The Poor Books Starving In Garretts

November 8th, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

There is a lot of innovative thinking going on the world of publishing these days. Oh sure, the media is all hot about a dozen other topics, but those of us who care seek out the news we need.

Hmm, maybe that should be those of us who care clearly need to get lives. Or at least hobbies.

The notion of orphaned art is gaining traction with the public — so much so that NPR did a segment on the topic last night (forgetting to discuss books, thereby invoking our right to exhibit laziness and not search for the link). The U.S. Copyright Office — we imagine sleek computers and magic software — is looking into processes for handling works that fall under copyright protection, yet the creators cannot be located. We presume there will be some sort of solution involving GPS and microchips. How else are you going to keep track of the nation’s many artists? The U.S. Postal Service cannot do everything.

Then there’s the challenge faced by the people at The Open Library. Despite the financial backing of some big names (can you say Yahoo!?), the visionaries behind the project face a big challenge. Sure it’s easy to grab the works in the public domain. Easy referring to the chain of custody, not the technical aspects. The project has largely focused on works in the public domain.

[Brewster] Kahle divides the existing literary world into strata of copyright protection. In-print books are the ones you can buy and often read snippets from via Amazon. Out-of-print publications are harder to reach. What Kahle calls “orphaned works” come next: these book are out of print, and their copyright owner is un-contactable. Generally, these books are found in libraries or not at all. Finally, there is the pre-1926 world of the public domain. These are books that copyright law allows everyone to reprint, rework and convert into pristine digital formats as they see fit.

Artists want to protect their rights. Corporations want to protect their rights. Lots of works out there fall into copyright gray areas. The laws don’t really accommodate a wide range of needs. And public discourse is finally looking at this issue.

Tell us the world of publishing isn’t the hottest thing going right now.

File Under: Our Continuing Fascination With Copyright · Square Pegs