1. Credulous Skeptic
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    Credulous Skeptic Member

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    Thousands of old books online for all. Who is compensated?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Credulous Skeptic, May 9, 2009.

    Hello,

    My favorite Web site is Google Books. I enjoy visiting it because while I'm there I can read thousands of old books, free of charge. I have known about and used this godsend of cyberspace for several months. But as the days and weeks have quickly passed, with me continually reading books, bound periodicals, published lectures, and even scanned reproductions of 400-year-old books, my conscience has slowly started to trouble me. Then one day, I felt genuinely disturbed. Surely, I thought, only a few free books are online. But no! To get an idea of how many free books I could find, I found a list of 5000 good books, and looked up a half a dozen or so that I had never heard of. I found most of them. I found a catalog of very old, very rare books. Books William Caxton printed himself. My friends, I found reproduction after reproduction of some of the rarest books in the world, and I could read them, gratis!Shouldn't the owners of these treasured resources receive some sort of compensation for allowing us to read them?
     
  2. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    From PCworld via wikipedia. No one needs to be paid for 400 year old books. The authors are dead.
     
  3. Xeno
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    Xeno Mad and Bitey Contributor

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    Plus, I'm sure that usage rights expire after 100 years, so they don't legally have to pay to use them, as long as it's not for profit.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Usage right do expire, even less than 100 years unless it's extended, I think. The people who wrote them are dead, as are their That's why nobody needs permission to put on a production Romeo and Juliet or whatever. Nobody owns the rights to them anymore.
     
  5. ManicParroT
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    ManicParroT Contributing Member

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    Whaaaaat?

    Why should they get money for letting the rest of the world read copies of these books?

    It's not as if they wrote the books and expect to be compensated for their labour. All they did was buy them. It's not as if the books are being taken from them, either - they still have the original copies.

    If I make a million copies of Hamlet, the owners of the original folio don't lose anything. It's not as if I went and took it away from them, and Shakespeare's long dead, so he isn't about to complain.

    Should we pay money to the Louvre in Paris every time we look at a reproduction of the Mona Lisa? Because honestly, that seems to be what you're arguing. It's a complete non-issue. It's not even copyright infringement.

    Google Books is awesome, and I certainly don't see any grounds for objecting to them putting up books that have fallen out of copyright. Project Gutenberg is also doing some fantastic work of this sort. Great stuff, it helps me while away the hours at the office.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If they expend effort to present the work in question, why shouldn't they recover the costs of doing so? Why shouldn't they even turn a profit?

    If they try to charge too much, someone else will come along and undercut their prices.

    It's simple economics.
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    But Cogito, it wouldn't be the owners of the work, exactly, which is what I think CS is talking about. It would be the site owners.

    It must get paid for somehow. There are some TV channels that people can get without paying for cable. We don't have to pay to listen to the radio. Those channels and radio stations are paid for through advertising, not users. Peter Mansbridge, who is part of the CBC, believes that all Canadians should have free access to their programing.

    I don't pay the library any money other than the occassional late fee, and I am probably one of their most active users that doesn't have six kids. They get their money through late fees, selling old books, grants, and donations, not user fees.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You pay taxes to your community, and those taxes pay for the local public library. Site owners have costs to maintain the site, and it also costs time, and therefore money, to transcribe a piece of writing to a site.

    Somebody is doing work, someone is fronting funds, and if there is no return on tthat investment, they won't bother.

    Not all classics are entrirely in the public domain, either. For example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate still has a stake in the publishing of the Sherlock Holnes characters and stories.

    There are stakeolders, there are investors. Format changes also require work.

    It is a business. Money changes hands, and there is work performed, even if the nature of the work isn't all obvious.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I did take into account taxes, which is where the money for grants often comes from in Ontario.

    Never said all classics were. And Cogito, I also mentioned advertising as a source of income. Isn't that one of the ways millions websites (such as this one) pay for themselves?
     
  10. ManicParroT
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    ManicParroT Contributing Member

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    I actually think this discussion is getting very confused.

    Who are you saying should get money in this case?

    Are you saying Google Books should charge money, and pocket it? They're paying for the servers that host the books, and so on. They aren't choosing to make Google Books a pay service, but if they wanted to, they'd be entitled to do so. I doubt many people would bother using it in those circumstances, though. Presumably Google think they'll make money off it indirectly at some stage, possibly with adverts or just through expanding the power of their brand.

    The OP appears to be complaining that people who own the physical copies of books that are in the public domain should be getting money, which is weird. Google didn't coerce them into allowing the books to be scanned, and presumably if they refused, Google could just find another copy and scan that.

    As to Sherlock Holmes: Well, if it's still copyrighted, then Google needs to settle that with the copyright owners. I'm not disputing that. If the copyrights have expired, then the people who benefit from Conan Doyle's estate need to find a real job.

    Frankly, I don't think copyright should last as long as it does, but that's a bit outside of what the OP's talking about.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why does it matter exactly who is gaining what? No one is receiving money without providing a service of some sort or another.

    If you don't think it's worth paying for, you won't. If you do, you will. And what you pay will trickle back to the people who have put timne and effort into making it possible.

    Like I said, simple economics. But if you want to complicate it or invent comspiracies, feel free.
     
  12. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are a lot of websites that post entire books for free. According to Project Gutenberg, in the U.S., anything 1st published before 1/1/1923 is in the public domain and so can be put online for free. It's all legal.
     

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