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Nupedia and Project Gutenberg Directors Answer 81

Posted by Roblimo
from the more-than-we-bargained-for dept.
What started as something that looked simple -- a "double" interview with Michael Hart of the huge and venerable Project Gutenberg and Jimmy Wales of the brand-new Nupedia open content encyclopedia project -- turned into a series of interesting dissertations on the nature of copyright and online publishing, among other things. You may want to bookmark the page below and return to it a few times to grasp all that both gentlemen (especially Michael Hart) had to say.

Q1) For Mr. Hart by ContinuousPark
(cp@strangedomainname.com)

I've noticed that the Project Gutenberg site has a rather straightforward interface, you get the database queries you need but I've noticed that's not very friendly for some users; computer illiterate users that I've recommended your website to and children, for instance.

Hart:

We started so long ago that at that time all our readers were incredibly computer literate. . .so we are working from the wrong end toward the right end of the user spectrum. . .what we really need are brand new users to tell us how to make things easiest. . .our people are way too experienced to be able to see how things look to new users. This is why we request that our readers send us messages on how to improve both the sites and the Etexts.

This sort of thing has always been a problem for "new" computer users, even back 20 years ago. . .the manuals NEVER MAKE ANY SENSE until you already know what they are trying to tell you. . .and then, and only then, can you understand what they were trying to tell you in the first place.

I have been [in]famous for saying over the decades that anyone who could write a manual even HALF the people could understand would make millions. I think the DUMMIES people are at least trying in that direction. . . .

SO. . .PLEASE BE *ENCOURAGED* TO SEND US SUGGESTIONS FOR OUR INTERFACES, as well as suggestions and corrections for our Etexts and Web pages.

More of Q1)

I've also noticed that all texts are available as text-only and I understand your decision behind this.

Hart:

Actually, more and more of our Etexts are available in more formats, it's just that very often those who reformat them want the be the ONLY places to get those formats, and thus don't share back with us.

It's a little sad that way, but we have tried to honor the requests from other Etext sites that want to be the ONLY source for our Etexts in various formats. . .though we disagree with that philosophy. Some day, when I am older and crankier, perhaps I will just raid their sites against their wills for conversions that are non-copyrightable: though these days people even claim copyrights on the most trivial conversions. Someday that older and crankier me may even take them [some are major universities] to court for "misuse of copyright."

But that's hopefully a decade down the road. . .I want to concentrate on the more positive for now.

More More Q1)

So, my question has two sides: Are there any plans to build a front-end for PG that is more user-friendly; by this I mean, for instance, profiles of major authors and new acquisitions,

Hart:

My own personal goals are just to try to do two books per day, and the copyright research, and go through 100+ emails, write the Newsletters, train new volunteers, and things like that. . .I have never been very directly involved with the front-ends. . .those are all handled pretty much by the various volunteers who create and run them. I make some suggestions, and only once in a great while actually insist that the Project Gutenberg philosophy requires that certain things actually be done. . .or not done.

Some of the volunteers don't think I am bossy enough. . . .

However, we have 1700 volunteers, and some of them are ALWAYS working on new front ends, indexes, catalogues, etc. We did try doing profiles and/or synopses, but the response was pretty grim, so we probably won't try that again for a while.

More of Q1)

...featured writings each week, a section for children, personalization features so that the site recommends books for me, and so on. Are there any plans to, while always having text-only versions, also have automatically generated versions in other formats (pdf, postscript, and especially some of the new formats for eBooks or PDAs)??

Hart:

I would be happy to forward your suggestions to our volunteers, if you would like. . .we do plan on more formats, that can be automated, but the rest of your suggestions would take real human beings. . . .

Please send me anything you would like them to consider.

Yet More of Q1

I think some of these changes, just having a front page that changes everyday with new reading suggestions and lures the visitors to go and read (in the same fashion that makes people go to BN or Amazon to buy books) could make your site much more popular than it already is but how high is this on your list of priorities, if at all?

Hart:

Well, I've never been into the flashy changing front pages that require you to log in every day. . .even though we do post two new books on the average day. . .do you think we should try to announce things every day instead of every month?

We have actually been considering making a kind of electronic billboard that shows the latest handful of books, what day they were posted, etc. and eventually trying to put up similar physical billboards, if we ever get some real funding to get some real public relations going.

Until then, we're really still just a basement operation, and can only do what we can do with no money. . .which is still quite a lot. . .just not as flashy as those with billions of dollars of PR budgets. . . .

Q2) Project Gutenberg file format
by rodentia
(possum@UNSPAM.haarman.net)

I have been an avid fan of the project for as long as I've been aware of it.

Hart:

I will pass on your kind words, too!

More Q2)

My question has several parts pertaining to presentation technologies.

We're a long way from 1970 when ASCII was the only viable lingua franca for a network; is there any discussion of updating the file format for the project?

Specifically, something *ML-ish which would allow for presentation in multiple output formats. I am thinking of the spread of e-book readers and the like and increasing the potential readership. With a proper infrastructure, project texts could even be rendered to adaptive browsers with VoxML or other technologies.

Hart:

As I mentioned above, many, perhaps even most, of our titles are available in multiple formats around the world, but those who create them have not been willing for us to post them on our own sites, and I won't post them without their express permission. . .at least not yet.

More Q2)

Secondly, if the project doesn't choose to modify its longstanding ASCII formatting standards, are there efforts afoot to programmatically apply some structured tagging on-the-fly to allow for easy translation by other tools? Is this an itch I'll have scratch for myself?

Hart:

Yes, I figure we can create something like an XML file that will create other formats on the fly. . .but we try not to help create format standards, so XML might not be the one, but I plan to encourage XML experiments, and then see how our readers like it. If we get good responses, we will do even more.

I hope we can eventually support virtually all formats, though we recently tried the new .lit format [Microsoft Open Book Reader] and were pretty soundly thrashed for even posting the files one of our volunteers made without us even asking.

You should be aware that our volunteers choose 99% of what they do, totally on their own, and that they actually have to pester me to get me to give them anything like an assignment or even suggestions.

I am not so egotistical as to present this as "Michael Hart's List of the Great Books in the Formats You Should Read Them In. . .."

But I am will to try nearly all formats to see how they fly.

Wales:

At Nupedia, we are using the TEI-Lite XML dtd (or, we try to, although we need technical help) to markup the articles in a fashion that will make it easy for people to reuse our articles in all kinds of formats, from plaintext ascii to paper publishing, to hypertext, etc.

Q3) Appropriate Copyright Length?
by coldmist

Originally, copyright length was 12 years, with the option to extend it on the last year for another 12 years.

Currently, it's up to 95 years (if memory serves).

Hart:

Something like that, it might have been 14 and 14, and since they count to the end of the last year, it might have gotten close to an extra year. Now closer to 96 years. . .as per the 1998 [Sonny Bono] US Copyright Act, and no renewal is required under the new laws, so even copyright holders who have NO interest in perpetuating their monopolies still do, without cost and without effort. I think we need more "sunset laws". . .those that require things to be renewed. . .to keep us from drowning in a sea of unrequited paperwork.

More of Q3)

According to the Constitution, it was supposed to be for "limited times," but 95 years is longer than most people's average lifespan. To me, it seems that the copyright protection is effectively "forever" since odds are an average American would never (legally) get the chance to apply creative talent to make a derivative work from the Star Wars universe, for example.

Hart:

If this weren't so serious, I would be laughing [rotflol] because you could be using my own exact words here!. . .I nearly listed YOUR words as part of MY reply because they look so much like what _I_ would have said in reply!

So. . .I couldn't agree more!!!

I am inserting the quote from the US Constitution here, on copyright & patent:

"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" (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8).

Hmm, do you notice it doesn't say to publisher or manufacturers. . .I wonder if there would be a possible lawsuit for the cases in which the publishers get the first copyright. . .even on "works for hire". . . ?

Sadly to say, the US Supreme Court just ruled against the case I was supposed to be in [Eldred vs Reno]. . .but at least it was mostly on technical grounds. . .which leaves me possibly to still bring another totally separate case. . .but the lawyers would never let me get a single word into my own case [Hart vs Reno] so I made them take my name off of that case, which then became Eldred vs Reno].

More of Q3)

What do you consider to be an appropriate copyright length, balancing the need to pay content creators, versus the Public Domain and society's claim on it? And, if you think it should be considerably less than it is now, how does the US's Berne Convention agreement effect/influence what can be done?

Hart:

According to the librarians I know, the average book they choose to put in their libraries is out of print in only five years. Thus a five year term of copyright would be of use to only half of the materials deemed to be of great enough value to be put in a library, not counting the infinitudes of materials that never get that far.

If you continue this equation for another five years, you would protect only 1/4 of all those materials chosen for libraries, not to mention the vast majority of works NOT purchased by libraries.

After 15 years it would be 1/8.

After 20 years it would be 1/16.

This would mean that almost 95% of the materials being protected by a 20 year copyright wouldn't derive any benefit from it, while only those who had already made the most profits would benefit, at the cost of removing those 93.75% from the public domain.

This is NOT a great "cost/benefit ratio" for the public domain.

In 1900 half of all previously copyrighted information was public domain, since the copyrights had expired in about 15 years, and hardly any were ever renewed, because they were out of print.

In 2000 the rule is that there is no longer any requirement to renew copyrights, even if they went out of print six weeks after publication [which happens far more often than one might think].

If you get out a calculator, as I am doing here, you will see that 95 years gives 19 of these 5 year periods, and if every 5 years half of the remaining books in print go OUT of print. . .that would leave. . .

99.9998% of those books once selected for inclusion in libraries being out of print before their copyrights expire.

This is FAR too much copyright protection, even for Hollywood.

Do you really think even the best selling movies of this year are going to be making any real money in 2097, when their copyrights would expire even if not further extended?

Under this kind of copyright term, the Wright Brothers' plans for the first airplane would only just have become public domain, even though the patents expired around 1920....

We have laws that encourage the copying of inventions but not the copying of ideas, artwork, music, or movies.

Why is it so much more important that we have supersonic toasters than supersonic minds???

I think we should choose a copyright term that expires when mathematics tells us that 90% of the profit has been made. . .and I do NOT think that copyright terms should have been changed in mid-term.

The date a copyright expires should be set the day it is issued by the government. . .that is the ONLY way contracts can be properly made as to what authors are selling when they sell their copyrights.

All the people who made "Gone With The Wind" were paid off in 1939 based on a 28 year copyright, with a possible 28 year extension. . .and yet that copyright, which was supposedly going to expire no later than 1996, is now making untold millions of dollars more every time it is on TV, or released in a new medium, such as DVD.

Without the extra copyright extensions of 1976 and 1998, anyone could be making DVDs of "Gone With The Wind". . . and the price would be negligible. . .and so would the "windfall profits" caused by lobbying the government to void a contract with the public and replace it with one that adds another four decades to every copyright in existence in the US, and two decades in many of the other countries of the world.

I have lots more to say about copyright, if you would like me to continue in a later session.

The main thing is that four times we have had "Information Ages"

1455 Johannes Gutenberg
1900 Steam and Electric Presses
1970 Xerox
1995 Internet/World Wide Web

And each time the response has been to KILL THE "INFORMATION AGE" FOR THE MASSES by telling them that NOW THAT THEY *CAN* MAKE CHEAP COPIES. . .

WE WILL MAKE IT ILLEGAL. . . !

So, the fact that you have your own personal computer and desktop publishing system, complete with CDROM and/or DVD burner does NOT mean you can republish "Gone With The Wind". . .as anyone should have predicted in 1939. . .other than perhaps George Orwell and Aldous Huxley for the Brave New World of 1984 or the "Handicapper General" of Harrison Bergeron.

Wales:

First, I think it is fairly clear that the current situation is absurd. No one (other than some powerful publishers) is going to argue that. What's the exact right number of years? I don't know. But let's say 12-20 years, or life of the author plus 12, for starters.

As for the Berne Convention and how that might constrain the US -- well, I don't want to sound too flippant, but we're the US and we can do whatever the hell we want. We should negotiate with other countries for a sensible reduction in the length of copyrights.

Q4) Project Gutenberg acceptance in schools
by Mendenhall

I ran across a very interesting phenomenon recently with Project Gutenberg and the local public school district. My son needed a copy of "Plunkitt of Tammany Hall" for school, and it was not available without a long lead time from bookstores. I looked at Gutenberg, and found it, and printed him up a neat copy. I also printed an extra for him to give to his teacher, so students could copy it and not have to buy the book. I made it quite clear to the teacher that this was a legal operation, etc. However, my son says the teacher shelved the copy, and indicated little interest in providing it to students to copy.

Hart:

Yes, there are still many places that have a "not invented here" attitude, I have had the same thing happen when I tried to give Project Gutenberg Etexts to libraries in person. Some won't even take them, while others do as yours did, accept them, and then just take them out of circulation. However, I am happy to report that more and more libraries are just fine handing out Project Gutenberg Etexts, and other kinds, as well.

More of Q4)

It seems that free texts such as this would be the perfect thing to use in history courses, where students often buy a book, read it once, and never use it again. School systems could save the students a _lot_ of money this way, and with very little effort on the part of the teacher. Many copy places (such as Kinko's) even will handle distribution and sale of such copies to students, with no effort on the part of the teacher, and a lot more cheaply than buying a book for one use.

Hart:

It's kind of funny how many people think something is of value only if you actually paid over the counter for it.

Even the media thinks this way. . .there are many who would interview me if I had made as much as AOL or Amazon.com [hee hee], but they won't, just because I don't deal with money.

Sheesh. . . !

Just because we have given away nearly a third of a trillion Etexts is the same kind of reason to give Project Gutenberg publicity as it would be if we had made just one penny for each one we handed out. . . and had thus made $3.33 billion and were scheduled to move past The Donald in the coming decade and past Bill Gates in the next decade.

No. . .THAT would be REAL NEWS. . . .

But doing this free of charge is not the same kind of news.

More of Q4)

Do you have any idea how to convince school systems of the value of this approach? Given the large number of historical texts available, it seems that it would open the doors to teachers use of a lot more original material in classes without much effort or expense.

Hart:

Sorry, I have given up trying to "convince" anyone of anything. . . .

Unless I am asked to. . . .

The fact is that those of you who use Etexts will take a cosmic leap ahead, and leave the rest behind like Neanderthals.

Any school, city, county, state or nation that adopts the "Unlimited Distribution" model for school and other media is likely to far outstrip those of us who lag behind. . .their books will surpass all others in a matter of a few editions. . .as all the readers correct mistakes and make suggestions for improvements. . .and then write new books based on the materials in what will then be listed as the "old, first generation" Etexts they first used in schools.

The papers written in these schools will be either 10 times better, or 10 times more prolific, since it will only take 1/11th the time to do the library research. . .leaving 10 times as much time and energy to actually use in the grey matter between the ears.

Of course, the fact that the masses could get a REAL education. . . without it being spoon fed to them by bureaucracies is one of the real fears "the system" has about such free flowing information.

I mean, do we REALLY want a "well-educated population of poor people?"

Do we REALLY want a "Third World" who can defeat us at debating tables?

Or even stand on their own???

I wish I could say, or do, more on this question....

Wales:

At Nupedia, one of the things we hope to do is to make sure that we can make our information available in _many_ formats for schools. CD-Roms? Paper books? It's easy to transform XML into any of those, and so surely someone will do it, and cheap.

Q5) Commercial offshoots
by CarrotLord
(richardrussell at mail dot com)

A question for both gentlemen: Is there likely to be commercial offshoots of the Nupedia and Gutenberg Projects, similar to the way the various Linux Distributions have grown from

Linux and GNU? Are there any ways planned or envisaged for companies or individuals to profit from these open projects?

PS: note that I consider profit a good thing in general, and this is not a troll or trick question. I would like to see profitable businesses built on the free exchange of knowledge.

Wales:

One of our fondest hopes at Nupedia is that Yahoo, Google, and other major websites will license our encyclopedia and redistribute it on a massive scale. If they make money off of it, that's fine. It's the freedom that matters.

Hart:

My apologies for not giving a more detailed answer, but the truth is, if I had waited either for approval or money. . .you would never have heard of me. . . or of Project Gutenberg.

I find it VERY hard to just stop doing what I am doing right now, to try to do something that involved paperwork and money. . .just not my thing. . . .

I hope/think/believe that the world will take care of me for doing my work, but I have had little or no reason to feel the commercial world will ever make me any but the same kind of offers they always have. . .offers that overall have not been worth the time to read and reply to them.

I don't mind profit either, as you may glean from my reply to the question below about my favorite books, etc., but it is much more important, and. . . "profitable" to me in the coin of my own realm, to change/save the world, rather than spend my efforts trying to fur line my nest. . . .

So, the answer is. . .No. . .I won't be spending a lot of time trying to make a profit from Project Gutenberg. . .as I said before. . .I would be pretty happy just to make enough to pretend I had received the average salary for the past 30 years. . . .

Someone is probably going to make a billion dollars from my work, but I doubt if it's going to be me. . . .

Q6) using text in other works
by po_boy
(amoore at openschedule dot org)

It is often claimed that GPL'd code is not used in some projects because it would force the authors of the project to be more open with their code then they would like.

In short, I would like to know how you two believe this concept carries over into the content world. Is their an analogous effect, and is this type of work better or worse off than software in overcoming this effect?

More specifically, I see that the works in Project Gutenberg are primarily (all?) public domain, so they may be referenced, altered, and distributed in quite a few ways with few problems. The content in Nupedia, however, is held under a licence more like the GPL. Do you feel that this restriction will cause that content to be used less by people since it would place restrictions on the way in which they could release and distribute derivative works? As the amount of content released under the Gnu Free Documentation Licence increases, do you think that it will have as easy of a time becoming accepted and used as software released under the GPL, or do you think that the restrictive nature of the license will have a more deleterious effect on the works released under it?

Wales:

Well, I don't think there is much to be gained by giving people the opportunity to take our articles and make the proprietary. Indeed, one of the most powerful incentives that high quality academic authors have for participating in Nupedia is _precisely_ that no one can take the content and make it proprietary. It's free, and variations on it will be free.

At some point in the very near future, Britannica is going to face a whopper of a build versus buy decision. On the one hand, they can write new articles from scratch, in the old-fashioned proprietary way, which costs a lot of money. Or, on the other hand, they can use Nupedia articles _for free_. The only price is that they will have to keep in the invariant sections (crediting the Nupedia project) and that they will have to make any modifications/improvements free too.

This may cause them to not adopt as quickly. But eventually, the price becomes so high that they'd be foolish (and unprofitable) if they didn't accept our content.

Hart:

I don't get into fine print and licenses. . .I think that what we have at the top of Project Gutenberg files is way too much, but lawyers would say it is just barely enough. . .I am not a lawyer. . . .

Again, I'm sorry it's such a short answer, just not my cuppa tea. . . .

As above:

I am out to change/save the world much more than to profit from it.

If I get the median or average salary for where I live, I will be happy. . .of course. . .the back pay for that would be about a million dollars, even without interest. . . .

But I don't see how licensing our products rather than just giving them away is going to help things rather than hurt them. . . .

For NEW works one wants to share under copyright [and a few dozen of our Project Gutenberg titles ARE done this way] we have our own header. . .which is must more palatable to me than the GNU license, which is so legalese I can hardly stand to read it.

So I try to keep it as simple as possible. . . .

7) Top-10 Copyrighted works you want if you could.
by DG
(trog@SPAM-ME-NOT.wincom.net)

For Mr Hart:

If you could pick any 10 currently copyrighted works, and have them placed in the public domain (specifically for inclusion in Project Gutenberg) what would they be?

Hart:

Ooof!!!

I have avoided questions like that for 30 years. . .but since my previous few replies were so short. . .here goes. . .probably won't be 10, though.

The top three would be:

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand [Probably with Anthem and The Fountainhead] [We have already done Anthem, with the permission of the publisher.]

Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury [but he told me, face to face, that he HATES Etexts, as he signed my copy of Fahrenheit 451 after I chased him down after one of his great speeches, so don't get your hopes up.]

The Man in the White Suit [Movie, 1951, Ealing Studios/BBC, starring Alec [Obi-Wan or Old Ben Kenobi] Guiness. I would PAY to get the rights to put that on the Net, if ANYONE will help me!!! Pleeeeeeeze!!!]

Well. . .anything else I would add to that list would probably be a diminution of the quality of that list. . .so I will stop there, having given away so much I have kept secret for all these years.

I never thought _I_ should choose the books for Project Gutenberg, I have always STRONGLY encouraged our 1700 volunteers to choose their own.

Wales:

Clearly, at Nupedia, we would love to see *more recent* encyclopedias hit the public domain. Some old versions of Britannica are out there -- but they are *so old* that they are practically useless as starting points for new articles.

But imagine if we could start from a "merely" 30 year old encyclopedia, and update it. It would surely make our work a lot easier.

Q8) Integration of the two projects?
by Squirrel Killer

To Jimmy Wales: How tightly to you see integrating Project Gutenberg's materials? Will you cut-and-paste sections from PG into Nupedia? Will the entry on Shakespeare link straight to PG's texts of his work?

To Michael Hart: I'm well aware of your desire to keep PG e-texts as clean ASCII with nothing linking to other projects and the like, but would you link from the PG website (not the text themselves) to the Nupedia project?

Wales:

Well, most of PG is classic books. Classic books don't really belong directly *inside* an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia is not a library. But, yes, we will certainly seek to link to as many free texts as makes sense. We might even host them on our site at some point.

Hart:

The trouble with linking is link-rot. . . .

There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people who have asked us to link to them, but the trouble is that most links don't last a year.

I don't know if the readers here know, but Project Gutenberg is the biggest and longest "shoestring project" in all history. . . . We just don't have anyone to monitor the links and keep them up to date. The truth is that I am sitting here in my basement, after blowing $2 on lunch for the latest Hardee's special, and answering this on a keyboard and monitor that are about 20 years old. Of the seven drives I had on this system, three are still working. . .they are all still here physically. . .it's a funny looking homebrew machine that I have to tinker with.

I have become what I always wanted to be. . .a basement inventor.

hee hee.

So. . .back to the answer. . .I don't have ANY secretary, assistant, etc., here, though our Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation has hired a 1/4 time assistant for our Trustee. I do have people who just help me when I ask, but I still answer all the phones, emails, do 99% of the copyright research, put the books online, fix the errors, and all that stuff. . . .

They will never realize how much I am doing until they have to get a dozen people to replace me. . .hee hee!

More of Q8)

As in the previous example, while browsing the various Shakespeare works, will I see a link to his biography on Nupedia?

Hart:

Nope. . .not until we have real money. . .just too much work to keep the links in working order.

More of Q8)

Personally, I think that this kind of integration is what will really add to Nupedia, as well as giving PG more value in that you can easily find out more about an author. I had been thinking about doing something like this, but just haven't had the time to do it right or the self-confidence to release what crap I did have to the outside world.

Hart:

I have the kind of self-confidence that allows me to release all sorts of mistakes to the outside world. . .I am dyslexic, but if you think I am going to run this through a spellchecker, sorry. . .I would rather work more with that time and energy on the books. . .that's my REAL goal. . . .

Well, due to the way this worked out, now three weeks later, I might run this through the spellchecker, since I had to download it to play with some of the formatting problem. . .I originally just wrote all these replies "on the fly" as I do with virtually all my email.

More Q8)

Without biasing your answers, I really think that this kind of integration would really be a boon to both projects, and show the benefits of open projects working together to create something greater than the sum of their parts.

Hart:

I LOVE interdisciplinary stuff, and would encourage this for someone who is into cross-linking things. . .it would be great.

We are making some new experimental web pages, and if I can encourage YOU. . .and anyone who would like to help you. . .I would be ***PROUD*** to give you the space to try it out. . .all you have to do is put:

***UNDER CONSTRUCTION***

and then no one can complain that it's not perfect.

I learned a LONG time ago to stop trying to be perfect.

Most of the academic world never seems to learn this.

When I was a perfectionist, my grades were just a low B+, A's in math and science, B's in nearly everything else, a few C's in Latin and German, one in art. . .I love art, but it was years before I had the patience to be good at it.

Before then my best semester in school was half A's and half B's, and that was only because half my classes then were math/science, where I could PROVE I was right. . .hee hee.

Once I decided to just BARELY get the A's, I not only got straight A's, but graduated from one of the great universities in only two years, and since I learned this before I got any grades there. . .I was #1.

Hmmm. . .it's important to know that trying for perfection is not very efficient. . .so I have to leave this in, but it's another thing I have kept out of the public eye for nearly 30 years.

I wonder if you realize how open I am being with my answers?

I have never put any of the personal things in ANY of my interviews before.

Q9) problems?
by Xeo2

are either of you worried about possibly erroneous submissions, whether it be a made up encyclopedia article, or badly translated public domain texts?In addition, what will the final forms of both of your products be? CD/DVD or internet? If internet will there be some kind of registration required?

Wales:

Nupedia is an open community. We welcome anyone to join our mailing lists and to pitch in to help out. We have an open review process in which _anyone_ can engage in the process of forming a community consensus about an article. This process really works well -- we're very proud of the articles that we've produced so far. It is certainly more rigorous than that applied by any conventional proprietary encyclopedia.

Hart:

We get error messages all the time that help us create better products, and we LOVE getting them. Most of the time only one person has to spot an error and it's fixed before another runs into it.

THAT's one of the GREAT things about Etexts.

And with comparison programs, you can EASILY see the differences between two Etexts, so you know something is going on, and exactly where it is. . .even if only a period is changed to a comma.

I'm sorry, but I'm a "seat of the pants" kind of professor. . .a "street" professor. . .as I often call myself. . .my only real goal is to get the most books to the most people. . .I'm not going to be the one arguing about whether Hamlet is saying:

"To be or not to be."
"To be, or not to be."
"To be; or not to be."
or
"To be: or not to be."

To me that is just arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. . .or was it on a pinhead?

You'd be surprised how many great thinkers were tricked into years of speculation on that question. . . .

Q10) Opposition from the 'For Pay' industry?
by Bonker

Have you had any overt opposition from the 'For Pay' publishing industries? If so, what is it like. Do you expect legal challenges?

Hart:

We have had several legal challenges, from some famous publishers, but since we do our copyright research VERY carefully, we were able to send them packing without much effort.

Some of them, including Merriam-Webster, were VERY kind, as was Caxton, about Ayn Rand's "Anthem," as mentioned above.

We have had several hostile takeover attempts, but since we don't legally exist as an entity, it's hard to take us over. We are all volunteers. It's equally hard to take over our non-profit foundation that hopefully will be supporting us soon.

Presently, contributions are only being solicited from people in: Texas, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Indiana, and Vermont. As the requirements for other states are met, additions to this list will be made and fund raising will begin in the additional states. These donations should be made to the "Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation" and mailed to:

Project Gutenberg Literary Archive
Foundation
PMB 113
1739 University Ave.
Oxford, MS 38655-4109

International donations are accepted, but we don't know ANYTHING about how to make them tax-deductible, or even if they CAN be made deductible, and don't have the staff to handle it even if there are ways.

Wales:

We think they are ignoring us, hoping we'll go away. We won't. :-)

11) Encyclopaedias are obsolete
by JCCyC
(j[CUBAN-DICTATOR'S-SURNAME]@ap[3.141592].com.br)

What do you think of the idea of Open Textbooks? For example, books on World History, Biology, Math, Physics etc. that can be used in high schools and for which no copy restrictions are in place? Schools and/or parents and/or students would be able to print the book themselves at a fraction of the cost. Maybe the result wouldn't be so nice-looking, but it would be effective.

Hart:

_I_, personally, think all textbooks should be contracted as "works for hire" so they would be government documents free of copyright. I am not a lawyer, so I don't know if I used exactly the right term. . .but I think textbooks should be contracted to become public domain when they are written. . . . This would stop all that silliness about changing the page numbers and a few words here and there so the old editions are hard to use alongside the new ones. . . . I'm sure you know what I mean, but if not, let me know, and I will try a few examples.

This would also eliminate the need for millions of students to sit down at the start of every year and put in the same corrections as millions have done for years before, when the answers in the back are wrong. . .which they seem to be. . .all too often.

Etextbooks can be corrected all at once, you just put in your disk and get the corrected copy. . .saving the old one as insurance against 1984ism.

More of Q11)

Think schools in poor neighborhoods, or in the Third World. Think cheap, fast inkjet printers. Think a central repository (or a number thereof) whose contents is certified as "Good For Schools" by some reputable academic body, govt-ran or not.

Hart:

Actually, inkjet printing is still way to slow and way too expensive, I prefer the $13.88 reader I described above. . .why bother with "dead tree editions" at all. . .the new generations will think that flipping through thousands of paper sheets per year is silly when you could just search them ALL in one single minute. . .and then quote them perfectly in one second. . .leaving all the time and energy for the REAL WORK. . .WHICH GOES ON BETWEEN THE EARS!!!

However, I do recognize that many people still find paper easier, but just as with cellphones enabling Third World countries to start a GREAT phone system without the billions spent on wires, I think they could also start GREAT publishing empires without the millions spent on paper printing.

Why not Etext readers as ubiquitous as cellphones?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Wales:

I'm all for it. Indeed, the Nupedia encyclopedia might be viewed as one cornerstone of a more global Universal Encyclopedia, which would include textbooks, etc.

At Nupedia, we've decided to _not_ be idle visionaries and dreamers. We view what we are doing as being similar (in the content side) to what the FSF did many years ago with the beginnings of GNU software. We tackle just what we can actually accomplish _today_. You don't start out writing an operating system from scratch. First you write an editor. You write the 'ls' command. You write a mail program. And so on like that.

We're starting with a goal that can actually be accomplished and have a major impact in just 3-5 years time! After that, we surely expect that the energy of the project, and the lessons we have learned about software, etc., to generate dozens of spinoffs in all directions.

------

[Jimmy Wales also "asked and answered" two questions of his own about Nupedia - ed.]

-1) "What's the deal with Nupedia and 'Gnupedia'?"

Hector, who started the 'gnupedia' project recently wrote this on his mailing list:

"Now, the FSF's plans are give all the support to the Nupedia project. So Nupedia will become the official GNU encyclopedia."

-0) "Nupedia seems to be too centralized and slow moving for me. I understand the need for quality control, but wouldn't it make more sense to have a more bazaar-type free encyclopedia project?"

Maybe so! People who want to get started _today_ on contributing free texts to the world can do so at Wikipedia. All the content is released under the GNU FDL, and it already has over 1000 articles. Short, and maybe not the high quality of Nupedia, but with time? Who knows...

------

Michael Hart's answers are (C)2000 by Michael S. Hart

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Nupedia and Project Gutenberg Directors Answer

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  • I have the feeling that a book is much more then the simple ascii representation of the text. How many books have equations, pictures, photographs?
    Sometimes, even emphasizing some words can give a completely new interpretation to a same sentence.

    That's why, even though I understand that PG is now trying to focus on getting more titles, I feel is extremely important to decide which format our information will be represented in. (Once you "simplify" a book into an ascii representation, it is very difficult to add the missing information (emphasized words, equations, etc) later.)


    So what are our options? PDF, PS, probably not. We need structure. I don't know if docbook could suit our needs, but something at least similar would be necessary. With it, later we could transform the book in other formats. I'm very worried with Microsoft promoting their ebook format, which encrypts information even when the work has no copyrights, disallowing a free (speech) implementation of a reader. If this format really takes off, it could put the free software community in a situation much similar (but probably worse) then the DVD case (since it will restricting our access even to material with copyrights expired).


    In a related thought, I think the goal of the GNU Project, that is, to build a free OS, is now a reality. they did it, damn it. The FSF should target higher now, perhaps in ways of promoting the free access to information (audio/video codecs, free access to books, etc). Not necessarily going against copyrights, suggesting piracy, but at least fighting pay-per-use and suggesting new schemes to Digital Rights Management. The FSF should in many situations team up with the EFF, but always with the focus on free software solutions.

  • Forget the lawyers. All you need is "This document is in the public domain, our trademark `Project Gutenberg' is not. Do anything you want with the document, but if you want an endorsement, you'll have to pay for it (don't worry it's not too expensive, contact for details). At Project Gutenberg we make public domain ASCII texts of public domain books, learn more at ..."

    I don't think the whole rigamarole with insisting people file off the serial numbers would stand up anyway. You can only protect your trademark from being used inaccurately, you can't go successfully sue someone just because they rightly say "this public domain document, which is on the CD-ROM I am selling you, was scanned and distributed to me by Project Gutenberg (TM)". It's not any sort of misrepresentation or trademark dilution; there's no tort, and since the documents are public domain there's no contract to break (since there's no agreement they'd need to have to be able to copy and redistribute it; also no signature or other overt indication of agreement and no consideration, regardless of whatever contracty-looking things are sent around with the free stuff. weak, weak, weak!).

    Lawyers always make things seem more complicated than they are. I think they just like to make ominous sounds to invoke The Great Mystery of Secret Law (boogedy boogedy! Do as we say or we'll sue you! You may think you're safe but only We know the law!).

    Sometimes I think lawyers positively delight in writing unenforceable clauses into contracts, and inaccurate warnings of liability. Maybe they figure they're making more business for other lawyers.

    IANAL, IANYL, TINLA
    ---
  • It's quite an interesting idea, but I didn't see any license. I saw an impressive collection of logos from good people, but I didn't see anything that promissed that what was open now would remain open.

    What with the DCMA and all, I feel that firm and binding comittments to openness are needed. If they are present, then they weren't obvious.


    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • Any school, city, county, state or nation that adopts the "Unlimited Distribution" model for school and other media is likely to far outstrip those of us who lag behind. . .their books will surpass all others in a matter of a few editions. . .as all the readers correct mistakes and make suggestions for improvements. . .and then write new books based on the materials in what will then be listed as the "old, first generation" Etexts they first used in schools.

    While I think PG/Nu have great value, I don't think that having users "correct mistakes" is really a great idea. Imagine an army of /.ers trying to correct the "mistakes" in a text--the book would turn into a /. thread. I am also leery of allowing schoolchildren--who don't know enough about subject matter to critically analyze it or contribute to it--to "correct mistakes" in a text.

  • Actually Happy Birthday is another case of copyright out of control. It was originally copyrighted in 1935 and the copyright is now held by our friends at AOL-Time Warner. This why all of the restraunts have made up their own tunes to sing for peoples birthdays.
  • by SlippyToad (240532) on Monday March 05, 2001 @09:36AM (#383999)
    The question is not whether they are making money. It's whether we are encouraging useful artistic creations by allowing them this monopoly. And the answer is No. Walt Disney, the only person who really should have had any financial stake in Mick Mouse, died over thirty years ago. The Disney ultraconglomerate is now just squatting on his legacy. They are not being encouraged to come up with anything new. Their recent movies have all been crap -- and I might add, almost without exception a rip-off of a PUBLIC DOMAIN work that they would not have access to if that work were owned by an 18th or 19th-century entertainment megacorp. In the case of Disney, copyright is quite obviously discouraging the production of new, useful, or valuable contributions to our culture. Instead they're just pimping the ideas of other authors and the work of some Korean animators, and oh, maybe a couple of famous American or English voiceovers. Their formula is dreadful. I don't take my kids to Disney movies because they're not of any measurable quality anymore. The most interesting Disney productions of the last 10 years were the Toy Story movies, for which Pixar had to fight tooth and nail to gain a glimmer of creative independence.

    So any reasonable debate over the usefulness of infinite copyrights ought to start with the deplorable quality of Disney Dreck. They are in desperate need of a financial incentive to come up with new stuff that isn't shit. And if they can't it is NOT OUR SOCIAL RESPONSIBLITY to keep them in business by artifically extending their monopoly over an animated mouse. We as a society do not owe them a guaranteed income. I do not understand how that concept got worked into the social contract.

  • The real, more subtle reason copyright terms are infinite is that bills keep getting passed to lengthen them.

    For more information on perpetual copyright, read this writeup [everything2.com] on Everything.

    Here's how to get around perpetual copyrights and trademarks: Abstract the copyrighted expression away from the uncopyrightable idea by finding antecedents from before 1923 (or are otherwise Free). For example, derive Precious Moments [preciousmo...munity.com] from the Eloi people in chapter 4 of H. G. Wells's The Time Machine [pineight.com], and derive Noddy [pbs.org] from Pinocchio [pinocchio.fr.st] renditions. This way you can avoid copyright and trademark infringement by taking a stereotype (uncopyrightable under Capcom v. Data East [fenwick.com]) and "making it yours" by changing just enough that the original expression is distinctive enough to overpower any copied expression.

    This is why I no longer like Winnie-the-Pooh, as it has no Free antecedents.


    All your hallucinogen [pineight.com] are belong to us.
  • If Shakespeare were written in a political system like we have now, his works would now be owned by Disney.

    If Shaekespeare were alive and writing today he'd be a pauper. If he was lucky enough to eat he might entertain sheeple with street performances.

    Shakespeare is a little 'heady' for your avereage Entotainment Consumotron 2001 Unit(TM)(C)(R).

  • Me too ... seriously. We really need people like Hart and Wales to get a break from all that money-making, and just be able to access knowledge. These are great projects, and reading this article made me ashamed I haven't contributed anything to them. I really have to do something.
  • Which completely ignores the fact that people invovled in "high fashion" aren't ones to wear a suit till it has been through four sets of elbow patches anyway. Just like most schools will update to the newest textbook editions solely to be "up to date" (though companies force the schools' hands a bit by ceasing publication of old editions, it would still happen.) For a more slashdot-esque example, look at the switch from C++ to Java. Sure, to a point Java is a more "perfect" object-oriented language, but you have to admit that the switch is also mandated by the buzzword-based education philosophy.
  • I don't know that the current open ebook [openebook.org] specification would pass a GPL test, but it is open, to the extent that it is XML and openly documented. You can write documents to it and view them in several of the currently available readers; whip out your XSLT processor to view HTML, etc. If they do their DRM (digital rights management) stuff properly, it will be an additional layer which will not inhibit the use and distribution of open content.
  • I thought I might mention this in this particular thread: I've started working on a peer-reviewed scientific and technical dictionary/encyclopedia at www.homoexcelsior.com [homoexcelsior.com]. Like all projects of this nature, we're looking for volunteers to help. So, if you are interested ... drop on by.
  • by Kraft (253059) on Monday March 05, 2001 @10:03AM (#384006) Homepage
    Michael Hart is one of my all-time heroes. This is a guy with some integrity and persistence. The first eTexts i read off a BBS were from Gutenberg and I ended up doing my final project on eTexts at uni, because of the PG.

    To me PG is like one of those great ideas everyone in the world has at least once in a lifetime, which would work, if only you had enough dedication. Michael could (according to the article linked below) be a millionaire by now, if he has chosen to comprise on his vision... but instead he gave us free books.

    Anyways, Wired Magazine [wired.com] did a well-researched feature [wired.com] on him a few years ago. Worth a read, if you want to get into the mind a genious.

    -Kraft
    ----------------------------
  • If you want to view an online Gutenberg Etext reader, please visit the site listed in my .sig. A little bit of a shameless plug, but totally on-topic for the discussion. The Gutenberg Project is something that should get more attention than it does, so spread the word!!!

    .
    ....
  • Yes, I have run across this heroic effort, but every fiber of my being cries out against manual markup. I spent some time doing this sort of heavy lifting for a living and my wrists are shot. I am looking for the Perl magic: they's patterns in them thar ASCII!

    I am surprised that they didn't stick on TEI as already thoroughly covering their problem domain. Too much detail, perhaps, although there are some high quality style sheets [ox.ac.uk] already available for transforming TEI instances.

    At any rate, I am going to have a go at stylesheets for the gutbook dtd's and contribute those; let the younger fingers pound out the angle brackets.
  • I think the current use of ASCII is an impediment to the usefulness of PG for works that are not in English. Whether in plain ASCII, XML or another text-based format, the texts do not have accents available to them, which makes foreign languages difficult. For instance, a couple of years ago I used the PG version of Vergil's Aeneid, before I could really read Latin well enough for the macrons (long vowel marks) to matter. However, now I am a serious Latin student, and am translating the Aeneid as part of an AP Latin course, and the lack of macrons makes translation much more difficult. In classical Latin, admittedly, macrons were not written, but they existed nonetheless and are vitally important in determining the meaning of a word. Similarly, French and Spanish are made difficult without accents. So in cases like these, where it matters, why does someone go to so much OCR and typing work to just create a digital version that has a fundamental inadequacy? Why not use Unicode from the ground up on foreign-language documents?
  • Today, because of distribution (ignoring the internet) and the *amount* of IP now generated compared to back then, the value depriciation is much higher (how many people talk about CDs or movies or books more than 1 or 2 years old?), so say this is around 50% (a conservative #). In 5 years, only 3% of the initial value is left, and in 10, 1/10th % is left. After 96 years, at 50% depriciation, only 1.26 x 10^-24 % of the initial value is left.

    well, the problem is not the depreciation of value. Often someone will go back through some old book, or artwork, and make something new with it. With the copyright law and patent law extending almost a century, odds are that the art will not even be around to be inspected a century later.

    Maybe there should be a "use it or loose it" clause, just so that people can not arbitrarily tie things up forever.

    All to often, copyright, being broad and general, lets companies tie up properties, not so that they can make money, but because then they can keep someone else from making money.


  • I was once told that one of the major reasons copyright kept getting extended was that the Disney Mickey Mouse copyright kept coming up. There was apparently a lot of concern about opening up one of America's greatest icons to public use (and abuse).

    I don't know if it was true but it does make a bit of sense. It also puts a different spin on what the lifespan of a copyright should be. Nobody can argue that Disney isn't still making money off of the little mouse. 96 years doesn't look that long when compared to the corporate lifespan of a company like Disney.

    In my opinion copyright should be tied to the last official use of the copyright by the original holder. For example, if Disney for some strange reason stopped using Mickey Mouse in any of it's material (Movie, Print, Amuzement Park, etc) then after a certain period of time it would become Public Domain. Until then though, active use of the copyright would allow them to keep it. Of course this brings up the problem of what 'active' use really means, but we have to keep those lawyers busing doing something.
  • by CaptainCap (194813) on Monday March 05, 2001 @08:53AM (#384012)
    So Hart says that "The Man in the White Suit" is a favorite. The movie where a man invents a fabric that never wears out and stays clean, and thus creates a furor in the garment/fashion industry because people will not need to continuously buy a new (whatever garment) just like the (whatever garment) that they bought several months before. Hmmmm. Hmmmm.
  • This isn't a new tactic at all. I would try to avoid sounding anti-establishmentarian here for a second, but its really tough to. Look at it from this persepctive.... you're playing a game of chess (if you want too look at it that way, bad analogy, but oh well, I only have so much time here), and you get yourself into a winning position. Are you going to risk moving into a new position, or are you going to try whatever you can to maintain that winning position?

    Now I admit that this isn't the perfect analogy because there are many more things at play here, but it makes sense. The publishing companies have a winning formula which makes them money. Why would they go out and pay someone to do something new and exciting (while it may have more artistic merit) when they can beat the dead horse a bit more to get the rest of the money out of it?

    Now the game of Lawyers, etc has been to keep changing the rules of the game, so that they are in a winning position. They keep moving the goal posts.

    There is another interesting way to look at this, look at it from the same sort of perspective. Once you realize that you can't maintain that winning position any longer, you change the game so that someone can't beat you at it. Hence bring in the clown^H^H^H^H^H lawyers. This is a classical "older brother tactic", when your little brother/sister has started to master the game that you are playing, if you change the game or the rules, there is no way that they can actually win. :-)

    Too bad that the duration of copyright and patent wasn't specified in the constitution. It would have solved a lot of these issues.

    Well, this is easy to say here and now that they should have speicified it differently back then, but we have the advantage of about 225 years of history to look back at how the copyrights have failed and succeeded through the years, they didn't get that luxury, they just went along with what they knew and provided for the existance of it. Can't really blame them, they didn't have the resources that we have. Besides, how could they have even imagined that we would have the ability to reproduce IP like we do now?

  • The real, more subtle reason copyright terms are infinite is that bills keep getting passed to lengthen them. At the current rate, it is happening fast enough to allow even copyrights that are currently very old never to expire.
    The rumour I heard was that every time Mickey Mouse was about to go out of copyright, Disney paid -- sorry, lobbied -- to extend the term.
  • The Mickey Mouse argument is bogus. I hear people rationalizing the extension of copyright for works such as "Steamboat Willie", etc., in order to protect Disney's investment in the Mickey Mouse icon. That's total BS. Mickey Mouse is, as used by Disney, a trademark. Trademark law provides all the basis Disney needs to prevent people from selling sweatshirts, pens, pencils, coffee mugs, etc., with Mickey's image on them. Disney's trademark usage of Mickey's current image, and the revenue they currently derive from it, would not be harmed by releasing "Steamboat Willie" and other ancient animations, and its outdated artwork that Disney no longer actively uses in trade, into the public domain.
  • That's exactly right. Copyright is effectively infinite for huge corporations now. The reason? So Disney can hold on to the copyrights for Mickey Mouse cartoons. Mickey himself is a trademark so (ianal) is effective through the life of the company, but normally by now the first animated films featuring him would be far into the public domain. It's a shame, really... imagine what could be done with all that great stuff that isn't even being marketed anymore.
  • Once you have truly grokked what is going on, it takes a whole lot more than "a little imagination" to try to imagine the perceptions of the computer illiterate.

    I can't pretend to understand the perceptions of those that can't read, in general; likewise, I know at least enough to know that I don't know what the "illiterate first time user" sees.

    If you seriously want a system to be usable by "total morons," then you've got to periodically pull some "total morons" in to see how they react to it. And as systems evolve, you need new "total morons." (Of course, if you call them such, or even consider them such, that is a Bad Thing. They are providing a useful service and need to be thought of with suitable respect.)

  • Besides, his greatest author, Carl Barks, wasn't even allowed to write his name on the stories he wrote...
  • Free Gutenberg etext reading/downloading software.
    for linux [sourceforge.net]
    for windows [llornkcor.com]
  • While I admire Michael Hart, there's common misconception about his project: in reality, it's not the biggest collection of e-Texts on the Web.

    The Russian Moshkow's Library [www.lib.ru] contains about 10 times as many books as Project Gutenberg: 30,000+ books, 2+ GBytes of plain text files. All for free. Everything in Russian, though ;)

  • We did our first Unicode etext last year (Mommsen, in German, which also uses Greek!). These days, any work that requires non-ASCII gets an appropriate character set (as long as the volunteers are willing).

    I'm not sure why the Aeneid wasn't done in an 8-bit character set (it was released in 1995, not that long ago).

    One thing that Michael fights with scholars and librarians about is whether the PG books are suitable for scholarly work (such as Shakespeare analysis, which he uses as an example). Basically, they're not, and not intended to be.

    No excuses for Aeneid missing the accents, but I wanted to give a bit of background on how things are usually done today. Of course, Unicode wasn't an option in 1995, but plenty of other solutions were available to keep the accents (even if an additional plain 7-bit ASCII version were generated as a lowest-common-denominator).

    • Greg (PG's FTP and tech support guy)
  • I tend to agree.

    Maybe I will paypal them a few bucks. One buck from each of us would make for a pretty big bunch of bucks...

    mailto:hart@pobox.com [mailto]

    or to make donations directly, see:
    http://promo.net/pg/donation.html [promo.net]

  • The phrase you're looking for, "intelligent, but as of yet uniformed, individuals"
  • by EricEldred (175470) on Monday March 05, 2001 @06:34PM (#384024) Homepage

    I am the "Eldred" in "Eldred v. Reno." I ought to correct a few misstatements here. Mr Hart says:

    Sadly to say, the US Supreme Court just ruled against the case I was supposed to be in [Eldred vs Reno]. . .but at least it was mostly on technical grounds. . .which leaves me possibly to still bring another totally separate case. . .but the lawyers would never let me get a single word into my own case [Hart vs Reno] so I made them take my name off of that case, which then became Eldred vs Reno].
    1. It was the U.S. District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, not the U.S. Supreme Court. See the 2-1 decision under http://eon.law.harvard.edu/openlaw/eldredvreno [harvard.edu]. We are going to appeal the case, eventually to the Supreme Court, and we need your support.
    2. Mr Hart was never "supposed to be in" the case. He refused to become a plaintiff when he was asked. He is welcome to get his own attorneys to file another challenge. In fact, a group at Stanford might be looking to get somebody else to file a challenge in another district, but it won't be Eldred or Hart for that one. Let me know if you are interested.
    3. "[T]he lawyers would never let me get a single word into" the challenge to the CTEA--meaning the pro bono attorneys discovered that Mr. Hart, although not an attorney himself, wished to tell the lawyers what to do. Mr. Hart, you will soon learn when dealing with him, has his own mind. It so happens that his project is not the only one that is concerned about the public domain, and the attorneys found another plaintiff to replace him.
    4. "I made them take my name off of that case"--meaning he refused to go forward with the case unless he personally controlled everything. He has yet to explain what he would have argued differently.

    JimCYL says:

    1. Mr. Hart is partially correct when he mentions that copyrights run for 95 years as of the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act. In addition to the other two elements Jim mentions, the 95-year term applies to works first published after 1922, renewed, and under copyright in 1998. (This "retrospective" or "retroactive" extension of term is primarily the basis for the dissent in the appeals court decision. It applies to Project Gutenberg as much as the rest of us, because it more or less sets up a dam for the flow of works into the public domain at January 1, 1923. Project Gutenberg for the most part has refrained from reprinting any works first published after 1922. Eldritch Press and some others do copyright research to find out works that were not renewed and so entered the public domain. For further information, see http://digital.library.upenn.edu/books/okbooks.htm l [upenn.edu] as well as the new book, "The Public Domain," by Stephen Fishman, at http://www.nolo.com [nolo.com]
    2. "Eldred Press"--it has become "Eldritch Press."
    3. "The author of a work (or his heirs) can "recapture" his copyright after 35 years by notifying the copyright office of his intent to do so." Unfortunately, the Copyright Term Extension Act did not follow previous copyright acts, and failed to allow this recapturing when it extended term. As Mr. Hart properly notes, renewal is no longer necessary. Consequently, publishers now have many rights that neither previous laws nor the Constitution ever gave them.

    DG asks: "If you could pick any 10 currently copyrighted works, and have them placed in the public domain (specifically for inclusion in Project Gutenberg) what would they be?"

    It should be noted that not all works in Project Gutenberg are in the public domain. For example, Michael S. Hart retains copyright for some. (BTW, the attempt at copyright notice at the bottom of the head is not proper: (C) is not valid, only a "C" inside a circle, or "Copr." or "Copyright" written out. But, anyway, notice is no longer necessary for copyright, only for collecting attorney fees and damages in cases of infringement, and even then the work must be registered (not necessary for most works online, which are under copyright the instant the expression is fixed).

    But if you want to put in your request for books to be scanned, you can do so at the On-Line Books Page at http://digital.library.upenn.edu/books/in-progress .html#requests [upenn.edu]

    Mr. Hart also says: Actually, more and more of our Etexts are available in more formats, it's just that very often those who reformat them want the be the ONLY places to get those formats, and thus don't share back with us. It's a little sad that way, but we have tried to honor the requests from other Etext sites that want to be the ONLY source for our Etexts in various formats. . .though we disagree with that philosophy. Some day, when I am older and crankier, perhaps I will just raid their sites against their wills for conversions that are non-copyrightable: though these days people even claim copyrights on the most trivial conversions. Someday that older and crankier me may even take them [some are major universities] to court for "misuse of copyright."

    Mr. Hart claims to do his own copyright research, but he is not apparently cognizant of current U.S. copyright law. The underlying text of a work in the public domain is in the public domain, no matter if a site such as Eldritch Press claims copyright on the introduction, notes, added punctuation, editorial corrections, layout, and so on--none of which are creative enough for a copyright infringement claim to be asserted against Project Gutenberg. See, for example, "The Public Domain" [nolo.com] for more information about what is under copyright and what is in the public domain.

    I ought to say that I don't see Project Gutenberg and Eldritch Press as competitors, the way Mr. Hart appears to to. In fact, I have attempted to donate some of my works to Project Gutenberg, only to have Mr. Hart find some excuse to refuse them. So I instead pay for my own web server and publish my own work. I stand behind them and make my own corrections. The format problem that questioners raise to Mr. Hart is fairly irrelevant today, since it is fairly easy to filter texts from ASCII to HTML or back, or to other formats, as long as the tags apply to the structure and not the layout. (Project Gutenberg texts could use some more standardization on what constitutes italic and so on, I agree.)

    We "bookpeople" who publish books on the net could use a little help--see the On-Line Books Page at the link above for more information on what you can do, besides becoming a Project Gutenberg volunteer.

    We also see ourselves in alliance with all those who treasure freedom--the same freedom to code a program or to read a book--and so we join with those who oppose the DMCA or the NET act or any other attempts to censor the net or make it safe for e-commerce by excluding those such as Project Gutenberg or others of us "bookpeople." Thanks for your support!

  • Horse pucky!
    While I believe that you and your wifes intentions maybe honorable, I in no way believe that schools, faculty, and the professor teaching the class do not benifit someway from using a select material. Come on, we've all expierenced the problem of having the same book as the professor (or Teacher in HS) but not having the same edition and having been on different pages or different chapters. And I believe that colleges and schools in general have shown us they have the morality of Telephone salesmen (don't ask), by allowing corporations to sponsor everything from the cafeteria to the local ballfield.
  • Horse pucky!
    While I believe that you and your wifes intentions maybe honorable, I in no way believe that schools, faculty, and the professor teaching the class do not benifit someway from using a select material.

    Don't take my word for it. Go and talk to your professor. Talk to several. Quit treating the institution you're (or your parents, or the government, or whoever) paying the bucks to like the enemy. Really, believe it or not, they're trying to do you some good.

    The sooner you get that chip off your shoulder, and start listening, the sooner you'll start learning. And isn't that why you're there?


    --

  • For anybody who is interested in actually helping Project Gutenberg by donating a little of their time I have created an online Distributed Proofreaders Site which is an effort to produce E-Text's for PG. Most old books do not scan/OCR well and a significant amount of proofreading and formatting is required.

    This site uses a combination of PHP, mySQL and some Java Script to create a 'library'. People scanning books upload the scanned image files and the initial text file for the images that is produced by OCR software.

    When a proofer elects to proofread a page for a particular project, the text and image file are displayed on a single webpage. This allows the text file to be easily reviewed and compared to the image file, thus assisting the proofreading of the text file. The edited text file is then submitted back into the library. The basic concept is that several proofreaders can be working on the same book, but different pages, at the same time. This significantly speeds up the proofreading process.

    Once all pages for a particular book have been processed all the pages are concatenated into one text file which is downloaded by the Project Manager where it is properly formatted/final proofread and submitted to the PG archive.

    The site has a limited amount of bandwidth and will probably become overwhelmed with the /. effect but if you are interested please check out my site at http://charlz.dynip.com/gutenberg [dynip.com]

    The site can always use some more proofreaders!

    Thanks!

    Charles

  • Nonsense. 95% of professors do not write their textbooks themselves.

    OK, did you miss the - OR - in my statement? ASCII has its limitations; I couldn't make it any more obtrusive.

    Most professors are too busy writing research articles to find the time to put together a textbook. Professors are not "compensated" for selecting a specific textbook (even their own -- find out how much your professor gets in royalties from their book. You might be surprised).

    I did and was surprised, and quite honestly disgusted - read on.

    Textbook publishers approach professors at conferences, or actually come to campus to see professors, and hand out textbooks to them for free. They do this to try and get the professor to read the book, and hopefully they'll like it enough to use it in class -- at which point the publisher, not the professor, will make some money.

    Well, at my wonderful little school, money exchanges hands - especially in several departments. That and the group of math teachers that select the textbook go on a fscking cruise every winter - fully paid, of course, by the fscking publisher.
    That is corruption and utter bullshit. It pisses me off a bit too (can't you tell?)

    Sure, the prof doesn't have to go out and buy the thing, but trust me, my wife (Professor of Sociology) has 20 different Introduction to Sociology books, and chooses the one to use based on her opinion of the book -- not any kind of "shadow" payment.

    I hoped that there was some academic integrity in this country (USA). My experiences have been limited. I also wouldn't expect that profs pay for textbooks that they might use. I have to acknowledge that my school is one of the worst in the nation in this "subject". Incidentally, the profs in the social science courses actually understands students needs (not the english dept. though). Kudos to them.

    I'd also bet you'll find that the work an English professor does is a bit more than just "adding a preface". Do you think that publishers can just whip out one title after another (and sell what, 300 copies a year?) for any schmoe with a Ph.D. after their name with no more impact than the cost of the paper?

    Nope (preface question), not when the "book" is photocopied by the prof and sold in the bookstore as stapled 8x11 sheets of paper. Publisher is not involved, therefore...

    Why is your textbook $100? Two words: used textbooks.

    At the risk of sounding brash - New "revision" of math book every semester (this one is actually published by a publisher) questions from book (which changes, every semester) thus used book market does not exist. Especially when "quizzes given from the book, no book = no pass"
    You can sell the books back to some online sites and get about 30% for them. Maybe.

    Complain about the cost of books (new and used) all you want, but the publishers see none of that money -- it all goes to your local bookstore.

    Don't get me started about the local "for profit" corporation that is based on school grounds (I believe public land, as it is a public institution), and was built with public funds by public workers. Yeah, exactly.
    Ironically, it seems that the bookstore often sells for the MSRP imprinted on the book, though they are also making a killing

    That's why prices are so high -- publishers make the books once, but they're sold to a half-dozen or more students. Sure, you can argue that they wouldn't get resold so many times if the prices weren't outrageous, but they are, and it's debatable which came first (the high prices or the extensive reselling).

    Nope, it's called a monopoly with a guaranteed number of consumers. See above for my little rant on why used textbooks aren't "happening" at my school.

    I know you think your problems book didn't require any research, but you're wrong. Someone had to sit down and think of these problems, tie them into the materials presented in each section and chapter of the accompanying textbook, and work them out.

    No materials in the book - only questions - no instruction, no pretty tables.
    As for "thinking of questions" - will we put a 8 before that x squared, or a seven.
    The questions are in the same format, from semester to semester - just the "numbers" have changed. (i.e. page 156, #3 is 3x^2-2x+3, then 4x^2-3x+3 - same place on the physical page, so I know the desktop publishers aren't getting any $)

    Then someone else had to check and ensure all of the answers were correct, and the problems made sense, and there weren't any typos.

    That was a really funny comment - made my day in fact. Shit, "copyright" was spelled incorrectly in the front of the book one year (you know, copyright 1999 Scumbag Publishers, Dayton, Ohio . . .). The content isn't exaclty any better - student solutions are a joke as well.

    Sadly, it sounds as if I'm defending the publishers -- I'm not, really, although I recognize their need to make a buck to stay in business.

    Look, I'm pretty certain that my situation is pretty bad, and it is out of the "norm" I'm surprised that it is still continuing.
    Though if they can afford to send groups of 10 teachers on cruises. . .

    Believe it or not, professors are keenly aware of the cost of textbooks and their impact on your budget. They don't sit around and conspire to eliminate your beer money -- but sometimes, it's the only way they can get you all of the information they feel you need to learn the material for the class. I know my wife has agonized many times over the cost and number of books she's required for a class. Sometimes, in fact, she's picked a book that's not quite as good just because it's cheaper.

    It seems that I may be over generalizing. Unfortunately, I received nearly the same answers when I tried to present this to the school newspaper or when I talk to some teachers about it. Like I said, MY experiences.
    And, contrary to popular belief - we are not all lazy slack ass punks who have nothing better to do than drink beer and go to kegger parties. Some college students somehow try to mix 5 classes with working 40hrs a week at $7 an hour, somehow (through other jobs) managing to pay for living expenses (i.e. room, board, insulin). I resent your statement about "beer money" - besides, I'm 19, and can't legally drink in this country (although that's kind of a BS excuse, because the drinking age never stopped anyone)

    If there were good, open textbooks that covered the material that needs to be taught in a class, professors would go for it in a heartbeat. They're really not your enemy -- most professors are simply trying to get you think and learn. Sometimes that costs money.

    There may very well be decent profs. Personally, it seems that the profs that I dealt with don't give a fuck.
    Students have been expelled while trying to change the system; I guess under the table money and free cruises were a bit too much to give up.
    Hell, we even had our student government pretty much dissolved, then recreated as a "student activities" section and a "student senate" section. Activities got paid, Senate did not. Student senate is now relegated to dividing funding out to various clubs - student affairs / concerns are not discussed.

    Thank god that I'm getting out of here in a few weeks.

    Look - don't get me wrong - most of the profs are actually much better than teachers in HS, etc. Some are terrible, but for the most part, the administration / deans of departments that are corrupt.

    -0-

    I have a shotgun, a shovel and 30 acres behind the barn.

  • Interesting to see Michael's take on individual creators and corporations. Quoth your Constitution, with his response:

    "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" (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8).
    Hmm, do you notice it doesn't say to publisher or manufacturers. . .I wonder if there would be a possible lawsuit for the cases in which the publishers get the first copyright. . .even on "works for hire". . . ?

    Indeedy. For the benefit of US-based readers: the mainstream of international law doesn't have a "work for hire" concept. The mainstream isn't copyright at all, it's Authors' Rights, and they are personal rights: principally the right to be identified as the author, and the right to defend the integrity of your work. Economic rights flow from these, which are akin to human rights - the opposite of the case in English-speaking countries where copyright is a commodity.

    In the USofA, no author has either of these badly-named "moral rights" (except an artist who creates a work in a signed and numbered edition of less than 200). There's a current of opinion that this puts the USA in flagrant breach of international law - that Berne Convention.

    Except that when it came to writing laws covering authors of software, all the people who understood the law didn't understand software. So the software companies snuck "work made for hire" into Authors' Rights countries.

    /.ers shouldn't have too much trouble imagining a parallel universe in which software authors have the right to a byline and the right to stop marketdroids interfering with the poetry of their code. Hell, in this world it would probably be compulsory for every error message to have a personal by-line. Which would be nice.

    Summary: there's a world of difference between laws which protect individual rights of authorship, and those which protect the Moloch Media Corp. Unfortunately, the US and the UK have the wrong kind. I'm trying to work out how to change that. See this paper on moral rights [warwick.ac.uk] and the Tasini -v- Times [nwu.org] case about to go before the Supremes.

  • Was it just me, or did question one go on forever? I mean, he brought up some good points, but man, it was long. In fact, every question was broken up into several parts. Why not just have them all as seperate questions?


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  • by epicurus (252619)
    our people are way too experienced to be able to see how things look to new users

    Ok, I understand what you're trying to say here, but all it takes is a little imagination and some thought about user-friendliness and you can look at even your own projects as if you're a typical nearly-computer-illiterate first-time user. Just walk though your site/interface for a while and think about it as if you had to explain the usage to a total moron. Make things easy. Use words that make sence. It really isn't that difficult.
  • by ShadyG (197269) <bgraymusic AT gmail DOT com> on Monday March 05, 2001 @08:12AM (#384032) Homepage
    The 96-year copyright term being longer than people's life spans is a red herring. The real, more subtle reason copyright terms are infinite is that bills keep getting passed to lengthen them. At the current rate, it is happening fast enough to allow even copyrights that are currently very old never to expire. These will be held by corporations -- 96 years is not necessarily beyond a corporate lifespan, and the copyright is a transferrable asset anyway -- and be enforceable in perpetuity.

    If Shakespeare were written in a political system like we have now, his works would now be owned by Disney.

    -- ShadyG

  • I'm worried that a bunch of script kiddies will try to fix all the Linux bugs, too.

    The point isn't that "school children" can fix mistakes-- it's that grad students writing a thesis on a particular work can fix mistakes.

    It's not that *every*one can, it's that *any*one can.
  • by ed__ (23481)
    it is kind of that difficult really. There are so many types of assumptions you make all the time as you become more familar with computers that it becomes more and more difficult to drop them, especially when you aren't aware of many of them. even in doing a cognitive walkthrough (HCI-fancyspeak w00!)you often miss major things and it's all around easier to find a naive user and just sit them down and see what they think.
  • I'm running a How To Use A Compass [www.uio.no] site, and in my experience anybody can contribute with valuable insights, fix things that are unclear, or even outright wrong. I've had kids pointing errors out to me, and kids should be taught to analyze texts critically.

    I think my guide is really good now, it's the best on the net, and it's better than some standard textbooks on the subject, still it can be improved. One of the things I have learnt is that fixing things should be formalized, something like a bug-tracking-system for texts. Of course, texts are different from software, either the program works or it doesn't, for software you have clearer criteria for what's right or wrong. Therefore, more extensive discussion must be done about each problem that arises, and it'll take longer to develop an very good text than very good software, and one might have to respond to some problems by posting different opinions about the same topic, but I think it'll work well.

    I'm considering the FDL for this guide, register a domain for it, make a bunch of mailing lists, for developers, questions from newbies, and expand it's scope to include orienteering in general. Probably, I'll eventually submit it for inclusion in Nupedia as well.

  • First of all, IANAL yet. That comes in May when I get my degree. Mr. Hart is partially correct when he mentions that copyrights run for 95 years as of the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act. That applies to 1) anonymous works and 2) works where a corporate entity is the author (i.e. works made by employees in the course of their jobs). In reality, the term of a copyright runs for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years. Does this sound unreasonable? You bet. Mr. Hart is right. Copyright law is driven less by a desire to promote creativity and more by a desire to increase the profits of content providers. The main reason the 1998 Term Extension Act was passed was to prevent valuable copyrights like, oh, Mickey Mouse, from passing into the public domain. Just for everyone's information, the Eldred v. Reno case Mr. Hart mentions was a suit brought by Eldred Press against the government challenging the constitutionality of the Term Extension Act. Eldred was gearing up to republish a bunch of books that were about to hit the public domain, and was pretty much screwed when the Act retroactively extended the terms of their copyrights. The court ruled, rather narrowly (fortunately), that doing so was within the power of Congress under the Constitution. That doesn't mean it was proper, only permissible. There is a bright side to the Copyright term, however. The author of a work (or his heirs) can "recapture" his copyright after 35 years by notifying the copyright office of his intent to do so. This allows people whose works have really withstood the test of time to take the right to their work back from the industry and get a better deal for themselves. Does this put more stuff into the public domain? No. Does it give authors of really popular works some protection from one-sided publishing contracts? Fortunately, yes.
  • Along the same lines of Project Gutenberg, but for music, is Mutopia [mutopiaproject.org].
  • A handful of readers _can_ correct mistakes, just as a handful of users of a program _can_ submit patches. Not all corrections (or patches) are accepted by the maintainers, for obvious reasons. Nupedia has a open community of peer reviewers; anyone can join the community, but to actually get a change into the official distribution, you have to convince the maintainers -- just like with free software. Of course, if you don't like what the community is doing, you can try to fork. :-) It's all about freedom.
  • Is there a GPLed eBook format?
    this is somthing that I beleive the open source community would be good at. create Open formats for information exchange that can compete with the proprietary forms (i.e. Docbook and MP3{yes I know about .ogg}).

  • And when you see what Disney did to my beloved Winnie-the-Pooh, well at least that's what made me convinced something is fundamentally wrong with the copyrights.
  • He mentioned this $13.88 ebook reader, but I don't think he really discussed it. Anyone know what he was talking about? Thanks


    OoO
  • Too bad that the duration of copyright and patent wasn't specified in the constitution. It would have solved a lot of these issues.

    Actually, this is probably a good thing that it wasn't specified. As indicated in the responses, copyrights were allocated by Congress back then around 12-14 years, with a same-term extension, so we're looking at no more than 30 years. Assuming they designated this copyright with the framers of the Constitution in discussion, then I would argue that the length then would be too long today. Much of the copyright time, as well as with patents, is for the manufactor and distribution of either the information or product, respectively. You could only print so many books a year, and to get them to all parts of the states took a lot of time, so distribution was slow. So if you think of the 'worth' of the information depricating back then at a rate much slow than today, say '25%' a year; within 5 years, only 24% of the initial value is left, in another 5yrs, 6% is left.

    Today, because of distribution (ignoring the internet) and the *amount* of IP now generated compared to back then, the value depriciation is much higher (how many people talk about CDs or movies or books more than 1 or 2 years old?), so say this is around 50% (a conservative #). In 5 years, only 3% of the initial value is left, and in 10, 1/10th % is left. After 96 years, at 50% depriciation, only 1.26 x 10^-24 % of the initial value is left.

    Thinking about this, I would bet that it's possible to estimate this value simply by looking at sales of CDs, books, and movies, individiually, on a year to year basis for each title for at least 5 years. It would be expected that sales for the item within the first year would be much higher than the second, and the second year sales much higher than the third, etc.. and if you assume that (year n sales) = (year 1 sales) * (1-deprication)^n, you can user regression estimate what the deprication is for IP. You'd have to average this over ALL items sold, as some of the more popular items would have lower depriciations than less-popular ones, but the less-popular items would be more numerous than popular ones. Determine this number using a large and unbiased set of input points, and suddenly we now know how many years it takes for something to lose 95% of it's value, thus making the copyright useless.

    Of course, this is all too logical and sensable, so it will never fly...

  • I think the open textbook idea is awesome, but it's not going to happen.
    [...]
    Firstly - 95% Professors either write their textbooks themselves, and change them every quarter, and charge obscene prices for them - OR - are "compensated" for selecting the textbook for the class in some form or another. That is abuse of power - really annoying as well. Also English teachers get a "standard" copy of a historical work; add "edited by..." add a preface, and sell the "work" for $50. Ditto.

    Nonsense. 95% of professors do not write their textbooks themselves. Most professors are too busy writing research articles to find the time to put together a textbook. Professors are not "compensated" for selecting a specific textbook (even their own -- find out how much your professor gets in royalties from their book. You might be suprised). Textbook publishers approach professors at conferences, or actually come to campus to see professors, and hand out textbooks to them for free. They do this to try and get the professor to read the book, and hopefully they'll like it enough to use it in class -- at which point the publisher, not the professor, will make some money. Sure, the prof doesn't have to go out and buy the thing, but trust me, my wife (Professor of Sociology) has 20 different Introduction to Sociology books, and chooses the one to use based on her opinion of the book -- not any kind of "shadow" payment.

    I'd also bet you'll find that the work an English professor does is a bit more than just "adding a preface". Do you think that publishers can just whip out one title after another (and sell what, 300 copies a year?) for any schmoe with a Ph.D. after their name with no more impact than the cost of the paper?

    Second - Textbooks are too lucrative for businesses to give up. I paid close to $100 for a soft cover MATH textbook. I understand computer, history books, etc... costing money (at least someone did some research in them), but the math book is useless - all questions (no instructions) - but of course required (i.e. quizzes given from the book, no book = no pass). Hell I spent nearly $500 on textbooks

    Why is your textbook $100? Two words: used textbooks. Complain about the cost of books (new and used) all you want, but the publishers see none of that money -- it all goes to your local bookstore. That's why prices are so high -- publishers make the books once, but they're sold to a half-dozen or more students. Sure, you can argue that they wouldn't get resold so many times if the prices weren't outrageous, but they are, and it's debatable which came first (the high prices or the extensive reselling).

    I know you think your problems book didn't require any research, but you're wrong. Someone had to sit down and think of these problems, tie them into the materials presented in each section and chapter of the accompanying textbook, and work them out. Then someone else had to check and ensure all of the answers were correct, and the problems made sense, and there weren't any typos.

    Augh, hell, most people who read /. know this. If anyone can defend the standard practice, please respond.

    Sadly, it sounds as if I'm defending the publishers -- I'm not, really, although I recognize their need to make a buck to stay in business.

    Believe it or not, professors are keenly aware of the cost of textbooks and their impact on your budget. They don't sit around and conspire to eliminate your beer money -- but sometimes, it's the only way they can get you all of the information they feel you need to learn the material for the class. I know my wife has agonized many times over the cost and number of books she's required for a class. Sometimes, in fact, she's picked a book that's not quite as good just because it's cheaper.

    If there were good, open textbooks that covered the material that needs to be taught in a class, professors would go for it in a heartbeat. They're really not your enemy -- most professors are simply trying to get you think and learn. Sometimes that costs money.


    --

  • I am really concerned. The MPAA's members are really getting scary. Warner Brothers bought the rights to merchandising and something else besides the movie.WSJ story on Zdnet [zdnet.com]

    Anyway, Warner Brothers is now sending out cease and desist to children around the world. They are also trademarking hundreds of words that appear in the books.

    Again we have a huge company going after websites around the world, and at least in the 2600 case they had a very, very small valid reason, here they have none. This is one of the reasons why copyright should not be as long as it is, and why corperations should not be able to basically buy out congress. Kind of makes Disney pale in comparision of their nasty deeds dosen't it.

    Comments on punctuation/spelling go to /dev/null

  • Of course, Disney has greatly benefited from public-domain fairy tales and myths as well as the work of Victor Hugo. But somehow it's unfair that the copyright of Disney's own works has to follow the established rules, so they've got to lobby for new legislation [eeicommunications.com].

  • Maybe this is a tangent, but I suspect one of the things that made great writers great is their ability to express things using only text. Use of italics, capitals, &c is definitely a sign of laziness in a writer.

    Of course for science / engineering texts diagrams can be invaluable. In the end, communicating your idea is the key, and if HTMLish tricks enhance that, well and good. But emphasising in that way is always an insult of sorts to whoever reads what you wrote - Kind of a "Here, this is what the sentence means, I wouldn't want you to get confused in all that syntax and grammar."

  • > I would recommend that people who care about software freedom

    You are confused. Everything 2 is not a software repository, but a sort of "encyclopaedia plus". By your standards, Project Gutenberg is worthless for the same reason: after all, I doubt Hart would be too happy if you decided to "improve" Moby Dick. Nothing stops you from doing so, of course, but you won't find your changes folded back into the main version. Don't make analogies between GPL'ed software and writing (presumably that's what you mean by "information"): it doesn't work. As another poster has already noted, contributors retain copyright on Everything 2. That's because if they didn't, the whole thing would be ripped off and made proprietary. And no, you can't take my writing and pass it off as your own, if that's what you mean by "freedom": do your own homework.

    And, by the way, the Everything 2 code is of course under the GPL.

  • by volsung (378) <stan@mtrr.org> on Monday March 05, 2001 @01:56PM (#384048)
    I can only tell you about Nupedia, since I'm familiar with that project.

    Classify yourself based upon this list (multiple classifications are always possible) to decide how you can help Nupedia:

    • I consider myself a semi-expert on something - Go contribute an article. Articles range from short (1-5 paragraphs) to long (3000 words). Try a short article first. Note: if the area is academic, you should have the equivalent of a college degree in that area, or be in the process of getting one.
    • I consider myself an expert on something - If you are honestly an expert in some field, you should apply to be a peer reviewer or an editor. A number of categories are lacking people to fill these position.
    • I have a frightening command of the English (American or British) language - You should go be a copyeditor. You will need to purchase two reference books, but after editing three articles, you can be reimbursed by Nupedia for the cost of the books!
    • I am fluent in multiple languages (with English being one of them) - You should go help translate articles (submitted in English) into other languages.
    • I can program web applications - Go help refine the online collaboration software. (Which is quite impressive!)
    • I know smart people - Tell them about Nupedia, and maybe they can fill in the above categories.
    • I'm interested - Two stages of the article creation process are totally open to everyone: Open Review and Open Copyediting. Go read the articles in these stages and make relevant comments.
    Hopefully that covers everything. I would strongly encourage you to go check them out!
  • I already signed up for Nupedia, and I got an email from Jimmy Wales taking advantage of my guilty feelings ;-) and encouraging me to contribute to Wikipedia. So this time, I am definitely going to contribute by writing articles and translating stuff, maybe also reviewing.
  • Copyright should be invested in the original creator with licences delegating copyright for limited periods for those commissioning them to create works for publication.

    If the publisher ceases to publish the work, e.g if a book is out of print, the license shouls terminate automatically and copyright should revert to the original creator.

    If the work was created by a team then special rules would have to apply. Apart from that, life of the author plus 20 years with a possibility of extension for individual works ( at a price ) might work

  • by zmower (20335)
    This happened to the tights industry in the 50's. They invented ladder-less tights which caused the bottom to fall out of the market. :oO

    Preferred The Ladykillers myself.
  • It is very much worth noting that Everything2 is a strictly _proprietary_ project. The information contained there can not be freely modified and redistributed. I would recommend that people who care about software freedom not contribute to Everything2 for this reason.
  • If only there were an free version of paypal, which were as secure, and wouldn't charge fees
  • The question we have to ask is "what can we do to get this stupid law changed?". I've been thinking about this, and perhaps it would be a good idea to set up a non-profit org, which could lobby against big business, in the interests of citizens. HMM I hope I'm not describing the EFF here :)

  • It seems that I may be over generalizing. [...]Like I said, MY experiences.

    As my wife often tries to explain to her students: "Your personal experiences do not indicate the norm."

    And, contrary to popular belief - we are not all lazy slack ass punks who have nothing better to do than drink beer and go to kegger parties. Some college students somehow try to mix 5 classes with working 40hrs a week at $7 an hour, somehow (through other jobs) managing to pay for living expenses (i.e. room, board, insulin). I resent your statement about "beer money" - besides, I'm 19, and can't legally drink in this country (although that's kind of a BS excuse, because the drinking age never stopped anyone)

    Speaking of over generalizing, eh? Okay, okay -- I worked three jobs at $5 an hour to get through school.

    Seriously though, you may have a problem at your school, but the vast majority of schools don't. And therefore (back to the original argument), the idea of Open Textbooks is a good one, and would probably fly, especially at cash-strapped public (read high) schools.


    --

  • I can't believe this is only a '2'. Is anyone moderating this thread?

  • Walt Disney, the only person who really should have had any financial stake in Mick Mouse, died over thirty years ago.

    The rumour has it that Disney put his corpse in cryogenic conservation to be resuscitated when the technology becomes advanced enough. That would be a good reason to keep extending rights. He wanted to be sure that he would have enough money in whichever century he comes back!

    Now, let's talk about Elvis.
    __
  • The 99.9998% figure doesn't really have to do with money being made (or not made), but is the portion of works out of print by the time the copyright expires. Money can still be made off of those works after copyright expires--it's just that it can be made by a lot more people.

  • good point...I suppose I'm just lucky being able to write program interfaces and see most of the things that a newbie would wonder about...I always try to keep in mind that a given user may have no idea what the program does/is/etc., but I do miss things, and you're right -- it is much easier to get a user that doesn't know what they're doing to point out things they don't understand. I've had a number of navigation problems in CGI backends found that way.
  • by mlesesky (81453) on Monday March 05, 2001 @08:27AM (#384060)
    please check out OpenMind Publishing Group [ompg.com] and OpenText Project [opentextproject.org]. The idea is to generate textbooks from open licensed works. It is a for profit company and has received funding.

    OpenMind is leading the initiative to replace traditional textbook publishing with an automated, online process that returns the power of teaching to professors and enriches the learning experience for students. We have transformed textbook publishing into a real-time dynamic process by providing an open source environment where textbooks are:
    - Free to professors, 70% less than traditional cost for students
    - Free of exclusivity
    - Free of the finality associated with content in a traditional text


    From the OpenMind website: While the idea of open content textbooks might be new to academia, the concept of information sharing certainly is not. From dissertation defenses to conference white-papers, the concepts of collaboration, peer review, and group-enhanced projects are evident throughout the academic community.

    Our mission is to use these traditions to create the most dynamic, thoroughly reviewed and highest quality textbook content available today. OpenMind will support open content and the OpenText Project by providing grants for content development. We will also look to you...the members of the academic community, for participation by adding your content, insight, and supplementary teaching materials.

    All content on the OpenText Project website is freely available for modification, use, and non-commercial redistribution under the OpenText Project License.

    To find out more, please visit the OpenTextProject website at www.OpenTextProject.org, and register as a member at no cost to you.
  • by Kynn (38537) on Monday March 05, 2001 @08:30AM (#384061) Homepage

    For Gutenberg texts in XML -- or to get involved in the process yourself -- see the HTML Writers Guild's "Gutenberg at HWG" project started by XML author Frank Boumphrey, at:

    http://gutenberg.hwg.org/ [hwg.org]

    Volunteers are needed!

    --Kynn

  • yeah well it should just apply to copyrights that protect non-information such as the adorable Micky Mouse and photographs. any thing that is writen should have a short finite copyright protection.
  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday March 05, 2001 @09:12AM (#384063) Homepage Journal
    How is this for the public good? Remember, copyright law is not ment for letting individuals and corperations milk a creation into eternity, but rather to encourage new ideas and creations. You don't encourage new ideas by letting people sit around and soak money off of the creations of their grandfathers (Disney wasn't the only lobbyist in the SB Copyright Extension act). I would much prefer a system where people and companies are forced to continue to create to keep their cash flowing.

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • by paul.dunne (5922) on Monday March 05, 2001 @09:16AM (#384064)
    No story that mentions Net encyclopaedias and such would be complete with a reference of Everything 2 [everything2.com] in the comments to this story -- er, so here it is. Go there: it has articles on everything under the sun, admittedly of variable quality -- so help make it better.
  • by KjetilK (186133) <kjetil@@@kjernsmo...net> on Monday March 05, 2001 @09:17AM (#384065) Homepage Journal
    There are quite a few things that should have been done about rotten links. One is more active use of the HTTP responses 301 and 410.

    If you move a page, make sure the server responds with 301 for a long time to come.

    I wrote a note [astro.uio.no] with the intention of submitting it to W3C for possible publishing as a note, but their author guidelines are only open to members. Anyway, it describes the use of Apache .htaccess and Redirect directives, and what ISPs should do to expired accounts.

    Then, robots should be written to update links based on the 301 response, or remove links in case of a 410 response. This would reduce the amount of work required to keep links up-to-date.

  • I don't think that would be good. If Mickey Mouse has some utility in promoting the Arts and Sciences, the end of term could only come when there was none at all. By those rights works that have been important to culture for millenia, such as religious works, would still be copyrighted if those rules had applied. It's a worse losing proposition than long but limited (really limited) terms are for society.

    I think that very short terms, and a progressively structured manditory registration system is better.
  • Ok. I'm in college, doing the "professional student" thing. So I have a few things to complain about.
    I think the open textbook idea is awesome, but it's not going to happen.

    Why? Well...

    Firstly - 95% Professors either write their textbooks themselves, and change them every quarter, and charge obscene prices for them - OR - are "compensated" for selecting the textbook for the class in some form or another. That is abuse of power - really annoying as well. Also English teachers get a "standard" copy of a historical work; add "edited by..." add a preface, and sell the "work" for $50. Ditto.

    Second - Textbooks are too lucrative for businesses to give up. I paid close to $100 for a soft cover MATH textbook. I understand computer, history books, etc... costing money (at least someone did some research in them), but the math book is useless - all questions (no instructions) - but of course required (i.e. quizzes given from the book, no book = no pass). Hell I spent nearly $500 on textbooks

    Augh, hell, most people who read /. know this. If anyone can defend the standard practice, please respond.

    I have a shotgun, a shovel and 30 acres behind the barn.

  • I'm still puzzled why characters, whether in movies, books, songs, etc. are even considered for copyright. Shouldn't they be trademarks instead? The works that characters are featured in should be copyrighted, but unless the character itself is drastically changed by the owner, the protection that copyright affords doesn't really seem right. Trademark, near as I can tell, is meant to let a company or individual hold onto its brainchild as long as it remains associated by the public with its works. Of course, I'm in the habit of being completely wrong at times...
  • Altough LaTeX has much more structure then, say, TeX, PS, PDF, it can still be considered a hack on top of TeX. It is a myth that the LaTeX user has only to worry about the structure, because usually when you process your document, there are always some modifications you have to do on the code in order to make it look perfect. That is why so many people use packages, but packages are never "default" and are chosen by the personal preference of the user.
  • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@ear ... t ['hli' in gap]> on Monday March 05, 2001 @08:33AM (#384070)
    It's not just difficult. It's impossible. I've seen several programs that the creator thought were obvious (actually, I must admit to having written a few of them) be proven otherwise when presented to a target audience.

    The only way to check an interface is to try it on a collection of new users. Not one. A collection, one - by - one.

    I will admit that I've gotten a bit better at design over the years, but I still make wrong choices. Naive testers and stepwise refinement are the only possible answer. It's work, but it works.


    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • by Alien54 (180860) on Monday March 05, 2001 @08:33AM (#384071) Journal
    The game used to be to keep creating new works of art, new inventions, etc.

    Now the game of Lawyers, etc has been to keep changing the rules of the game, so that they are in a winning position. They keep moving the goal posts.

    Too bad that the duration of copyright and patent wasn't specified in the constitution. It would have solved a lot of these issues.

  • And if you take into account the 99.99998% of money having been made off of a copyright (as mentioned in the above article) you're basically only left with works like the Bible, Korhan (sp?), and other books, songs, and other works that have been copied, translated, and reused so many times that their authors and/or companies couldn't stop their being copied if someone so wished to do so. For instance, everyone sings the Happy Birthday song each year without paying royalties for doing so. And no amount of money will be able to hire enough people to enforce paying those royalties. So this current copyright law is out of control. I hope more 'open source' projects like this take flight and flourish.
  • Now the game of Lawyers, etc has been to keep changing the rules of the game, so that they are in a winning position. They keep moving the goal posts.

    Sounds a lot like Peter Suber's Nomic [earlham.edu]:

    Nomic is a game I invented in 1982. It's a game in which changing the rules is a move. The Initial Set of rules does little more than regulate the rule-changing process.
  • that's all i have to say.

Don't sweat it -- it's only ones and zeros. -- P. Skelly

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