back to article Internet Archive justifies its vast 'copyright infringing' National Emergency Library of 1.4 million books by pointing out that libraries are closed

The Internet Archive has defended its decision to make its collection of 1.4 million books readily available online, despite most of them still being in copyright, by arguing that public libraries are currently closed. In a blog post this week, the organization best known for preserving billions of web pages, responded to …

  1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

    Meanwhile...

    The many Library Genesis mirrors continue to function, making no pretence of complying with copyright, providing 'pirate' ebooks and academic texts to anyone who wants them.

    1. The First Dave

      Re: Meanwhile...

      Which is fine in its way, since if there is no pretence to being legal, then there is no threat to the system as a whole, unlike this situation.

      I cannot begin to think why the IA thought this was a good idea.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Meanwhile...

        "I cannot begin to think why the IA thought this was a good idea."

        Maybe if every closed library provided the IA with a list of it's "locked down books", the IA could increment the number of allowed loans by each unused book. That would have the effect of massively increasing the numbers of loans allowed to give a similar effect and not affect the overall library of "licenced" stock. It would be the equivalent of inter-library loans.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meanwhile...

      Among many. The Eye is still up, as is the index librorum prohibitus if you can actually find an up-to-date link, and about a hundred things on /r/opendirectories. You can dig up a ton just with an intitle:"index of" on google. We are not lacking for ebooks. If you are really desperate, you can even obey the law and actually pay for things. I'd rather not.

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: Meanwhile...

        I look upon it this way, as book sellers are closed by government order and libraries are also shuttered, the organizations are proclaiming to the world that their works are illegal to possess.

        I concur, I shan't purchase any works represented by those fair weathered friends for the next decade, in any way, shape or format. Books are illegal and we should burn the lot of their represented works when the emergency ends.

        Oh, their authors are struggling, but the populace is fine, thank you, who needs a job or money, as long as those authors are either paid or go unread.

        If the associations and guilds object to that, I'll happily extend my prohibition to lifelong, it's my money, not theirs and since it's unlawful to purchase or borrow their books during the emergency, I'll consider it unethical to do so once the free market recovers from the emergency.

        My home, my gold, my rules and I'll burn both of the former before I'll be forced to contaminate my existence with such people who disrespect a global emergency.

  2. John Lilburne

    It has been pointed out ...

    ... by Keith Kupferschmid that "Brewster Kahle is a multi-millionaire (who made his fortune during the dotcom boom when he sold two companies for millions to AOL and Amazon). ... Kahle, on the other hand, has chosen not to take money out of his own pocket but rather to take money out of the pockets of those who need it the most – American authors. Under normal circumstances his actions would be reprehensible, but given the current situation and Kahle’s enormous wealth, his actions are particularly vile."

    https://copyrightalliance.org/ca_post/the-emergence-of-copyright-looting/

    1. overunder Silver badge

      Re: It has been pointed out ...

      Now that is blatant F.U.D. and attempts to induce hysteria.

      1. John Lilburne

        Re: It has been pointed out ...

        So you think it is totally unreasonable to suggest that Brewster Kahle pays 5c per copy borrowed to the authors of the works? Its not at all why such should be considered the promotion of Fear, Uncertainty or Doubt.

        1. Wzrd1

          Re: It has been pointed out ...

          John, I think it's perfectly reasonable to pay a carbon tax on burning the collective works represented by such people.

          I'll be compiling a list of publishers and authors represented by these organizations and the works of said organizations and individuals are on my family blacklist, making them the only such publications in existence.

          Fear, uncertainty and doubt we all have with this pandemic, now we have a new grudge list for those who insist we can't have nice things until the emergency is over.

          No, once the emergency is over, their products and careers are over as far as me and mine are concerned. T

    2. whitepines Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: It has been pointed out ...

      take money out of the pockets of those who need it the most – American authors.

      What a bunch of whiny crybabies. Business is hard, grow up -- you have the easiest job in the world with guaranteed legal protections on your work. Many others just muddle through with far fewer protections, including some fairly large corporations you just might have heard of like Siemens. And they're not whining about work they did 50+ years ago being copied.

      Maybe if you and your ilk hadn't extended copyright to cover multiple generations people would actually care, but as it stands your own incompetence in making a living wage over a period of 120+ years per work with a DRM locked subscription model forced down your victims' customers' throats for added insult is not society's problem. We (society at large) simply don't care about your whining any more -- you've made the deal so bad that you can simply disappear and take your copyrighted rubbish with you as far as we're concerned.

      By all means, don't get copyright duration under control, keep forcing renting and streaming of works, keep locking copyrighted works behind obtrusive, ineffective, privacy-invading DRM, and all you'll see is more and more people choosing to "own" a pirated copy instead of paying monthly or paying per view. Stop taking money out of the pockets of hard working American people -- many of whom work on a wage so low they can barely afford food and housing -- to fund your lifestyle through subscriptions, then, and only then, maybe you'll gain some respect. As it stands you don't even deserve a seat at the table.

      Oh, and trying to profit from COVID19? That's just sick -- it shows where you really stand. Authors seem to be all about the money these days.

      1. Weiss_von_Nichts

        Re: It has been pointed out ...

        "you have the easiest job in the world with guaranteed legal protections on your work. "

        I'm sure he has. And I'm quite sure he's not an author. It usually is publishers and their shills who do the crying, because it's their profits that are affected, not the creators. Have you ever heard an actual author complain about public libraries having their books?

        1. Geoffrey W
          Happy

          Re: It has been pointed out ...

          RE: "Have you ever heard an actual author complain about public libraries"

          Oh, I have, though I can't recall one at the moment and can't be bothered to search for one. I do remember wondering at the time I saw such a complaint "Why is it always the very big bestsellers who complain most about someone else not paying for their book?" It's as if they can't bear anyone nibbling pennies off their millions. Douglas Preston and/or Lincoln Child, perhaps?

          As for the preceding poster...writing novels is not easy (see all the poorly written books self published on Amazon) and most authors, good or bad, don't make enough to live on and need second jobs. It's a microcosm of our current capitalist economy. I know it's a question of scale - they sell a lot of books so make a lot of money - but maybe a new economic model is required for us all. Universal income perhaps? The current economy is like the final moments of a game of monopoly where a single player is about to finally wipe out every one else in the game. It's the basic flaw at the heart of capitalism.

          Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, we'll keep the red flag flying here. Right on comrades! :-)

        2. Wzrd1

          Re: It has been pointed out ...

          Have you ever heard an actual author complain about public libraries having their books?

          Nope, not in the slightest. I'm also angry enough that each member of my family will be saving a few thousand dollars a year, which was previously misspent upon fair weather friends.

          We'll read such represented works after having high tea with their peers, the dodo birds.

      2. 96percentchimp

        Re: It has been pointed out ...

        Very few authors earn a lot of money, or very much at all, althought he publishers might, but mostof that is down to sheer economies of scale.

        Authors advances are typically <£30k for a novel that might take 1-2 years to write and another 3 years to go through the publishing process. >90% of novels never "earn out" their advance - they don't make enough to pay the advance back. Some 2-3% of novels make all of the money, and apart from a few high-profile authors whose success has become self-perpetuating, picking a successful novel is, publishers tell me, like trying to catch lightning in a bottle.

        Copyright might be abused on a corporate level, but at the level of individual creators, it's a vital protection to their livelihood and creative freedom.

        1. Mage Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: It has been pointed out ...

          Over 90% of authors can't live on their royalties. That's authors that are actually published.

          But the USA inspired changes to copyright laws are really about corporate produced music, cinema and TV. Authors don't benefit.

      3. John Lilburne

        Re: It has been pointed out ...

        "you can simply disappear and take your copyrighted rubbish with you as far as we're concerned."

        Probably accounts for your ignorance.

        1. whitepines Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: It has been pointed out ...

          Not as ignorant as you'll be when you can't afford to renew your (future) PPV reading license!

          Me, I'll stick to dead trees. They don't have a habit of vanishing into thin air, and if they do the police are happy to investigate.

          1. Wzrd1

            Re: It has been pointed out ...

            Me, I'll stick to dead trees. They don't have a habit of vanishing into thin air, and if they do the police are happy to investigate.

            I've a second advantage in protecting my dead tree collection, the police only have to investigate enough to ascertain unlawful entry and the coroner collect the remains with a grand chunk of lead piercing a vital area. My state is a Castle Doctrine state, violate my hovel of a castle, find out precisely how good of a shot that I am and as a hint, the US taxpayer paid quite a bit to ensure that I never learned how to miss and two wars ensured those skills were honed to the highest caliber.

            That means, if sweet Jesus himself showed up in my domicile unannounced and uninvited, he'll catch one round to the head, one round to the thorax. Should he fail to fall, I'll apologize and explain my suspicion of a burglar intent upon harm.

            I'm given to understand he's a rather forgiving chap, if not, to hell with him.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Wzrd1

      Re: It has been pointed out ...

      OK, John. As the books in question are unlawful to purchase from a book store or borrow from a library during the emergency, while the populace suffers without occupation, those works no longer exist at all.

      I've precisely zero tolerance for fair weather friends.

      Good in times of good and plenty, but unobtainable during time of emergency to me is equal to not existing or being prohibited equally when any emergency has ended. As such are unlawful for purchase or loan while such facilities are closed, when our libraries reopen and our book sellers reopen, pile the lot of the unlawful in emergency works and have the grandest global book burning in the history of fire.

  3. John Robson Silver badge

    I'd have sympathy....

    If copyright was even vaguely fit for purpose.

    But the current situation where copyright lasts for lifetime+70 years is ridiculous when compared with the 25 years protection for a patent. Now that system is differently broken, but the premise is that you get a sanctioned monopoly for 25 years to recoup your development costs. Quite why authors of books (, writers of lyrics, producers of films, composers of music...) need more than 25 years to recoup their costs is yet to be explained.

    In particular, if you haven't recouped your costs of developing the plot device etc before you are dead then there either the product didn't generate enough interest to cover it's cost (in the same way that many many books likely never will, including several of those authored by family members), or your pricing model was seriously odd.

    I could see an exception being made for autobiographies... those have a rather different invested content (one's life) to a novel, or a text book (even if said text book contains the results of a life time of research).

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: I'd have sympathy....

      Yes, copyright has been wilfully extended, mainly to suit USA music, film, TV and animation producers/distributors.

      It's still the original Berne Convention Life + 50 in many countries, though life +25 would be plenty. USA insists on their version, plus DRM on trade treaties.

      However the ills of the system and totally evil DRM do not give IA any right whatsoever to do this.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: I'd have sympathy....

        "the ills of the system and totally evil DRM do not give IA any right whatsoever to do this."

        I agree - the rules are as they stand.

        But the fact that "copyright has been wilfully extended, mainly to suit USA music, film, TV and animation producers/distributors" still loses them* my sympathy.

        * The large organisations which are set up to benefit from the works of others long after they should have passed into the public domain.

        1. Wzrd1

          Re: I'd have sympathy....

          I agree - the rules are as they stand.

          For many, many years, an unconscious man was still considered inviolable and being incapable of giving informed consent, could be ignored, rather than treated under the fiction of implied consent.

          Is that fiction incorrect and the injured should remain untreated and unassisted if they cannot give consent in time of emergency?

          As for sympathies, I lost those along with my sense of humor when copyrights became nearly immortal and because said works rights remain property of large organizations essentially into perpetuity for any living soul. A copyright version of Fahrenheit 451. Author dies, work no longer is published, the works are effectively suffering the same fate as if they were collectively burned.

    2. John Lilburne

      It has been explained many times ...

      ... that many works do not make any money in the first 25 years after publication. In your scenario a book written before 1995 and turned into a film would not benefit the author. A song suddenly made popular by a contemporary Hollywood film would not benefit the band.

      1. cornetman Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: It has been explained many times ...

        In that case it probably wasn't really a very good work then was it?

        The vast majority of books only make their money in the first 5 years. Copyright for books is pointless for much longer.

        1. Geoffrey W

          Re: It has been explained many times ...

          RE: "... it probably wasn't really a very good work then was it?"

          I know. Look at that Vincent Van Gogh geezer. He barely made a pittance in his lifetime so he must have been a crap dauber.

          1. cornetman Silver badge

            Re: It has been explained many times ...

            > I know. Look at that Vincent Van Gogh geezer. He barely made a pittance in his lifetime so he must have been a crap dauber.

            So you think copyright should be effectively perpetual then?

            Things come and go in fashion over time.

            If copyright had existed then, he would still have been a pauper.

            1. Geoffrey W

              Re: It has been explained many times ...

              You totally missed my point and I never said copyright should be perpetual - Life plus a bit at most.

              You said if something was unsuccessful then it must be because it was crap. I was making the point that because a work is unsuccessful in the creators time doesn't mean it's crap; ref. Van Gogh

              Contrary wise; because something is successful doesn't mean it's good - Have a read of Guy N Smith for proof; or you could just take my word for it and save yourself some pain.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It has been explained many times ...

        Stupid question - but could we have copyright on the books themselves for say 10 years but a longer copyright on derivative works - to stop the TV and Movie people just counting down for 10 years?

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: It has been explained many times ...

          "could we have copyright on the books themselves for say 10 years but a longer copyright on derivative works - to stop the TV and Movie people just counting down for 10 years?"

          No. It's not that easy. When copyright ends, the work covered under that copyright goes to the public domain, meaning anyone can get, make, or redistribute copies, and they can modify them too. If someone wants to use the same plot in a different medium, they can do that without restriction if the work they're using is in the public domain.

          Now you could modify the law to effectively create such a policy, but it wouldn't be popular with either copyright-opponents or the copyright promotion groups. Probably the easiest method is to lower the penalties for copyright infringement based on how old the work is. Ten years or younger, full value of the infringement. Ten to twenty years, 50%. Twenty to thirty years, 20%. Thirty to forty years, 10%. After forty years, public domain. Therefore, if a person infringes copyright on a copy or two, it's not cost-effective to pursue them for it after a certain period. But if a multimillion movie is made, one tenth of that is still a claim worth making. The copyright holders would say that this law strips them of their effective rights after ten years and would absolutely hate it. People who don't like copyright at all would argue that having any at all, let alone one that lasts forty years is oppressive. Legal experts would argue that the law is too ambiguous with things like calculating the value of an infringement. But if we could somehow convince all these people to work with us to fix it, then we could really make some progress. For the first two hours after which the groups who have been brought together would start a major brawl.

          1. Suricou Raven

            Re: It has been explained many times ...

            It also wouldn't be possible without violating international multilateral agreements, which has some serious diplomatic fallout.

      3. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: It has been explained many times ...

        The logic flaw is except for classic works the only works that typically made into a movie are recent releases from the last few years. Even when copyright was much short, studios often bought options on works from the authors.

        If the copyright period was somewhere around 20 years for all works with no renewal artists would still make most of their money in the first 5 or so years (like 90%+). Also, popular works usually have a limited shelf life. For book to be made into a film as the public moves on to other things. So unless you are dealing with work that has managed to become a 'classic' the movie rights are only useful for a few years after the release of the book.

        If the Nine Seniles would bother to read the Constitution they might find the current copyright period unconstitutional because if fails one the Constitutional goals, the promotion of the useful arts. Copyright and patents are attempt to promote developing the 'useful arts' by giving the creators/owners a limited monopoly to make money. It was never intended to permanently lock up works forever plus a couple of millenia.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: It has been explained many times ...

          "If the copyright period was somewhere around 20 years for all works with no renewal artists would still make most of their money in the first 5 or so years"

          A short copyright period would mean that contemporary artists would be a tough position. If I'm making an advertisement and want a rock song for the music, a short copyright period means I could likely get a song from a band like the Rolling Stones that was on an album earlier in their career. You know, when they were much better. I wouldn't license one from a band that has been recently released. Listen to any Classic Rock radio station and think of how much of their play list is songs over 25 years old. Those royalties are paying for the member's organ transplants and wheelchairs.

          What it means is that artists won't make any money in those first 5 years. Besides, It's hard to count the number of 20 year old overnight successes whose back catalog becomes much more valuable after they finally get noticed.

          Being an artist is rarely a financially rewarding endeavor. I think Sting put it best when he said "you can make a killing in the music business, but it's hard to make a living".

      4. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: It has been explained many times ...

        The best set of restrictions on copyright is a contentious issue, and the only guarantee we have is that we (meaning any set of three or more people) won't ever agree. Still, your twenty five years allegation isn't really true. I want you to point me to a work that meets all of these requirements: 1. It made very little money for the author in the first twenty five years of publication, 2) it became popular after that point and sold many copies, and 3) the author isn't described in literary analysis papers as "recognized only posthumously for their work". I think you'll find that there aren't many things.

        Are there movies or TV shows of books that were produced more than twenty five years after the original was published? Of course. Delete the classics that always get revisited. There are still some. But usually, these books were popular soon after publication, had a video version produced soon afterward, and are now being revisited because television series are very popular or the film people twenty years ago did a bad job of it.

        But fine, the author should still get money from the latest version of their product because they wrote the original plot. We can make the law allow that without having such a broken one. It's useful to try to balance the protections for creators and the usefulness to society of the unrestricted work. We did it with patents; we can do it with copyrights. Giving them and anyone else who can find a way to piggyback on the law unlimited rights to everything and plenty of penalties to throw at others doesn't a good policy make.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It has been explained many times ...

        You mean public domain stories already turned into films by Disney?

        By your comment, many carols and rhymes and classical music arrangements would still be copyrighted.

        No Mozart symphonies without paying Mr. Mozart jr. jr. jr. jr. jr.

      6. Wzrd1

        Re: It has been explained many times ...

        A song suddenly made popular by a contemporary Hollywood film would not benefit the band.

        Do let us know what that band thinks of their new found gains from within the grave, we'll wait.

  4. Mage Silver badge
    Pirate

    Disengenious

    When did any Government suspend copyright for the emergency?

    Little of it is Educational. Almost all is in copyright and much in print.

    They are using the Covid-19 crisis to justify their own attack on copyright that has been years in the making.

    US libraries are still lending ebooks. The Internet Archive "Open Library" has been running for some time. I didn't realise till recently that it licences nothing and pays no royalties.

    The abusive extending of copyright and addition of DRM doesn't excuse this immoral behaviour.

    Earlier

    https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/all/2020/03/24/internet_archive_ebooks_national_emergency_library/

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Disengenious

      "When did any Government suspend copyright for the emergency?"

      The operators of various online book stores are particularly keen to know this, since they are still selling at the full (copyright included) price. Jef Bezos, for one, is not normally left squatting in the starting blocks when it comes to cutting (his) costs.

      I understand why people think that IP law needs a comprehensive re-think. I don't get why people think that they can just ignore laws because they don't like them. I bet there are some laws that these people are quite fond of and they'd be outraged if someone else just ignored them. We have a system for changing laws and, yes, that system sometimes feels broken too, but it is *much* better than the alternative.

      1. whitepines Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Disengenious

        I understand why people think that IP law needs a comprehensive re-think. I don't get why people think that they can just ignore laws because they don't like them.

        Probably because:

        a. "copyright infringement" in the manner discussed, especially when it's just DRM bypass, is a true victimless "crime". In many cases the law (copyright) also goes against morality; we have copied from one another since our very first days as a species and inherently we know that restricting copying for more than a short duration is intrinsically bad. Especially when an improvement is completely locked away for no other reason than a corporation's selfish greed (e.g. the Disney Vault -- that business practice should be made illegal if we have to put up with copyright as-is).

        b. Any discussion on reforming copyright is demonstrably a lost cause. Copyright is enshrined in treaty and shrouded in pathos ("the poor authors! they'll starve!"). The only outcome of legislative discussion on copyright for the past century has been more and more expansion of it and more and more draconian restrictions.

        Given that track record, civil disobedience is apparently the only way the people can make their voice heard.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Disengenious

          "Given that track record, civil disobedience is apparently the only way the people can make their voice heard."

          Not to mention the grand and proud history of civil disobedience in most existing democracies. eg suffragettes, civil rights, racial equality etc.

        2. The Nazz Silver badge

          Re: Disengenious

          They'd have a little more of my sympathy if they had, at the same time as increasing copyright periods, also legislated that the original creator retained a minimum of 50% of their copyrights, and revenues therefrom whatever commercialism took place afterwards.

  5. AnAnonymousCanuck

    How Archaic Are the Opinions Here?

    I on the other hand, applaud IA. Human culture should never be restricted. Copyright is an 18th century solution that is already dead. Get Over It! Copyright lawyers are the latest buggy whip makers, and they have realized it. Why do you think they are fighting so hard?

    YMMV

    Just Another Anonymous Canuck

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: How Archaic Are the Opinions Here?

      I don't see how Human culture is restricted by copyright. You have the right to read the book. The author has the right to be paid for writing the book. Where is the problem ?

      Oh, you mean that the plagiarists cannot use someone else's idea ? And what are they adding if they just use someone else's idea ?

      Of course, saying that, I remember that Science-Fiction would be much poorer if our greatest authors had not liberally plundered each others ideas and built on them.

      Hmm. It looks like this is more complicated than I thought.

      But let's make one thing clear : life + 70 is only because of Disney, which is especially ironic when you think that Disney pushed that to defend it's hold on Mickey which we haven't seen in 50 years.

      It is high time copyright gets revised to something more reasonable : lifetime + 5 years, for example.

      And it has to be the lifetime of a human being, not a company.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How Archaic Are the Opinions Here?

        "it has to be the lifetime of a human being, not a company."

        Under US law, companies *are* human beings, are they not? (At least according to the law. Which is of course an ass).

        1. Suricou Raven

          Re: How Archaic Are the Opinions Here?

          Sort of. Corporate personhood is complicated. In any case, US law solves that on copyright in a very simple manner. If a work was produced by a corporation (more precisely, by individuals in the employ of a corporation who assign their copyright to it under their employment contracts), then it is valid for a fixed term of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter. It's ridiculously long, but at least it's unambiguous.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: How Archaic Are the Opinions Here?

          "Under US law, companies *are* human beings, are they not?"

          For the purposes of Copyright, a corporation only gets a fixed time. Of course, every time the copyright for the original Mickey Mouse cartoons is going to run out, the time period gets extended. I think it's time to prosecute any lawmaker that proposes a new extension for taking bribes and order a microscopic forensic examination of Disney's financials to capture everybody that been paid.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: How Archaic Are the Opinions Here?

        "much poorer if our greatest authors had not liberally plundered each others ideas and built on them."

        "and built on them." is the difference between plagiarism and innovation. The arguments and court cases are usually about the grey areas in between.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: How Archaic Are the Opinions Here?

        "Oh, you mean that the plagiarists cannot use someone else's idea ?"

        An "idea" can't be copyrighted. This is why there are so many books with the same plot. It's the embodiment of the idea (in a tangible medium) that can by copyrighted.

        The Rip van Winkle storyline has been copied so many times, yet I still get enjoyment from new stories using the age old premise of the sleeper awakening to a new world. Even if they are only a corpsicle.

  6. Long John Silver
    Pirate

    Make hay while the sun shines?

    Is the Internet Archive's DRM any more secure than that used by copyright rentiers?

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Make hay while the sun shines?

      It's either: view through your browser, or if you want a PDF e.g. because you use screen reading software, then you've to download some sort of Adobe special that will manage a temporary licence on your behalf. I naturally declined that offer.

      That said, using my browser's developer tools I did notice that every page I viewed in the book I checked out to explore* was downloaded individually as an unencrypted, high-resolution JPEG. I dare imagine my cookies were being verified, but one assumes you could steal a book, without OCR at least, pretty easily once logged in.

      * the original 'Peter Norton Programmer's Guide to the IBM PC', because I was kicking it old school. If I want a permanent copy then they're about $5 on Amazon, so I'll do that.

  7. Long John Silver
    Pirate

    A most welcome and perhaps ground breaking move by the Internet Archive

    This act of so-called 'infringement' by the Internet Archive may be the trigger for cultural renaissance.

    Copyright always has been pernicious, it is inherently so. It controls distribution and treats ideas as commodities. Worse still, in order for it to function it is necessary to restrict creation by others of 'derivative' works. Derivation is catalyst for creation; a fact understood within academia where plagiarism and confabulated data are the only sins; copyright dispute in that arena is primarily confined to distribution supposed 'rights'. For culture more generally, preventing derivation until many decades have passed is akin to stifling thought during the interim. Vibrant culture demands immediate response.

    Digital representation of cultural artefacts gives the lie to rentier economics based upon copyright. Pretence is made of vending luxury goods at monopoly protected prices as if they were physical artefacts subjected to scarcity and hence to supply and demand market economics. Being indefinitely reproducible and easily distributable, both at negligible cost, digital sequences have zero monetary worth; this regardless of expense in constructing them.

    Copyright law has become an almost impenetrable thicket. Its ramifications are grasped only by specialist lawyers. For that reason alone, copyright is bad law. All law ought be intelligible for those to whom it applies. The digital era reveals it as bad law in another respect too: disobedience is easy, widely prevalent, and legal remedies are becoming near impossible to enforce; in the past, laws ceasing to garner popular support have either gone into abeyance (e.g. witchcraft) or been repealed (e.g. when right to roam open countryside law was introduced). Indeed, demand for right to roam bears close analogy to demands for culture no longer to be kept fenced with admission only by payment of an arbitrarily determined sum to gatekeepers.

    As matters stand, genuinely creative people must constantly look over their shoulders lest their efforts infringe someone else's copyright. Opacity of law makes certainty of adhering to copyright righteousness impossible, hence play it unimaginatively but safe.

    Prior to copyright, people internally driven to creative acts sought patronage from others. Leonardo da Vinci exemplifies this. As he built reputation so he obtained commissions for bigger projects. He lived off commissions and presumably set aside money for old age. Any notion that he should receive royalty payments when people viewed his works would obviously have been ridiculous. Also, nobody was barred from making copies of his works or derivations with innovations.

    Authors of books, I have written some, have no obvious moral entitlement to perpetual income. Books are written to share ideas (this includes fiction) and information. Authors' motivations may differ but each imagines they have something their readers will find amusing, interesting, or informative. Nowadays they easily can self-publish in digital format; they can solicit or buy technical support from other quarters; there is no need of traditional publishers except when paper copy is desired; even in that instance the words easily may be assimilated into digital format should need arise.

    Persons seeking to make a living from authorship must persuade others to commission works; completed works belong in the public domain regardless of an author's wishes. Authors, and anyone else, constructing digital artefacts must compete if money is required. Authorship skills, in every genre, are subject to a market for commissions; reputation, just as for Leonardo, brings in steady income for funding the next work. Commissions can take the form of small voluntary donations, a subscription carrying privileges of interaction with the author, and crowd-funding. Additionally, physical artefacts and services subject to scarcity can be offered as added-value products.

    No longer is there a place for traditional publishers to act as gatekeepers to publication and gatekeepers to access 'content'. This applies across the board of culture. Would-be authors will succeed on their own merits and draw income pro rata to skill in attracting readers

    Fuss about the Internet Archive's initiative arises from cosseted authors and the publishers who take the lion's share of income generated.

    This viral pandemic stands good chance of leaving fundamentally different attitudes toward the legitimacy of rentier economics. This not only in regard to ideas but also to rental applied to private and commercial premises.

    1. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: A most welcome and perhaps ground breaking move by the Internet Archive

      I wish I could upvote this more than once.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: A most welcome and perhaps ground breaking move by the Internet Archive

      Yeah - no. Not even a little bit.

      It's precisely the kind of overreach that will provoke a furious backlash from the authors and publishers - of which this is only the beginning - and who still currently have the law on their side. If copyright reform is the goal, the IA has just set it back by 20 years or more.

      "Controlled digital lending" was a trial balloon that might possibly have been upheld or enshrined in actual law sooner or later. But that depended on it being possible to make a plausible argument that it wouldn't be abused. Well, that plausible argument just got blown clean out of the water.

      1. cornetman Silver badge

        Re: A most welcome and perhaps ground breaking move by the Internet Archive

        "Controlled digital lending" is showing how preposterous the whole venture of copyright is.

        That people consider this kind of thing anywhere near sane is unbelievable. I would venture that it borders on religion.

        The game is up. We have much better ways of paying creators that do not persecute the paying public or destroy the public domain. You just don't seem to understand that.

    3. Mage Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: cosseted authors?

      That applies to less than 1% of Authors. Most would starve without a paying job or welfare.

      The biggest issue is the Corporations and Corporate owned copyright.

      1. anonymousI
        Black Helicopters

        Re: cosseted authors?

        True, that's the highly visible symptom.

        But the disease seems caused by a perpetual concatenation of avaricious lawyers, ready as always to create and prolong legal argy-bargy right down to the last dollar (of their clients).

  8. DiViDeD Silver badge

    the poor authors! they'll starve!

    I'd be interested to know how many of the original Mickey Mouse and Snow White animators, writers and musicians would be starving right now if Disney hadn't lobbied repeatedly for extensions to US copyright.

    1. Public Citizen
      Alert

      Re: the poor authors! they'll starve!

      Ub Iwerks, the animator who actually drew the first Mickey Mouse died in 1971.

      Walt Disney died in the 1960s

      Every subsequent animation artist who has drawn a Mickey Mouse has been engaged in making a derivative work.

      If you are a student of early Disney you will recognize a similarity of line to the Oswald the Lucky Rabbit character previously produced by the Disney Studio. Disney didn't own the Copyright to the character and the New York Distributor who did eventually dealt the Disney Bros. a cold hand off the bottom of the deck, when in a calculated move the distributor hired away most of Disney's Animation Staff and started producing the Oswald series at less cost than Disney [mostly by cutting corners on the animation].

      So no currently living Disney Animator [or Disney Anything Else] is loosing one penny from those original B&W cartoons.

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: the poor authors! they'll starve!

        no currently living Disney Animator [or Disney Anything Else] is loosing one penny from those original B&W cartoons

        Whooooooosh! (excuse the extra 'o's, but you started it)

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: the poor authors! they'll starve!

        "Disney didn't own the Copyright to the character"

        I believe that a character would be covered under Trademark rather than Copyright. A Trademark can live as long as it's in trade with some buffer. Otherwise the hero in any story would be subject to litigation. "Apple" couldn't Trademark the word "apple" so the official Trademark started out as "Apple Computer". I could start a business cleaning carpets and call myself Apple Carpet Cleaning with people just calling me "Apple" and there would nothing they could do about it. There would be no confusion between the two businesses as they do different things. If I started a company making "connected" appliances and called it Apple XXXXX, they could get a court to make me cease using the name. Thomas Dolby (Robertson), from Wikipedia:

        "Dolby Laboratories expressed concern regarding the musician's stage name. Dolby's record label refused to make him change his name, and Dolby Labs did not raise the issue again until later. After a lengthy legal battle, the court decided that Dolby Labs had no right to restrict the musician from using the name. It was agreed that the musician would not release any electronic equipment using the name"

        So even names are up in the air.

    2. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: the poor authors! they'll starve!

      For all the flaws of the copyright system, the IA's action is cynical bullshit. Particularly at a time when many people are short of money they are literally undercutting the income stream for a lot of living authors - the vast, vast majority of the books in their archive are published in the last 30 years.

      Half the commenters on this thread seem to think that because a few - and I mean so few you can name them - companies that own rights have abused the copyright system, that somehow the whole thing should be torn down and everything be free-as-in-fuck-you.

      Creative works are subject to copyright so the author can make money from it. This is fair because writing a book(*) takes time and effort. I have friends and family who try to earn a living as authors, pro-photographers, and other creative types. None of them are bathing in champagne after cashing their royalty cheques.

      (*) I am not talking about the vast sea of cut-n-paste shite that pervades amazon masquerading as content.

    3. Grinning Bandicoot

      Re: the poor authors! they'll starve!

      The musicians were union and the retirement came from the union funds used to develop Las Vegas. The writers were staff and have moved on only receiving that which was contractually obligated. A large group of animators were forced out with Don Bluth. The Disney Enterprises are the best example of monopolistic behavior and copyright problems. Looking at another side of this Sam Clements works were published originally in GB without copyright protection and no remuneration as was Chuck Dickens in the USA. The publishers grabbed what they could and devil take the hind. Note these authors are still in print well after their death despite having gone in and out of copyright so good literature lasts and bad might become cult pieces if it were available rather than being locked away by a publisher that didn't make some targeted list.

  9. Public Citizen
    Pirate

    The Elephant In The Room is literally, A Mouse

    Mickey Mouse to be precise

    First screen debut in 1927 and subject to polish, revision, makeover, and resurrection ad nauseum on a regular basis ever since.

    The current mess of Copyright Law in the USA is largely the fault of the Post Walt Disney "Walt Disney Company" lobbying for ever more liberal extension of the laws protecting their precious mouse.

    If you understand the commercial output of the Walt Disney Animation Studios you understand that every feature length animation done during Walt Disney's Lifetime was an animation of a work Out Of Copyright. The closest Disney came to a Copyrightable Animation during Walt Disney's Lifetime was the option the studio had on L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz Characters and Stories, which were never brought to the screen.

    It was only in the last decade of his life that Walt Disney began to work on projects involving Still In Copyright Works, after the studio had the money spinner Disneyland to draw on for negotiating options and production deals for stories and ideas from outside the studio walls.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      All true

      And the solution isn't to abolish copyright, or pirate the books of living writers and books in print, but reform copyright.

      The extensions to copyright have done nothing for Authors, nor employees in corporations producing music, software, screenplays, animations, filming etc who only get their wages and no cut of the royalties.

      The fact that creatives are exploited and copyright has pointlessly been extended mainly to suit music and film publishers is no excuse to do this. The books are a soft target and the most vulnerable creatives as almost none are paid a salary by a publisher, they are self employed relying on the royalties.

      Even the Bern 50 years is worthless to authors and not huge value to book publishers. It's for music, TV and cinema. Corporate owned works that get re-releases. Book sellers / publishers even publish classic public domain content and sell it, that you can easily legally download.

      IA is attacking a soft target and the one that suffers the most. Writers.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: All true

        "The fact that creatives are exploited and copyright has pointlessly been extended mainly to suit music and film publishers is no excuse to do this."

        Creatives in all times have been exploited mercilessly. They should have been studying business and contract law rather than pursuing a "music" degree. Or, get a good partner. Sharon Osborne (Ozzy's wife) is a sharp business person and it was very unwise to try and put one over on her as she has an extremely sensitive BS detector. It never seemed like Ozzy was the brains of the outfit.

        Anything that can be abused, will be abused. It will usually involved lawyers too. The only disincentive to ripping off creatives is big settlements, fines and legal costs. Infringement cases rarely get to court as it's usually pretty obvious which side is in the right. It's just the edge cases or times when one side has more money for attorneys than brains. I'll agree that the length of copyright could be much shorter without impacting anyone but a few very large corporations (campaign donors). The creator's life plus 20 years covers the author and their children. 50 years should be more than sufficient for a corporation.

  10. Persona Silver badge

    Excellent

    Thanks to this legal action I'm now aware of this service and have been able to download a book I have been unable to find in either to the libraries I use.

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