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Greg Bear, Others Cry Foul on Project Gutenberg Copyright Call

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the hey-man-I'm-still-using-that dept.

Books 721

Nova Express writes "Recently a lot of science fiction stories from the 1950s and 60s (including work from still-living authors like Frederik Pohl and Jack Vance) have been showing up on Project Gutenberg as being in the public domain. However, according to science fiction writer Greg Bear and his wife Astrid Anderson Bear (daughter of Poul Anderson, some of whose works were among those put up), Project Gutenberg has made a mistake: 'After conducting legal research on the LEXIS database of legal cases, decisions, and precedents, we have demonstrated conclusively that PG was making incorrect determinations regarding public domain status in many, many works that originally appeared in magazine form ... In general, Project Gutenberg is doing a tremendous service by making available texts that have truly long since fallen out of copyright, but they are clearly overstepping their original mandate. They are not merely exploiting orphan works, but practicing a wholesale kidnapping of works that are under copyright protection.'"

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721 comments

huhu (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34399838)

jiji

I warned you! (-1, Offtopic)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399840)

I *warned* you, but did you listen to me? Oh, no, you *knew*, didn't you? Oh, it's just a harmless little search engine, isn't it?

That long ago? (1, Interesting)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399846)

These works have been forgotten about a long time ago. They should have been in public domain since nobody is profiting from them anymore.

Nitpicking that magazines don't fall under the charter of the organization isn't valuable, ALL this information should be free if not only for archiving purposes. Those books are literally falling apart unless they were expensive hardcovers.

Re:That long ago? (4, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399876)

>These works have been forgotten about a long time ago. They should have been in public domain since nobody is profiting from them anymore.

That's your opinion, but it's someone else's rights you are talking about. If I said your rights should be abridged (not only copyright, but any rights) how would you respond? I find your tagline most ironic, because it seems you want other people to pick and choose which of your rights should be defended.

Re:That long ago? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34399906)

I think your rights terminate when you do.

Re:That long ago? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34399996)

Copyright extends to the life of the author +70 years (assuming there was proper renewal etc.). Even if the authors immediately dropped dead after writing these stories they haven't entered the public domain yet.

Re:That long ago? (4, Informative)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400062)

United States Copyright extends to the life of the author +70 years (assuming there was proper renewal etc.). Even if the authors immediately dropped dead after writing these stories they haven't entered the public domain yet.

There, fixed that for you.

It's only life+50 years for member countries operating under the Berne Convention, although some works-for-hire have 120 years from creation or 95 years from publication.

Re:That long ago? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400190)

Actually, the Berne Convention states that all works except photographic and cinematographic shall be copyrighted for at least 50 years after the author's death, but parties are free to provide longer terms

So 50 years is the minimum; US law goes above and beyond that to 70 years to "protect the poor families" of the deceased artist

Re:That long ago? (4, Interesting)

ldobehardcore (1738858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400096)

In my opinion, the span of copyright is far longer than what reason should permit. I don't say this as a consumer, I have produced three albums, all of which I released to the public domain. I feel copyright should maybe last 25 or so years, much less the originator's whole life, plus 70 years.

Re:That long ago? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400148)

The rights of the dead should not infringe upon the rights of the living.

Re:That long ago? (2, Insightful)

ArundelCastle (1581543) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400538)

The rights of the dead should not infringe upon the rights of the living.

In the case of copyright, it is the rights of the dead's living dependents that meant to be are protected.
Don't let your opinions of Yoko Ono condemn the wives and children of artists everywhere.

Also if death meant instant public domain, I think there would be a lot more bodyguards in the entertainment industry than there already are. A copyright clause for natural vs. unnatural deaths would be rather tasteless don't you think?

Re:That long ago? (2, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400560)

You livies hate us deadies!

Re:That long ago? (2, Insightful)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400074)

Which is especially irrelevant when the freaking SUMMARY says "including work from still-living authors like Frederik Pohl and Jack Vance) have been showing up on Project Gutenberg"...

Re:That long ago? (1)

CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400088)

I think your rights terminate when you do.

So is that a death threat against the "still-living authors" mentioned?

Re:That long ago? (0)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400212)

No interest in leaving a house to your kids, eh? While I agree that rights should terminate somewhere within the first hundred years after the work is produced, all your solution will do is create a market for bumping off newly popular writers.

Re:That long ago? (5, Insightful)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400346)

all your solution will do is create a market for bumping off newly popular writers.

This is the stupidest argument I have ever seen, on any subject.

Re:That long ago? (5, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400434)

1) The works aren't exactly making a ton of money or circulation.

2) They got paid when they sold the books for quite some time, why not give that money to their kids?

3) How many jobs keep paying you money after you've died? Why do authors deserve this special privilege?

Re:That long ago? (-1, Troll)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399964)

Your rights end when you do, or at least that's what reasonable people would conclude (if they include IP rights as rights at all; there is some debate there). Modern copyright is life + 99 years, making it so that it could end up taking near 2 centuries for works to leave copyright in some cases.

Re:That long ago? (1)

CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400112)

Your rights end when you do, or at least that's what reasonable people would conclude (if they include IP rights as rights at all; there is some debate there).

So you obviously did not even read TFSummary, line 2. Way to go.

Re:That long ago? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400064)

He's right they should've fallen into the public domain a long time ago. Unfortunately they haven't, which makes it really hard. By the time a lot of that work will fall into the public domain, the odds are good that much of it will be unrecoverable in one form or another. And it's a lot harder to preserve this sort of stuff if you're not able to redistribute it.

privilege (4, Insightful)

nten (709128) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400268)

Its a privilege not a right. Copyright is a bad term. Ideas do not belong to the first being to hold them in their mind. Art does not belong to the artist. I'm not going to say some hippie crap like art belongs to everyone, rather I say it doesn't belong to anyone, it just is. You can't own blue, righteous indignation, the smell of napalm, or the force (sorry Lucas). We grant the privilege of profit for a period of time as a robust method of rewarding people for their efforts in proportion to how much people like the results of their mental labor. We made this law in the hope that it would encourage more such effort. The law was broken by PG, probably accidentally, but this is a legal issue, not a moral one, as no one is having their rights violated.

Re:That long ago? (2, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400284)

>

That's your opinion, but it's someone else's rights you are talking about. If I said your rights should be abridged...

No. Copyright is not a "right" in the sense that freedom of speech is a right, or the right of self-defense; it is an arbitrary creation of government.

Re:That long ago? (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400316)

it's someone else's rights you are talking about

Only for the loosest definition of 'right.'

Real rights are not given by law, they are protected by law. Copyrights are not a real right. They are a privilege.

Re:That long ago? (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400558)

That's your opinion, but it's someone else's rights you are talking about. If I said your rights should be abridged (not only copyright, but any rights) how would you respond?

To draw an equivalence between copyright and natural rights like freedom of expression, movement or association is to wholly misrepresent what copyright is.
Just because the words are spelled the same does not mean they have the same meaning.

Copyright is nothing more than a legal fiction - manufactured by the consent of society to refrain from exercising their natural right of freedom of expression.
Natural rights are not created by governments, we are born with them. Nobody is born with the right to restrict others from repeating what they said originally.

Re:That long ago? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34399932)

These works have been forgotten about a long time ago. They should have been in public domain since nobody is profiting from them anymore.

Nitpicking that magazines don't fall under the charter of the organization isn't valuable, ALL this information should be free if not only for archiving purposes. Those books are literally falling apart unless they were expensive hardcovers.

Since you aren't using those comic books in your closet and under your bed, I think I'll come over and take them.

Re:That long ago? (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400082)

You can't take them. But you can come with a xerox machine and make copies of them any time you want.

Re:That long ago? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400166)

You can't take them. But you can come with a xerox machine and make copies of them any time you want.

Don't invite him in until you find out if he's a nigger. Niggers are like vampires, man. If you invite them in, you're fucked!

Play it safe and e-mail scans to him.

Re:That long ago? (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400196)

So, how much do I owe you for the theft of your comment that I just read?

There are times when you can draw good parallels to physical and intellectual property. This isn't one of them.

Re:That long ago? (1)

CheerfulMacFanboy (1900788) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400198)

These works have been forgotten about a long time ago. They should have been in public domain since nobody is profiting from them anymore.

Quote the second link:

"The Poul Anderson estate has been able to get one work, “The Escape”, that PG had firmly declared to be public domain, removed from their site. PG’s original reasoning was that since the magazine it appeared in had never actually filed for copyright, the work was unprotected. “The Escape”, printed in 1953, was the first half of Anderson’s well-known novel BRAINWAVE, which was published and properly copyrighted the following year."

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0743474864?_encoding=UTF8&tag=sfreviewsnet-20&linkCode=as3&camp=15041&creative=373501 [amazon.com] has at least been published in 2003

Re:That long ago? (1)

slick_rick (193080) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400494)

You are mostly correct, abandoned works should be in the public domain after a reasonable period. I do not doubt that project G is in violation of the letter of the law, but is it really in violation of the spirit of the law?

originally appeared in magazine form (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399864)

So, if it say, is on a Kindle now, it gets another eleventy years of copyright protection? What exactly is special about a magazine/book that makes the stories not public domain? Copyright extends from the time it's written, not published, yes?

Re:originally appeared in magazine form (3, Informative)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399950)

Right now, copyright is 70 years past the author's death [wikipedia.org] , but before the 70s there was renewal. If the work was published before 1964 and not renewed, it's PD. When exactly something becomes copyrighted can be a tricky concept, as publication has increasingly come to mean "made permanent."

Re:originally appeared in magazine form (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400322)

Not that this is at a federal level; individual states have enacted their own copyright extensions in some cases. Adding that in makes it more of a legal minefield.

Re:originally appeared in magazine form (1)

Ankh (19084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399994)

| Copyright extends from the time it's written, not published, yes?

No. There are separate rules about unpublished works, and about works first published posthumously, but in general the clock used to start ticking on publication; these days it's usually 70 years after the author died. The Berne Convention mandates 50 years after death, in general, but like most counties the US went a little further.

Re:originally appeared in magazine form (5, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400104)

Correct. For works written before January 1, 1978, copyright extends for an initial term of 28 years and can be renewed for another 67 years. Copyrights that have not been renewed for all works published January 1, 1978 would be public domain. Furthermore, works published before January 1, 1978 had to registered for copyright protection status to be effective; this is not true for works written after January 1, 1978.

What is special about magazines is that many magazines did not register their copyrights for individual articles.

Wholesale kidnapping? (5, Insightful)

IICV (652597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399884)

Wholesale kidnapping?

Who, exactly, is "kidnapping" the stories in this case? The people who are putting them in a publicly accessible format so that everyone can look at them, or the people who are keeping them behind an iron wall of intellectual property?

I was under the impression that it was the people doing the imprisoning that were generally the kidnappers, not the people granting freedom. Silly me.

Re:Wholesale kidnapping? (5, Funny)

OglinTatas (710589) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400118)

new terminology:
music movies - piracy
texts - kidnapping
releasing your own copyrighted material to creative commons or public domain - terrorism

leave it to writers to be creative with language.

That said, if it is not public domain or PG does not control the copyrights, they should remove the material. Leave the wholesale piracy - er, kidnapping - to google books.

Re:Wholesale kidnapping? (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400386)

releasing your own copyrighted material to creative commons or public domain - terrorism

al'Coulton akbar! It's time for a FREEHAHD!

Re:Wholesale kidnapping? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400146)

Awesome. So you don't mind if I come to your place and take all your stuff for the masses to use? After all, I'm liberating it and letting more people use it, you're imprisoning it within the walls of your house for your own selfish use, you NAZI!

Or perhaps you're just taking the metaphor too far.

Re:Wholesale kidnapping? (4, Funny)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400262)

Awesome. So you don't mind if I come to your place and take all your stuff for the masses to use?

Sometime in the future, when matter replication is commonplace and law and order has collapsed, there will be roving copy-gangs savagely breaking into houses and duplicating everything inside, storing it in vast warehouses for the masses to replicate for themselves. And replicate the masses certainly shall. Like librarians caught in an animalistic orgy of card-filing.

Can you picture 300 million near-identical Ikea coffee tables all stacked up and filed, hundreds of stories high, indexed and cross-indexed, until they block out the very Sun? Dare you imagine every teenager in America wearing the same brand of jeans at once?

That's the dark future the copy-gangs will create if they're not stopped now.

Re:Wholesale kidnapping? (3, Insightful)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400376)

Indeed. It's a bit much to say the least. I stopped caring about the idea when the original complaint contained "authors and estates"... I have been, and always will be, against anyone other than the original human creator getting any control over the copyright.

I mean, we all know copyright doesn't guarantee revenue. So what is the big malfunction with PG taking long-dead (used books possibly) stories and making them available to a new audience. And since the author/estate doesn't get any royalties for used book sales, their "kidnapping" argument is more specious than usual. At least they didn't say "stealing".....

I'm more interested in PG's response (1)

Serenissima (1210562) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399886)

If they genuinely made a mistake in their selection of the copyrighted works, and they own up to it and remove it, then they can fix it and move on. Problem solved, end of story. Now, if they're going to be dicks and fight it, well... then we'll have an interesting story. Until then, I find myself giving it a resounding... "Meh..."

Re:I'm more interested in PG's response (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400028)

Isn't that begging the question a little? "Now, if they're going to be dicks and fight it" assumes that the authors in question still own the copyright to the works. It sounds like there's some doubt as to the legal status of the works. Unless, of course, you mean that it's dickish to publish something that someone would really rather you not, even if there's no legal reason not to.

Re:I'm more interested in PG's response (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400120)

Not really, the question is who owns it, consequently it's not up to PG to decide that as somebody does own it. At bare minimum they have a legal responsibility to not distribute the materials without permission. It's an unfortunate situation in that it takes a lot of work to determine who in fact owns the rights, but if they don't want to get sued, it's the right way of doing it.

Plus, it looks bad when a project like this oversteps the law that far. If they stick to waiting until the copyright expires that's a lot easier. They still have to distribute only in countries where it has expired, or at least make an effort at it.

Re:I'm more interested in PG's response (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400370)

If the work has passed into the public domain, they need no permission at all. They may not have overstepped the law at all.

Works prior to 1978 got 28 years protection with an option to renew. Reading the quote in TFA:

However, even if ‘The Escape” had not been published as a novel, it would have remained under copyright protection until 1981 (28 years) and been eligible for copyright renewal. Authors of that era, and Anderson in particular, were very aware of the need to renew copyrights, and typically meticulously kept their copyright protections up to date.

Typically doesn't mean DID in this case. "Well, I believe he probably..." isn't much basis to declare PG guilty, now is it?

I have no doubt they sincerely believe the works are NOT in the public domain now. They may even be right. They may be wrong. It's hardly a cut and dried issue.

Help me out with this, please... (4, Insightful)

Chordonblue (585047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399894)

Is this all about semantics? I mean, Project G is very clear about this: If a copyright holder makes a claim, they take the material down. I would think putting this stuff out there, rather than letting it rot is hardly a disservice to the authors/publishers.

Re:Help me out with this, please... (4, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400130)

Is this all about semantics? I mean, Project G is very clear about this: If a copyright holder makes a claim, they take the material down. I would think putting this stuff out there, rather than letting it rot is hardly a disservice to the authors/publishers.

Based on Baen publishing's experience, making electronic copies freely available will likely rouse enough interest in these old works that whoever owns the copyrights will probably be able to make some money on a new printing. It's a little counter-intuitive, but Baen says the effect is quite consistent and reliable.

Re:Help me out with this, please... (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400248)

Baen, unlike PG, does sell copies of the same work. IOW, there's a contribution mechanism there if you feel like the work is worth some money. Not the same thing at all.

I make those sorts of contributions a lot. I pirated a lot when I was poor, justifying it with the thought that I would refuse to pirate when I could afford the work. I can afford the work now, and not only do I not pirate, I have made several attempts to go back and give people the money that I think they deserve.

Re:Help me out with this, please... (1)

tsalmark (1265778) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400132)

It seems to be the authors heirs that have the problem with this, not the authors. I think you are right, I'm sure these authors would enjoy having their 50 some odd year old orphaned works read again.

Re:Help me out with this, please... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400154)

No, it's not. PG doesn't have the right to distribute the materials without permission unless they fall under the public domain. And that can be either because the time ran out on the copyright or the owner placed it into the public domain. It's not a good practice to distribute things and count on somebody catching them to fix it. That policy has always been more about catch errors than about making publishers prove that the material isn't public domain.

Unfortunately, many governments have gone overboard in terms of protection IP, but that doesn't really make it OK to pirate the material.

Re:Help me out with this, please... (4, Informative)

swillden (191260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400206)

I think the point is that when you're talking about half century-old, out-of-print works, PGs approach *should* be the expected one. Luckily for PG, Google has already blazed this trail for them. If you recall, Google's settlement with the publishers is actually pretty similar to what PG is doing -- out-of-print works are made available unless someone objects. Google has placed some limitations which PG has not, but the concept is very similar.

Re:Help me out with this, please... (0, Flamebait)

Chordonblue (585047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400332)

Pirating? Oh please! No one has stolen anything. COPIED, perhaps...

At what point does common sense enter into this? We're talking about abandoned items here, not heading into Border's and making copies of Glen Beck's Christmas Sweater...

These works were written between 40 - 60 years ago (5, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399904)

They should be in the public domain.

Works that are not in active circulation will likely be forgotten and effectively lost to the world if they are not allowed to transition into the public domain in a timely fashion.

Copyright needs reformation.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (3, Informative)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399946)

Particularly music is lost to the world. It is not as if one has an alternative and can go and buy the music or the novel. Try finding Jazz from the dawn of the twentieth century. If you are lucky enough to find it at all it is likely a crudely put up version that is almost useless. And I'm talking about scores not finished music.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400400)

All recordings of Jazz from the dawn of the 20th Century is a crudely-recorded almost-useless version. They were still recording on wax cylinders and primitive records back then. There was no hi-fi or analog tape yet.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (5, Funny)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399992)

But, but, my great-grandchildren will be stolen from if copyright is less than life + 99 years!

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400076)

If I was a conspiracy theorist I would say that this is just a way to help the very rich keep making money after they achieve immortality. I mean, if the poor bastards are going to live for 600 years, why are you trying to kill their money source just after a few decades. Then again, it might be just a batch of bad coffee.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (1, Insightful)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400550)

it's to prevent older but still relevant works from competing with new works

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400556)

I foresee copyright claims going the way of (intestate) land claims... inherited by the family or spouse, unless debts are owed, until the end of time.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (3, Insightful)

Ankh (19084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400038)

"should" - either take it up with your representative (congress if you're in the US) or be aware that civil disobedience carries penalties.

At least some of these works are in fact in circulation, by the way. See the original article; there are stories that were first published in magazines and then in books.

60 years isn't actually very long as copyright laws go (sadly) - when I'm researching images or my Web site, http://www.fromoldbooks.org/ [fromoldbooks.org] , I frequently find images over 100 years old that are still in copyright. Sometimes even older.

As for "lost to the world," well, I agree, but note that there are "dark archives" (e.g. at the Library of Congress in the USA) where items are held until such time as copyright expires.

A difficulty with copyright law is that it's the publishers who make the money, and hence have the most representation at governmental levels. I'd guess that with wider representatoin, copyright terms could be simplified and shortened. However, in the US, you also have to remember the Disney Laws. Protectionism and corruption.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400256)

but note that there are "dark archives" (e.g. at the Library of Congress in the USA) where items are held until such time as copyright expires.
 
Can you expand on this concept, please? I googled "dark archives" and nothing of use came up.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (1)

Ankh (19084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400340)

Can you expand on this concept, please? I googled "dark archives" and nothing of use came up.

Well, they're hard to find because they're dark :D

Othe terms include hidden archives, or escrow archives, but see this google search [google.ca] for some pointers.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400408)

Before you learn about the dark archives, you must strike down your master in anger with a lightsaber.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (2, Insightful)

KhabaLox (1906148) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400068)

They should be in the public domain.

That's not your, nor PG's, call to make. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a huge fan of IP, and my opinion is that Golden Age SF is probably best preserved and distributed in the public domain, but it appears that these works do have legitimate owners who don't necessarily agree.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400182)

How do you know they are not in active circulation? The second hand copies of the original books certainly are. And I'm sure that I've seen some old Vance books reissued recently.

As as active collector of SciFi I have books that were written in the 20s and 30s. Some of the authors from the golden age like Asimov, Clarke, Hienlen are still being published and books from Doc Smith etc can still be found.

Just because they are not on amazon doesn't mean they don't exist.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (4, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400224)

Here's my proposal:

Movies, books, TV shows, video games, etc.: 10 years from first publication. No extensions, although a "new and improved version" rerelease is copyrighted separately. This puts plenty into the public domain: Star Trek up to Insurrection, the classic James Bond films, the first few Super Mario Bros. games, and so on. However, it also provides plenty of time to make a profit, and even when something enters the public domain, some people will still buy it (see The Lord of the Rings, the original printing of which is PD in the US due to an oversight)

Genuine inventions: Patent lasts 10 years. Extension can lengthen it by another decade if you are actively using the patent in a product. This cuts down on patent trolls, but otherwise keeps the system as-is.

Software/Method patents: Six months. This is mostly to make it easier to strike down the 20-year patents: it's less of a jump to say "this was patented in the wrong category, and as it has been X years since registration, the patent is no longer valid" than it is to say "this thing should never have been patentable".

Trademarks: Pretty much as now, although I'd make protection of parodies much more explicit

"Casual infringement": If you "steal" something from a P2P site, the most you can be liable for is the most common trade price of the thing, and the prosecution is responsible for court costs. This would make it pointless to sue people for downloading a few albums, but it would still be possible to sue massive-scale "pirates" or even people running torrent sites if they're advertising "pirated" material.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400452)

Hi Senator, my office would like to work with you on these ideas that you have.

By the way, my son started a new company that deals in green energy. Would you like an opportunity to get in on the ground floor and invest? There's a new law that says the US government must buy his products.

Re:These works were written between 40 - 60 years (1)

bunbuntheminilop (935594) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400314)

I remember, 10 years ago, the same argument being made about arcade ROMS and the MAME Project. I would never have believed that many of these games could become semi-relevant again (thanks to digital distribution), and even generating new income for the IP owners.

exploiting? kidnapping? really?? (3, Insightful)

ooooli (1496283) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399908)

Wow, sounds almost as bad as piracy... If they really think PG is doing a "tremendous service" then what's the deal with the loaded language?

Re:exploiting? kidnapping? really?? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400202)

Because they're simultaneously undermining the foundation of making money as a writer. Creative professionals often make a pittance compared with the parasites that get the stuff to the public, and consequently they do need the copyright terms in order to keep working. A single major blockbusting book can fund several lesser books in terms of not having to count on getting an advance in order to work full time on it. Anything like this which undermines that also undermines the ability of writers to actually write full time.

Unfortunately, in many parts of the world the copyright laws go way above and beyond what's necessary to encourage people to work on art full time to the point where it becomes counterproductive. It's not unreasonable for somebody who was born in say the 1920s to have something published in the 1940s and still be alive today, although that is getting to be more unusual as time goes by.

Re:exploiting? kidnapping? really?? (1)

wygit (696674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400504)

Keeping Poul Anderson's works under copyright is going to encourage him to create more works? Really?

Or Walt Disney?

In theory, that's the PURPOSE of copyright.
It wasn't to keep the works under the control of the author forever. It was to give them a reason to KEEP WRITING.

From the US Constitution:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

note the term "limited time"

Unwise move (4, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399960)

This is an extremely unwise move for Project Gutenberg. While I am certainly opposed to the overly-long copyright terms we have today, and somewhat sympathetic to testing the boundaries of the often unclear copyright status of some works, PG is not the group to do it. They are nowhere near funded well enough to risk a legal confrontation with the major publishing houses or their star authors, and by taking that risk, they are endangering the good and unambiguously legal work they have been doing for so many years.

I don't know Greg Bear personally, but I am familiar with his position on copyrights generally, and he has always seemed to me to be one of the more reasonable authors in this area. Even if he's wrong on this point, Project Gutenberg should leave the grey areas for better-suited groups to explore. While it is deplorable that it is often prohibitively expensive to secure justice in the courts even when one is entirely in the right, that's the reality PG has to deal with if it wants to venture into this area, and it should not be done carelessly.

Re:Unwise move (3)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400100)

I don't know Greg Bear personally

And I don't know Poul Anderson's daughter, but the idea of progeny of famous people trying to live off their parents' work is distasteful to me.

Anyway, I've decided arbitrarily to make 15 years the point at which a work becomes public domain and I intend to act accordingly. The only thing to do when laws are out of whack is to act as if they are not.

Re:Unwise move (2)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400254)

And I don't know Poul Anderson's daughter, but the idea of progeny of famous people trying to live off their parents' work is distasteful to me.

I don't know Astrid either, but I do know Poul's widow, editor and co-author, Karen Anderson. If anybody's profiting from Poul's work at this time, it's Karen, not Astrid. I do hope you don't object to that.

Re:Unwise move (3, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400448)

Apparently the new logic is that kids are to be cut loose, that you're not supposed to leave anything for them, but rather give 'em the boot, and anything you've saved or produced should not benefit them at all.

I'm all for copyright reform, but this idea that authors are somehow different than anyone else in that their literary works, while still under copyright, shouldn't be part of their estate seems ridiculous to me.

Re:Unwise move (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400534)

Apparently the new logic is that kids are to be cut loose, that you're not supposed to leave anything for them, but rather give 'em the boot, and anything you've saved or produced should not benefit them at all.

I don't know about you, but I didn't get very much from my parents as a kid, either. Neither of them have saved anything due to obviously bad decisions. I know hindsight is 20/20 but seriously. From what I know of their parenting, however, it was far worse. All I can say is that things either went bad somewhere along the line, or were always terrible and we're just fooling ourselves. Probably a big part of what's gone "wrong" is that society is no longer subjecting people to the same sort of punishment for collapse of the traditional family system as they have in the past, which enables new forms of behavior, both positive and negative.

I'm all for copyright reform, but this idea that authors are somehow different than anyone else in that their literary works, while still under copyright, shouldn't be part of their estate seems ridiculous to me.

I think that most people believe that copyright laws should be applied pretty uniformly, whatever they might be.

Re:Unwise move (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400286)

Ah I see, so if you made a million bucks, you wouldn't try to take care of your kids?

Re:Unwise move (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400428)

Well, since Astrid Anderson is married to Greg Bear, presumably she can live off her husband's work and not her dad's. He's doing pretty well, although how that income stacks up in terms of California prices is a different story. For that matter, she's quite talented and could probably make more money herself if she wanted to focus on it. She's been involved heavily with SFWA, doing the sort of work her dad did as a past president of the organization, lobbying for his causes. Much of what remains available of Poul's work is through Baen, who have published all the Flandry of Terra and Polesotechnic League books recently (yes, Baen of the many free samples). Maybe she thinks Gutenburg may hurt these sales, or maybe she's planning to release the texts via Baen after sales die down, as many have done, and just doesn't like the loss of control. I wouldn't assume this particular case is all about the Benjamins.

Server location (5, Informative)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34399972)

Why don't they host their servers in a country with more reasonable copyright laws? Specifically with regard to copyright duration. Australia and New Zealand have much more reasonable copyright durations than the US. IIRC 50 years instead of almost double that.

Re:Server location (4, Informative)

Ankh (19084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400084)

Since the works in question were first published in the US, by American citizens, the US terms would still apply even if the servers were in New Zealand or Australia. Those countries have copyright agreements with the USA.

Works published jointly in more than one country (jointly usually means within 30 days) usually get the "shortest term" of any of the countries involved, but that's only for works published in multiple counties. Works published (even on the Web) without the permission of the copyright owner do not get a reduced copyright.

In practice, you can often get away with republishing woks because it's too expensive to take legal action, and because you get into an area of law called Conflict of Laws, which is one of the hardest and most expensive areas of law. However, simply moving the servers to another Berne Convention country wouldn't actually help PG very much.

In the past, the US has not tended to honour the copyright agreeents of other counties, but of late that has been changing.

Canada (where I live) also has life + 50 years instead of life + 70 years; it's not actuallyhalf of the US term, though. If you publish a work when you're 20 and you live to be 100, the work gets (100 -20 + 70) = 150 years of protection in the US, and 130 years in Canada.

Personally (and I'm speakingas a published author here too) I'd like a return to 20 or 30 years after publication, with no renewals, But Im not a film or music distribution company, of course!

Re:Server location (5, Interesting)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400218)

Since the works in question were first published in the US, by American citizens, the US terms would still apply

The Berne Convention [cornell.edu] would seem to only require 50 years protection or the length in the country of origin, whichever is the lowest.

Where does Abandonware fall? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400234)

Where does Abandonware fall?

Or stuff that owned by dead companies.

Re:Where does Abandonware fall? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400510)

Where does Abandonware fall?

In the black hole that is something people talk about, but which does not exist in any legal statute, precedent, or other such form.

Or stuff that owned by dead companies.

That's a whole different abyss. Sometimes you can find a way to buy and resurrect it, sometimes you just can't.

Re:Where does Abandonware fall? (1)

wygit (696674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400540)

It rots, like so many of the movies we've lost because the studio didn't think they were worth the cost of preservation or restoration, but couldn't stand the thought of someone getting them for free. They're rotting in some freaking vault somewhere.

Re:Server location (1)

Shadow99_1 (86250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400414)

I'd say more like 10 or 15. I've basically got any money I'll make from it by then (if any). There are very few exceptions to this, LotR and Foundation come to mind for books. I don't think my kids should live off my labor though, go let them make their own fucking works of art! Added to that is my personal opinion that books such as those belong even more in the public domain to act as the basis for a new generation of works. That's how culture worked until the 19th century. Within around a decade from it's point of origin the creator would have gotten any monetary benefit from it and it would become public domain. Then others could use it as a base for their own works. We broke this in the 19th century (the origin of increased copyright terms).

Music is even more transitory in general than books. Easily any realistic profits from 90% of bands would be made within 5 years or less of the date a 'record' was created. 'Bands' also need to constantly create new works or they lose momentum and relevance. The origins of hip hop for instance were DJ's remixing disco tunes from 20 years before their own time. Very few of whom even still made music. They however where the basis from an entire new form of music. But they way we've let things get so screwed up it is actually easier to cover an entire song, then repeat a 3 second clip from a single song.

I've btw, both written books (self-published) and created music. Neither has made me any real money and I'm happy if someone even likes them. Once series I wrote is now 8 or 9 years old. I'm happy that someone new even reads it and enjoys it enough to send me a note about it once or twice a year. Maybe if I really inspire them they'll use my work to create their own. I'd find that rather satisfying.

Re:Server location (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400342)

The Marshall Islands, IIRC, have no copyright laws. Perhaps they could set up shop there.

Hyperbole at its Finest (5, Insightful)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400020)

They are not merely exploiting orphan works, but practicing a wholesale kidnapping...

Wow. Hyperbole much?

Seriously, that little tirade is just shy of "won't someone think of the children"...

I have troubles taking any point seriously, regardless of how valid I think it may or may not be, when it's attached to gross, blatant hyperbole of this sort. Make your point in an intelligent manner and people will respond. Make it sound like the sky is falling and doom is eminent and you'll quickly be ignored.

Re:Hyperbole at its Finest (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400446)

Doom is both imminent, and now thanks to the US Government, Eminent too:

"Terror! Terror! Terror!" they cry, rapidly seeding an imminent sense of doom from their eminent control over the press and all that you see and hear.

tempest in a teacup (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400040)

http://cand.pglaf.org/bear-response.txt

"The error occurred because we did not know that Brainwave was a
complete publication of the serial parts of The Escape. We did know
from the publication of The Escape in 1953 that it was the first part
of a serialization, but did not know that Brainwave, from 1954, was
the title of the complete serialization."

What a bunch of whiners (0, Troll)

FeatherBoa (469218) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400060)

Project Gutenberg is scrupulously careful and does not post material without a very solid case that they have a right to do so -- usually because things are public domain in the USA. PG Canada, Australia, Germany etc abide by their applicable laws just as scrupulously.

Whatever may be wrong with the copyright rules in the US (and elsewhere) it is certain that the rules are spelled out in enough detail to allow an unequivocal determination that these items are public domain in the US.

The authors don't have a leg to stand on and they know it. They are nothing but whiners.

Re:What a bunch of whiners (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400194)

Except Project Gutenberg have retracted and admitted their mistake. But do go on, let's not bring facts into this.

Re:What a bunch of whiners (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400350)

that was one instance where the work was actually a part of a longer work under a different title.

Re:What a bunch of whiners (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400294)

The authors don't have a leg to stand on and they know it. They are nothing but whiners.

Considering that US copyright lasts for seventy years after the author's death, and some of the authors involved are still alive, I find that hard to believe.

The sad state of copyright (5, Insightful)

Paul Carver (4555) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400108)

The theft of the public domain by companies and politicians is the true criminal act.

I hope Project Gutenberg adheres to the letter of the law but doesn't give an inch of generosity to grey areas.

Personally I don't see why the author's death should figure into it at all. A couple of decades from publication to public domain is plenty. If you don't want your thoughts and ideas to enter the public domain then keep them to yourself.

A decade or three of exclusivity is a reasonable incentive to create. Carving out chunks of language and idea space for your own exclusive ownership practically forever is not.

Our shared cultural heritage is far more important that someone's "right" to continue profiting from work they or their ancestors did half a century ago. And if no one is profiting but the works are simply being suppressed because they're out of print but "protected" anyway then that is a crime against humanity.

Re:The sad state of copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400462)

Royalties are often an authors retirement plan. I would suggest that a "fair" copyright length would be the life of the author and their legal partners (or ex partners(s) if support is specified in the divorce), or until the children are 18, whichever is longer. After that, any works go into the public domain. However, as with much else, now that big (corporate) money is involved, this compensation of the creative artist is not likely to make it to law.

Re:The sad state of copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34400474)

A lifetime is reasonable. I wouldn't want to be an author that has to compete with the publication of one of my earlier works.

I think people tend to feel that the families of authors should reap the benefits of their work after their death. I am as unconvinced of that argument as I am of anyone claiming that the are due a tax free inheritance when a parent dies.

Too blind and ignorant to see a good thing (2, Insightful)

grapeape (137008) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400310)

Its surprising to see such backwards thinking from people that are normally regarded as futurists. If anything you would think they would recognize that perhaps releasing the older works into the public domain would actually increase interest in the authors who as they point are either still living or recently dead all but ensuring greatly increased royalties from later works. A vast majority of these older works have been all but forgotten. You would think that as a writer of speculative fiction Bear would be able to see the future dark void of lost art that the current copyright over-extensions are creating and would be at the forefront of working to prevent it. Even without that awareness you would think that typical heir greed would compel them to think about the potential windfall of sales from later works rather than the potential loss of future revenue from something like Chain Of Logic or Tomorrows Children which after 60+ likely does not result in enough revenue to buy a new hardback title.

Copyrights Gone Wild!!! (5, Insightful)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400368)

Let's be honest. Copyrights expire at death, with a minimum term (like 15 years) to support any children. Or how about death + years until any children are over 18.

Frankly, copyright should be original publish date. If it was published in a magazine, then later in book form. Should the copyright be furthered? The music industry has used so-called "re-mastering" to continuously keep works in copyright.

And we all know that when these 70 yr copyrights expire, a law will be passed to extend it to 100 yrs. And then after that - infinitely. But hey, no one will be alive that will remember anything but infinite copyrights.

DISGUSTING....

Library of Congress (2, Interesting)

Rexdude (747457) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400420)

I saw this article somewhere about the huge number of orphaned works that are stored in the LoC, that can only be viewed by physically going there - recordings, books, films from long since vanished artists and producers. Yet they can't be digitized and made available on the net due to copyright liability.

The best thing for the US would be to announce that all works from before 1940 should automatically return to public domain one year from now, unless rights holders come forward to claim copyright. If there's nobody living to make the claim, then let it into the public domain.

They want a lawsuit to determine this firmly (5, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 3 years ago | (#34400480)

Folks at Project Gutenberg are obviously aware of the potential for a lawsuit. They would like to have one, so that the decision on the copyright status of these works is made concrete.
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