look like they were working on something else. When the most noticeable improvement is the "Know Your Rights" button (which everyone ignores) one really starts to wonder what the fuss was all about.

Well, after the three tries it took to upgrade, I found my profile wouldn't migrate. This was a mess, but I was able to eventually retrieve my bookmarks from a long, arcane file path in a hidden directory. But then upon visiting my bookmarked sites I found that almost none of my add-ons are compatible with it. Therefore my browser is almost entirely functionless.

The bookmark tool itself could use a polishing. It's a mess and has been since version 1.0. If a browser is meant to render and organize content, Firefox surely falls down in this area. Why does it take me several minutes to slosh through the GUI just to make a new folder and alphabetize some bookmarks in it? Not to mention the damned Bookmarks toolbar, which takes up too much damn space and can't be turned off.

And speaking of the GUI, it's slow as Hell slowget rid of the proprietary XUL [jerf.org] and just hardcode the damned interface already!

I also have to mention memory use. On my system, Firefox was swallowing an incredible 400 MB with only a simple HTML 5 page [webs.com] open. 400 MB?! I blame this on the Firefox team's use of C++, where memory management is about as easy as herding cats. Likewise Firefox is a slow, bloated nightmare. (For a contrast, there's Safari [apple.com], which is written in Objective C [apple.com] and is very small and efficient.)

Most of the time I have heavy JavaScript sites open. I shudder to think how much Firefox eats then, and I'll be sure to check in the future. No wonder my system tends to slow down when I've left Firefox open for days on end with dynamically updating pages and RSS feeds. Clearly, Firefox leaks memory like a cracked sieve in a waterfall.

With Firefox smelling more and more like crapware, I started to dig a little, first on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] and then on the Mozilla Development Forums [mozilla.org]. It turns out that my observations are part of a larger pattern of Firefox quality issues and development customs. The Mozilla developers are a bunch of arrogant, abusive shitheads.

For starters, they're still running all tabs in the same process. This is something IE7 and Safari 3 have had right for years. So if a plugin crashes or a page takes forever to finish rendering, everything's stuck. You can't even switch tabs to another page! And Firefox 3.5 is a "milestone" release? Firefox 3.6 and 4 are milestones too, and process-per-tab isn't scheduled for either.

Developer interaction with Firefox users is stilted too. Sometimes Bugzilla [mozilla.org] reports are dismissed out of hand, only to be reopened when something goes terribly wrong later. I also saw instances of reported security flaws sitting years before being patched. In one case, someone released an exploit to point out the deep holes in Firefox before anyone did anything.

One time, a user with some programming experience suggested a bugfix to the wishlist. One programmer, whom I will not publicly name, suggested the user submit patches "once his balls dropped," if he were even male. If this were a real company and not a bunch of arrogant hacker hippies, user antagonism and sexism would never be acceptable. When I read this particular incident I uninstalled Firefox for good.

If anyone else has complaints about Firefox, post them here. For a browser that's taken nearly a third of the market, it's doing so with an incredibly broken development model and backend. Just imagine if the Firefox team actually treated its users right or prioritized projects properly. Maybe then the web would move beyond the mess of incompatibile standards and site hacks it is today.

Until then, Firefox is just another out-of-control Open Source project that needs a good stiff slap in the face [trollaxor.com].

Wow... (5, Funny)

vishbar (862440) | more than 3 years ago | (#28799731)

So how many books cover functional programming?

Re:Wow... (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801181)

At least 16, if you go back 3,000 to 4,000 years back (I think). Vedic Mathematics is actually a lot like functional programming. Also, in the 17th century, the term 'computer' used to refer to the human being performing the actual calculations (for calculating the trajectory of cannon balls for example).

Variable collisions is actually quite problematic when you're doing mental math. That's what Vedic Math solves for you. It gives you all the algorithms necessary to do math in your head, so that you just have one single number to remember at a time (which is what makes the feat even possible in the first place).

NO SALE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28801283)

sorry too expensive for old things

OOPs (1)

thewils (463314) | more than 3 years ago | (#28799735)

I thought they were Object Oriented Programming books :( Had me going for a minute there...

Re:OOPs (2, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800053)

I thought they were Object Oriented Programming books

That's why you need to read these books ;)

Every one.

Re:OOPs (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800279)

"agreement enables us to increase access to public domain books"

Why do they need to enter into an agreement with anybody to publish (in print or digitally) books in the public domain?

Re:OOPs (2, Informative)

Paul Carver (4555) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800583)

Why do they need to enter into an agreement with anybody to publish (in print or digitally) books in the public domain?

Because Amazon doesn't have the books and presumably the U of Michigan library doesn't want to be in the business of reproducing (either physically or electronically) the books that they have on their shelves.

Just because you happen to have a rare out of print book on shelf in your living room doesn't entitle me to come barging in your front door with my photocopier or scanner to make myself a copy, nor does it obligate you to hand out copies to everybody who walks by. However, we could enter into an agreement where you let me come into your living room at a convenient time and make a copy of your rare out of print book at my own expense. We could not legally enter into that agreement regarding the latest bestseller that you picked bought yesterday because copyright law prohibits me from copying it and you from inviting me in to copy it.

Re:OOPs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800615)

Okay so the detail I want to know is: If these books are in the public domain, does that mean digital copies of them will be provided free of charge? Because no offense but the crappiest part of public domain in this day and age is the fact that people are able to make digital reproductions of them and then have them copyrighted for 90+ years. Esp if these things are rare enough that they're unlikely to let any volunteers come in and rescan them after google or amazon or whoever are done?

Re:OOPs (1)

Freetardo Jones (1574733) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800705)

But Amazon is reprinting these books they aren't providing digital copies. So, yes, they are probably going to charge something to cover the costs of printing.

Re:OOPs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800433)

Well, after I browsed the local book store, I must say that the number of titles dedicated to OOP would seem correct and certainly could have confused you. *ducks*

Sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28799755)

I love browsing college libraries, there is so much good stuff hidden in there that needs to see more light.

Re:Sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800631)

But not as much as I love browsing glory holes!

And the Kindle? (3, Insightful)

dmomo (256005) | more than 3 years ago | (#28799783)

We've been pushing to go from Paper to Digital. It's interesting that they're going in the opposite direction here. The article has no mention of the Kindle. I find it hard to believe that the Kindle doesn't play some big role in this. Perhaps they will offer these books for free on the Kindle to help push the device? Personally, I think they should be online and free.

Technically in the Public Domain But, (4, Interesting)

dmomo (256005) | more than 3 years ago | (#28799829)

I am curious about the right to copy a rare public-domain book. Let's say someone owns the only copy of a book. They do not allow anyone else to scan it. But, they do scan it themselves.

Do they own the "scan". Can they copyright that? Could they sue me for copying their scanned version? Suppose they ran it through some OCR. Then they changed the layout but not the text. Now could they use that as a basis from stopping me from copying it? It's their font/layout configuration after all.

I suppose further, I could run their scanned work through my own OCR, and since the text itself is not copyrighted, I could then distribute the text.

Sounds silly and convoluted, but this is the kind of argument we can expect to see as information becomes easy to control and manipulate. And as more and more public domain items come into the light, there will be more and more "stake holders" trying to protect their cash cows.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28799987)

At least in the US, Project Gutenberg has establish a pretty long standing precedent that scans do NOT constitute a new copyright. So, in your example, the scan docs are as public domain as the original book and if you get a copy of it, you have permissions to do whatever you want with it.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (3, Informative)

Hungus (585181) | more than 3 years ago | (#28799989)

I am curious about the right to copy a rare public-domain book. Let's say someone owns the only copy of a book. They do not allow anyone else to scan it. But, they do scan it themselves.

Do they own the "scan". Can they copyright that?

yes

Could they sue me for copying their scanned version?

Yes

Suppose they ran it through some OCR. Then they changed the layout but not the text. Now could they use that as a basis from stopping me from copying it? It's their font/layout configuration after all.

Yes

I suppose further, I could run their scanned work through my own OCR, and since the text itself is not copyrighted, I could then distribute the text.

no because you used their work without permission An example of this is taking a photo of a work in the public domain. If it is your photo you can reproduce it and use it all you want. If it is someone else's photo you are SOL if you do not have rights to work with their photo.

Sounds silly and convoluted, but this is the kind of argument we can expect to see as information becomes easy to control and manipulate. And as more and more public domain items come into the light, there will be more and more "stake holders" trying to protect their cash cows.

you could however do it anyways and then they would have to prove that you used their copies to create your work. the problem is if it is a one of a kind and they can show you had access to it once again you are SOL.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800099)

Do they own the "scan". Can they copyright that?

yes

Bull. Scanning is only one half of the (modern) photocopying process. So if I'm "creative" enough to think of photocopying your book, I own the photocopy, and can sell it as a new work?

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (3, Interesting)

Hungus (585181) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800357)

Only if the original subject is in the public domain otherwise it is considered derivative. I was involved a few years ago with a rather stupid lawsuit where a publisher got ahold of a database containing tens of thousands of scanned pages of documents well into the public domain. (original documents were from the 17th and 18th century) They argued that they could publish the documents as they were in the public domain. The Owner of the scans argued that they were reproducing copyrighted work. The courts agreed with the owners of the original scans.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800563)

Did the court rule on using the scans to generate copies of the text of the documents, or are you inferring that part?

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (2, Informative)

Hungus (585181) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801547)

The decision turned on the collection issue. The court ruled that since entire works were scanned that they constituted a collection and reproduction of said collection was a copyright infringement.

Juris-whose-diction? (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801329)

I was involved a few years ago with a rather stupid lawsuit where a publisher got ahold of a database containing tens of thousands of scanned pages of documents well into the public domain. (original documents were from the 17th and 18th century) They argued that they could publish the documents as they were in the public domain. The Owner of the scans argued that they were reproducing copyrighted work. The courts agreed with the owners of the original scans.

The United States has a 1991 Supreme Court case to the contrary: Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Service [wikipedia.org]. Which country are you talking about?

Re:Juris-whose-diction? (1)

Hungus (585181) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801501)

Try reading the case all the way through and commenting again.
for example:
For example, a recipe is a process, and not copyrightable, but the words used to describe it are; see Publications International v Meredith Corp. (1996).[2] Therefore, you can rewrite a recipe in your own words and publish it without infringing copyrights. But if you rewrote every recipe from a particular cookbook, you might still be found to have infringed the author's copyright in the choice of recipes and their "coordination" and "presentation", even if you used different words, though the West decisions below suggest that this is unlikely unless there is some significant creativity in the presentation.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

bgalbrecht (920100) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801641)

Do you have a citation for this? What are the facts of the case? Did the judge explain the ruling? Did the owners of the scans provide the scans under a contract with terms that did not allow republication of the scanned material? There's also such a thing as compilation copyright, so if the defendant copied the entire database instead of one particular document, the ruling may have been that the defendant violated that particular copyright.

IANAL, but Project Gutenberg's rules for source material, which has been vetted by lawyers but probably never been contested in court, allow contributors to use facsimiles of out of copyright material, even if the facsimile publisher claims copyright. In this case, if the Amazon POD book is a facsimile, I think that someone buying the book would be able to scan it and do whatever they want with the scan.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (2, Insightful)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800165)

Oh, I disagree!

They own the scan. They made it. But, I disagree that the scan is copywritable. It is not an original artistic work. It might be if it was a subsequently "cleaned up" version of the original, that was being re-released. Same, if it was OCR'd, but the issue would hinge on whether the OCRing was "merely transformative". Then, it would not be copyrightable.

Of course, if you got their "only" scan in an illegal manner, and made copies of that, you might have committed the crime of theft, regrdless of copyright infringement. You might not have violated copyright, but you would have violated a proprty right -- taking without permission.

Finally, in this case, I don't think it's the content that has value, but rather the manuscript, who's value is not diminished (and might, in fact be enhanced, if it's content proved popular). We can all get copies of Shakespeare's works, or a print of the Mona Lisa, and that does not diminish the value of an original manuscript, does it?

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (3, Informative)

Hungus (585181) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800305)

You may disagree all you want to but you would still be wrong. I was involved in a lawsuit 3 years ago that says otherwise. Scans are considered original works and are copywritable.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (2, Informative)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800491)

Then the courts fucked up and you should have appealed. Photographs of public domain paintings are also in the public domain [directorym.com] due to the work not being transformative, only technical.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800599)

Well, I used the wrong word. Perhaps I should have used "technical" instead of transformative, as that is what I meant.

For example, it would be abusrd to argue that I can buy a CD, make a cassette copy, and sell the cassettes under my copyright because it does not impinge the copyright holder from selling CDs. (It does, of course, affect their ability to exploit the nature of the work, the performance, in cassette format, and may detract from CD sales as well.)

In this case, providing the work for scanning should be done uner EULA by the owner of the work. Just because it is in the public domain, does not mean the public has a free right to it, merely that they are free to do with it what they will if they freely obtain it. And her, one could argue that, yes, the public has a right to the content, but not the packaging, in a reverse of digital music EULAs.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800531)

True, the scan itself might be copyrightable, but the content is not. Thus if one obtained the scan and OCR'd (or manually typed) the text out of it, and copied that text (which was original to the manuscript) it would not be a copyright infringement.

At least it would make it rather hard to prove that the copies being distributed were from his copy of the manuscript.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801495)

Either there are some details involved in the case that you're leaving out, or the decision was a very poor one and should have been appealed.

In much of the US (at least where many copyright cases are heard), Bridgeman v. Corel [wikipedia.org] is one of the more recent cases establishing precedent. It dealt with photographs -- arguably more "transformative" than photocopies -- of famous paintings.

The most famous USSC case (Bridgeman was a Federal District Court case, it never went to the Supreme Court) is Feist v. Rural Telephone Service [wikipedia.org], which was notable because it eliminated the so-called "brow sweat doctrine" where anything with substantial effort invested in it was apparently subject to protection. Feist replaced this with a test based on originality. There are some similar cases dealing with recipes, which I think are more interesting, since you can make a fair argument that developing a recipe is creative: nonetheless, the recipe itself -- the list of ingredients and the process itself, detached from the narrative text that describes it -- aren't subject to copyright protections. (I think the idea is that they're properly something that should be protected by patents or trade secrets law, if protected at all. The recipes case is interesting because Canada and some other Commonwealth countries have gone the other way with it.)

A photocopy pretty clearly fails the originality test of Feist, and isn't transformative in a way that would satisfy Bridgeman (within the districts where it's applicable), so I can't see any way that it would fall under copyright (if the image or work being photocopied was public domain). Maybe there were specific circumstances that made the issue more complex for some reason, but in general it seems at odds with the direction of US jurisprudence in the past few decades.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

Hungus (585181) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801597)

I have answered this elsewhere it fell under the issue of being a collection.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28801777)

Case name and cite? If you lost in district court, I don't want to hear it. Show me SCOTUS or COA precedent saying a scan of a public domain book qualifies for a copyright.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800419)

I know it's bad form to follow up one's own post, but I have additional thoughts.

The issue of copyright hinges on making an artistic contribution when involved in a transformative work -- the idea being that the effort deserves reward and protection in order to encourage that such efforts take place.

It can be argued that a simple scan (as I did above) is merely transformative, not artistic, and therefore not copyrightable.

But, having made the scan, and releasing copies of it, someone else might undertake to improve the quality of it. Had the original scan not been made, this could not happen, and therefore doing so added to publicly available knowledge. Perhaps it took great effort (and, maybe expense), to obtain the original work so that it might be scanned in the first place, or great care (and again, expense) to scan it non-destructively -- no one would dare just stick an original copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence in a Xerox® machine now, would they?

The question then becomes, "Is that worthy of protection, and promotion, and if so, what kind?"

It boils down to "Hay! He (or she) could not have done that valuable thing, if I didn't do this difficult thing, so I should be compensated if he (or she) profits;" sort of a "contingent copyright" if you will.

I know GPL authors would take exception if their code was used, modified, in a commercial product, without the modifications made free. The GPL solution is that no one may profit (merely) from the code itself. That said, I'm sure some GPL authors have sour grapes if their code becomes an enabler for a widely popular piece of hardware, in which they do not share in the profits it produces. Hence, we see (often amateur) "non-commercial" licenses: you can use this, but only if not for profit. Otherwise, let's strike a deal.

I don't think, in this case, a new notion of a contingent copyright makes sense: it isn't necesasry. But I do thing a license on otherwise non-copywritable works does. EULAs, in principle, are not bad things, just because the historic pattern has been for them to be (a) draconian, and (b) shrinkwrapped (which, IMHO, makes them unenforceable, but IANAL).

*smack* (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800867)

Oh, I disagree!

They own the scan. They made it. But, I disagree that the scan is copywritable.

Gonna take a moment to smack you up-side the head.

*smack*

To describe something as "copywritable" is somewhat meaningless, of course - but to the extent it has any meaning at all, it would have the opposite meaning of copyright... Something "copywritable" would, presumably, be something you can copy. "Copyright" means that someone controls the right to copy something...

Re:*smack* (1)

Rene S. Hollan (1943) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801627)

Copywritable, adj: able to be protected under copywrite.

Something you can copy would be copyable.

Similarly, something you can copywrite would be copywritable.

Make sense now?

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800855)

I am curious about the right to copy a rare public-domain book. Let's say someone owns the only copy of a book. They do not allow anyone else to scan it. But, they do scan it themselves.

Do they own the "scan". Can they copyright that?

yes

Not true. See Bridgeman v. Corel [wikipedia.org] .

Juris-whose-diction? (3, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801277)

Do they own the "scan". Can they copyright that?

yes

Under what law in what jurisdiction? In the United States, Bridgeman v. Corel [wikipedia.org] excludes photocopies of an uncopyrighted work from copyright because they lack originality.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

MaerD (954222) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801571)

>

Do they own the "scan". Can they copyright that?

yes

Could they sue me for copying their scanned version?

Yes

WRONG! We just bloody covered this [slashdot.org]
In the US reproductions of public domain works are in the public domain. Unlike the previous story there can be no debate over which law (US or UK) applies to this case.

Heck, even if I were to type the text out (or write long hand) the copy would *STILL* be public domain, despite involving far more work.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

Hungus (585181) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801617)

You a lawyer? Judge? Caps lock stuck? I am reporting, you are opining.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

MaerD (954222) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801787)

*sigh* Actually, I'm more being redundant to everyone else who has been citing: Bridgeman vs Corel. [wikipedia.org]

Also, I have some personal experience working with software that uses the text of a work you may have heard of, the King James Bible.

It actually is an interesting point because in the US the text is public domain (and therefore scans, etc can be reproduced), while in the UK it falls under crown copyright. [wikipedia.org]

Now, the lawsuit you mention being involved in (a link providing some information about the case would be helpful here) sounds possible, but unlikely. The text would still have remained public domain, even if the presentation (software) surrounding it was held to be copyrightable.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28801899)

>>I suppose further, I could run their scanned work through my own OCR, and since the text itself is not copyrighted, I could then distribute the text.

>no because you used their work without permission An example of this is taking a photo of a work in the public domain. If it is your photo you can reproduce it and use it all you want. If it is someone else's photo you are SOL if you do not have rights to work with their photo.

I have never been to Paris, France, yet I can draw a picture of the Eiffel Tower because I have seen it in a picture. Are you saying there is a law that says I can't do this?

peter

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800057)

I am curious about the right to copy a rare public-domain book. Let's say someone owns the only copy of a book

Then they have no rights. Only the registered copyright holder holds the rights to make copies. That's why its called a COPY right.

They do not allow anyone else to scan it.

Then it seems to me that no one else can scan THEIR copy. You are confusing COPYRIGHT with OWNERSHIP OF A VERY RARE OBJECT. Copyright is a legal term covered under national laws and international treaties. Ownership of a very rare object simply entitles the owner to be an asshat and keep the object for themselves.

Glad we discussed that.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800749)

You are missing or avoiding the question, does the scan of the public domain work, constitute a new work (i.e. now under copyright of the scanner) or is it also in public domain.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (1)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800107)

IANAL, etc etc.

From what I understand, you're correct: you'd at most own copyright for the scan, not the text. So if I were to buy thte OCRed book off you, I'd be legally entitled to copy it word for word, and do whatever. Problem is, AFAIK you need to do something creative to actually qualify for copyright. So scanning the text doesn't give you copyright over the scans, but if you were to typeset the text, you'd have copyright over the layout itself, but not the text.

I wonder how this would work with sound recordings, though. One could theoretically keep the master tapes safely stored, and issue new, slightly tweaked edits every time the edit in the market is about to run out of copyright time. Of course, anybody who still has the old media has a public domain copy, but you're never issuing anything that's already in the public domain yourself.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain Butt (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800889)

IANAL

So does your mom.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain Butt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28801177)

So does your mom. And I have the scans.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (3, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800293)

Sounds silly and convoluted, but this is the kind of argument we can expect to see as information becomes easy to control and manipulate.

No, this is what you get for treating information as property. Maybe the law needs to get in sync with reality once in a while.

You can go on and on about how it costs money to create information in whatever form, but as long as it's free to replicate it (since the devices needed are common household items now), you need a different business model other than selling it. I'm generalizing here because it doesn't just apply to literature. Think software, music, movies, etc. That's the beauty of computers: all information can be represented as a sequence of bits, and as such, easily copied and modified. Add in the fact that most people don't have a moral problem with copying, and you have laws that are impossible to uphold without a police state.

Oh, and let's not go into the finer points, like what happens when I write a program, and the compiler output played as audio happens to be a copyrighted song.

Re:Technically in the Public Domain But, (5, Informative)

nzodd (836093) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800375)

IANAL, but I suspect they would not own copyright on a scan of a public domain work, at least not in the U.S., because of the precedent set down in Bridgeman v. Corel. Corel distributed non-original photographs taken by Bridgeman Art of public domain art works, and Bridgeman sued them, claiming they owned the copyright to those images. According to the decision, because the photographs were slavish copies of public domain works, the photographs themselves had no original element and thus couldn't be copyrighted. as Wikipedia puts it: "Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corp., 36 F. Supp. 2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), was a decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which ruled that exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright because the copies lack originality. Even if accurate reproductions require a great deal of skill, experience and effort, the key element for copyrightability under U.S. law is that copyrighted material must show sufficient originality."

Public domain trampled on again (4, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#28799827)

So Amazon is going to be so nice as to offer us the chance to PURCHASE what actually belongs in the public domain? Wow. I am impressed and excited.

Re:Public domain trampled on again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28799915)

You are an idiot. They are offering you the chance to PURCHASE their labor spent scanning the books. Public Domain != Free.

Re:Public domain trampled on again (1)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800001)

Ok, then how do we scan the books ourselves, so we won't have to pay for the public-domain works? That is, how can we obtain something that is owned by the public without spending any money on it?

Re:Public domain trampled on again (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800087)

If you own a hard copy of a public domain book, you can scan it and put it online... These are rare books that it seems Amazon is going through the trouble of finding copies and scanning them.

Just because something is owned by the public doesnt mean that you shouldn't have to pay for it if there is some sort of service rendered to make it available to the masses.

Re:Public domain trampled on again (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800249)

Ok, then how do we scan the books ourselves, so we won't have to pay for the public-domain works? That is, how can we obtain something that is owned by the public without spending any money on it?

I suppose you're free to bring your laptop and a flatbed scanner over to the University of Michigan's library, find an empty corner, and scan away! Though it could take awhile to scan a book with 100-500 pages, so I hope you have lots of free time. Remember, you can't exactly feed a book through an automatic document feeder without destroying the book, and I don't think the library staff would be too happy if you did that to one of their books in the "old, out-of-print" section,...

Re:Public domain trampled on again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800595)

I suppose you're free to bring your laptop and a flatbed scanner over to the University of Michigan's library, find an empty corner, and scan away! Though it could take awhile to scan a book with 100-500 pages, so I hope you have lots of free time.

These days you can get away with using a cheap digital camera for "scanning" books. It's a hell of a lot faster than flatbed scanning, it's easier on the binding, and it's certainly more portable than lugging around a laptop + flatbed.

Re:Public domain trampled on again (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800027)

They are offering you the chance to PURCHASE their labor spent scanning the books.

      And as soon as someone decides to type up the contents of one of the books and put it online, what happens to their business model then? Or are they going to claim, like a certain museum in the UK, that although the copyright on the original work has expired, the copyright on their "scans" is brand new?

      This is a dangerous idea, because it will either cost Amazon money since they won't be able to maintain their business model on expired works, or (the most likely scenario) the public domain will lose once again as courts end up deciding that this is a valid method to perpetuate copyright for all time, by making copies of your work the night before copyright expires.

Re:Public domain trampled on again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800235)

As the person below me states with his example of the Count of Monte Cristo, although the work is public domain, you need to pay for a hard copy.

You could print your own copy if you wished, but the equpiment to do so is cost prohibitive.

With electronic publication, yes, someone could copy it easily. However, Amazon happens to own a protected distribution channel - the Kindle.

It is a closed platform, and I am sure that hacking it to copy works from it would be a violation of their ToS and would subject you to lawsuits. That is how their work is protected.

Re:Public domain trampled on again (1)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801289)

You could print your own copy if you wished, but the equpiment to do so is cost prohibitive.

Actually with modern, automated printing presses that is becoming less the case. We print a conference proceedings for 7 cents/page for a fully bound soft cover book that looks professional. All you would need to do is download the scans from Google, OCR them and do the layout. Still not a trivial amount of work but not impossible if you were somehow motivated by wanting to save a few dollars.

Re:Public domain trampled on again (5, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800257)

This is a dangerous idea, because it will either cost Amazon money since they won't be able to maintain their business model on expired works ...

You are extremely misguided in your analysis of this situation. To address your immediate concerns, the books have been scanned digitally. What's done is done. Amazon's Surge process is print on demand. So there's no loss of anything right now. Not one sale could be made and little cash would be lost as no books would be printed. Granted, these soft cover bindings aren't the nicest books, they're books. And you're also overlooking the fact that now libraries can have public domain books in physical copy on the cheap. Let's look at the FAQ [umich.edu]:

Q. What is provided for in the agreement with BookSurge, part of the Amazon group of companies?
The University of Michigan will make thousands of books -- some rare and one-of-a-kind -- available on Amazon.com as reprints on demand. BookSurge will use the digital copies of the original works from the U-M Library collection to create a soft-cover reprint and mail it to customers.

Q. How long does the agreement run?
The initial agreement is for two years.

Q. Is this an exclusive agreement?
No. The agreement does not limit the U-M to offering reprints only on Amazon. In the coming year, the university will be extending the program and working with other potential printing and distribution partners.

Q. How will this work?
The public will be able to search for a title through the U-M Library or on Amazon.com. On the U-M Library Web site, for instance, there will be a "buy this book" link added that will allow users to order a reprint. Anyone with a link to the Internet and a credit card will be able to order reprints.

Q. When will these additional titles be available for purchase?
We expect to have the books available for reprint later this summer. We'll continue to add titles as books are digitized for the next several years.

Q. Where are the original books?
All of the titles offered for reprint are books or other publications that exist in the U-M Library collections. Some are very rare. Some are deteriorating badly and cannot safely be handled. All are being carefully preserved.

Q. Who will buy these reprints?
We think there will be wide interest in public access to these books. History enthusiasts, scholars, students, teachers and other libraries are among those we believe will make use of this new, low-cost reprint service.

Q. What will the reprints cost?
We estimate that costs will range from as little as $10 to about $45 for larger and longer books. Books will be mailed directly to customers.

Q. Who sets the price?
The U-M determines the list price of each book, which will be based on the length and size of the book. Amazon may discount that price, but may not charge more than the list price.

Q. Will the U-M make money on the reprints?
Yes, but that is not the primary goal. We want to make these books more available to the public and to scholars and this agreement accomplishes that. The books will be priced to cover the costs of production and a small profit. The university will use its proceeds to cover the cost of production and some infrastructure costs related to the digitization effort.

Q. Why would Google agree to sales on Amazon?
The university has an agreement with Google to do what it does best: Create digital copies of these books. Now the university has an agreement with a unit of Amazon to do what it does best: Sell books and other items very efficiently on the Internet. We think both are great partnerships and the companies agree. In addition, the university will eventually share some of its proceeds with Google on the sale of books that were digitized by Google.

Q. What types of books will be available?
Most of the titles now available are late 19th century works. There are books in more than 200 languages from Acoli to Zulu, although most are in English, French and German. That will continue to grow and change as the digitization effort continues. Among the interesting titles now available include many that have already been purchased as reprints through a much smaller-scale existing program. Those titles include:

  • "Notes on Nursing: What it is and what it is not," written in 1898 by Florence Nightingale.
  • "The Art of Perfumery," published in 1857.
  • "Trigonometry with the Theory and Use of Logarithms," written in 1914.
  • "K.G.C. An authentic exposition of the origin, objects and secret work of the organization known as Knights of the Golden Circle," from 1862.

Q. Won't this agreement undercut sales at stores that specialize in used or rare books?
We believe it will have just the opposite effect. Making reprints so readily available could spark interest in owning original copies of some of the titles. In some cases, that could motivate customers to seek out the originals through the rich network of booksellers who deal in used and rare books.

Q. Who else might benefit from this agreement?
Smaller libraries. One way the new program could have a positive trickle-down effect is that smaller libraries would be able to buy low-cost reprints of books that are no longer in print and put them back into circulation. Because the books being offered for reprint are all in the public domain, buyers are not limited in their use by copyright restrictions.

Please do not be concerned or angry. They are trying to improve the availability of these books. The U of MI is driving this to get their collection out there. Of course it's going to cost you some money to get these books but at least you'll have that option. No one's going to break down sobbing if you painstakingly type one of these books out online.

Re:Public domain trampled on again (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800451)

And as soon as someone decides to type up the contents of one of the books and put it online, what happens to their business model then?

Nothing. They're still the ones selling bound paper copies. Sure, you can download what someone else typed or copied and print it, but you won't have a real bound book, unless you've got some unusual equipment at home.

They're not really asking you to pay for the data contained in the book. THAT is clearly public domain (except where it isn't, of course). They are, however, asking you to pay for the parts and labor, which are not in the public domain.

Re:Public domain trampled on again (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800653)

It's print on demand, so the costs for Amazon could be quite low. It's not quite clear from the article, but it seems the scanning costs are covered by the university, so that would mean the only upfront cost would be to put the works into Amazon's database.

So their business model might actually work, regardless whether someone puts it online or not. They'd just get the business of the people who'd prefer to have a paper copy.

Re:Public domain trampled on again (2, Insightful)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800045)

The Count of Monte Cristo is in the public domain but if I want a dead tree version of it I have to be able to find a dead tree version of it and then generally will need to purchase that dead tree version.

Now finding a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo is rather easy. Imagine trying to find a copy of something that is technically in the public domain but the book itself is rare enough to effectively not exist anymore (and there are no electronic copies of it) and the market so small that no one would bother trying to republish it even if they had the book to work from. Print On Demand is a perfect solution to that problem. You don't have to keep stock of books that will rarely sell but yet you can make those books available to for purchase.

Re:Public domain trampled on again (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800553)

If you go to Barnes & Noble, you'll find some racks of nicely bound inexpensive books, all public domain. You can buy these books, just as you can buy CD-ROMs with completely free Linux distributions on them.

Alternatively, you can download the contents from Project Gutenberg or your favorite distro site, respectively. It's a matter of convenience.

In this case, it's more difficult to get your own scans. However, if a lot of you get together, and one person buys the Amazon copy, you can get together and scan your own. You just have to remove any creative content added in addition to the original scan.

Why would the authors' guild care? (2, Informative)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 3 years ago | (#28799833)

They can't sell reprints unless they are public domain. How many people who published works before 1929 are still alive?

Re:Why would the authors' guild care? (2, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#28799899)

They can't sell reprints unless they are public domain. How many people who published works before 1929 are still alive?

Not all of these books are in the public domain. While I do not have a list of them, the article said only some of them are in the public domain. There are plenty of non-public domain books that are no longer in print and difficult if not impossible to get a hold of even if you have money to pay for them. That was why Google paid the Authors Guild and publishers $125 million (see the article I linked that is related to this story).

Rare Florence Nightingale book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28799847)

rare Florence Nightingale book on Nursing which normally sells for thousands due to its rarity.

As it will continue to sell for thousands due to its continued rarity, but you'll be able to get a cheaper new edition.

Re:Rare Florence Nightingale book (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800267)

Notes on Nursing is a bad example. I'm pretty sure that it's been in print continuously since the 19th century.

Tried and True (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 3 years ago | (#28799887)

A huge problem today is anything that is from the past and successful is viewed as valuable. New stuff? Not so much.

Part of the problem is that there are actually few books today that are worth much. Authoring a book is hard. Authoring a good book is much, much harder and actually requires skill. So an accepted marketing technique is to reclaim something from the past that has quality and reissue it. Which is what is going on here. It is like a remake of a 1940s classic movie, only without the bad special effects that would be added. Imagine a remake of Casablanca with new digital special effects.

I would certainly agree that it would be nice if these books were available for the Kindle at $1 or less. Yes, scanning and proofing is hard work. But it is nothing compared to actually writing a successful book.

Re:Tried and True (0, Flamebait)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800367)

Wonderful! So that means that Ann Coulter's and Rush Limbaugh's books -- I mean, drivel -- is likely to become immensely popular in about 100 years, after they've all died! So we'll have a whole new breed of conservatives in the 22nd century combing the amazing wisdom of Rush, the Great Philosopher! He'll become like, the next Socrates, or something. I guess I need to find some Hemlock,... ;-)

Re:Tried and True (3, Insightful)

the phantom (107624) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801275)

Part of the problem is that there are actually few books today that are worth much.

This is not a problem of old==good and new==bad. Start from the assumption that 95% of everything is crap. 95% of the books that were written 400 years ago were crap. However, only the good ones have survived. This gives the impression that older stuff is better, but this is a mistaken impression.

On the other hand, much of the good and valuable stuff from the past is very hard to get ahold of. There are people that would really love to have a copy of Addington's guide to illustrating flaked stone artifacts [amazon.com], but they are difficult to find, as the book has been out of print for years (and is not into the public domain to boot), and those of us that own copies of the book are not likely to give them up. If Amazon wants to get the rights to the book and print off copies on demand, I would be happy to pay them for the service. As I see it, Amazon is attempting to fill a niche. Sure, they make money off of it, but I don't see it as a simple marketing ploy designed to capitalize off of nostalgia for the past.

*Poof!* (1)

Kenshin (43036) | more than 3 years ago | (#28799911)

Out of print? That probably doesn't mean out of copyright.

Better hope no one torpedoes whatever you purchase, or you may awake one morning to your e-book gone and a feeble "Sorry!" note from Amazon in your inbox.

Re:*Poof!* (1)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800525)

Nope, out of print is not equivalent to ooc. Google will be offering those books for free, directly from their Google Book Search service, I believe.

I don't have a problem as long as... (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800021)

You know, I really don't have a problem with this as long as Google doesn't mind if someone takes one of their books, copies it straight out of the book and distributes it also. Regardless if it's more expensive, less expensive, free, etc. Google needs to remember that they do not own this public domain information and they are only a intermediary making this information more available. If they're ok with playing that role then more power to them.

If they ever lift a finger to say that someone "copied" their work though, I would love to donate to the lawsuit against them.

Re:I don't have a problem as long as... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28801339)

I've seen the idea of buying and then copying and republishing, but is this really a risk for Google/Amazon? For simplicity, let's assume that the individual copying the book can type 100 words a minute, and that there are 1000 words per page, then for a 500 page book, you are looking at 5000 minutes or about 2 work weeks worth of effort for one book. Even at minimum wage, you are looking at $500/per book and likely to have a higher error rate than the Google/Amazon version. To break even then, he/she must resell something on the order of 40-80 ebook copies. Even on a volunteer basis, you'd have to distribute 40-80 ebook copies to make it worthwhile, and this is as a marginal player rather than an industry leader. I suspect that some of the reprints will sell well, with a good number being ones that Amazon/Google would be happy to sell 100 of. Actually where the two will reap in profits is if they can convince universities to order on demand books rather than inter-library loan. Think about it, libraries can pay shipping for a requested book or buy their own on-demand edition and get one to keep for probably 3x more (2x if they set up an on-demand printer in libraries). Actually if Journals picked up on that, you could end up printing your own physical journal on site and have them nicely bound to start rather than rebinding multiple issues.

amazon sells many e-books that are free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800193)

I discovered that amazon sells many books that you can get for free from the publishers website, so I fully expect amazon to sell all the books that google scans (after all, since they are available for free, the cost to amazon is just the cost to make the entry in their database and upload the electronic version)

they are allowed to do this, just like we will be allowed to give them away for free, amazon is allowed to charge people to get the books.

people who are willing to spend a little time can shop around and find it for free.

DRM Question (2, Interesting)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800343)

The law makes DRM-cracking illegal. Does that mean that publishers can slap DRM on a public domain book (lapsed copyright or otherwise), and thereby for all practical purposes extend the copyright?

Re:DRM Question (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800693)

Not a problem. Crack the DRM in a more reasonable country.

Re:DRM Question (1)

the_weasel (323320) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801233)

Not a problem. Crack the DRM in a more reasonable country.

Such a typical programmer/geek response. It's still a problem - you just found a workaround. Doesn't mean it doesn't need to be fixed :-)

Re:DRM Question (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#28801535)

Not a problem. Crack the DRM in a more reasonable country.

Then how does one cover the cost of taking residence in a country? As I understand it, most people need to be sponsored by an employer in order to apply for permanent residency in most developed countries.

Re:DRM Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800851)

Section 1201 of the DMCA:

"(a) VIOLATIONS REGARDING CIRCUMVENTION OF TECHNOLOGICAL MEASURES- (1)(A) No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title."

So, IANAL, but my understanding is that it's only illegal to crack DRM if it's protecting a copyrighted work.

Public Domain != Non-commercial (2, Insightful)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800379)

I suppose since Amazon and Google are taking the time to scan, clean up, edit, typeset, and republish these books, they should feel free to sell them like they'd sell it like any publisher can with other public domain works. The fact that the books are rare doesn't change the situation legally. If someone wanted to buy the restored Amazon/Google reprint of a rare public domain book, scan it, run it through OCR, remove the formatting, and give it away for free, they could. If someone else then took that text and printed it out into a book and sold it, they could do that too.

Brilliant! (1)

riboch (1551783) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800413)

This could be amazing, almost like an iTunes for books. One person "rips" the book (what a bad phrase), then decentralized distribution. This could significantly reduce the price of things such as Textbooks.

DAMN YOU SLASHDOT! (0, Offtopic)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800479)

I was writing an essay on Google Book Search's library project, and it was due YESTERDAY. And today you drop this on me? You couldn't have dropped this yesterday? A little time travel? Just for me? Ugh.

OOP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800717)

i read the RSS feed in firefox & wondered for a few seconds, "wow there's 400,000 Object Oriented Programming books out there!!!"

realized what it meant when i opened the link....

Re:OOP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28800735)

"Wow, you're late to the party and didn't read *any* of the previous posters comments! You deserve to be modded -1 Redundant."

not a new thing (3, Insightful)

Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) | more than 3 years ago | (#28800845)

Other companies have been in the facsimile/reprint business for a while. The best known (at least in the U.S.) is probably Dover Press, but there are others. What makes it interesting is that this is Amazon doing the publishing, meaning that there will be an order of magnitude more titles available than what places like Dover can manage.

My partner has ordered a few facsimile reprints of 17th century theological and philosophical works from Kessinger Publishing, works she wasn't able to get anywhere else. They're just poor facsimiles, almost photocopies, of old works, but even then manage to work in a little incompetence. Their printing of Sir Kenelm Digby's Of Bodies and of Man's Soul to Discover the Immortality of Reasonable Souls has on its cover (and as the title on the Amazon page!) one of the best editorial screw-ups ever [amazon.com].
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