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O'Reilly Pushing Founder's Copyright System 134

Posted by chrisd
from the creative-commons-good dept.
alansz writes "The O'Reilly and Associates Open Books Project has been around for a while, and I've just received a letter from Tim about the next step" Read on if you are interested in the creative commons, and how O'Reilly authors are being asked to take part.
Alansz continues, "ORA authors are being encouraged to allow ORA to self-limit their copyright to the Founders' Copyright (14 years with one 14-year extension possible), and to allow ORA to distribute their out-of-print (or post-Founder's Copyright) books to the public using the Creative Commons Attribution license (you can freely copy and distribute the work and derivatives, as long as you attribute the work to the author and ORA). Author agreement is required in order for ORA to transfer rights to Creative Commons.

The letter included a handy FAQ about author options (allow assignment to Creative Commons, stick with the usual maximum copyright deal, or have three months to try to find another publisher when the book goes out-of-print and allow assignment to CC if you don't). The letter also notes that different editions of books count as different works, so your latest edition can still be selling commercially and earlier editions can be released as open books.

(For my out-of-print ORA book, I'm going to allow them to assign the rights to CC and make it freely available. It's great to see a publisher thinking about copyright this way, but it's no more than I'd expect from the good folks at ORA.)"

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O'Reilly Pushing Founder's Copyright System

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  • Software (Score:5, Interesting)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:01PM (#5575102) Homepage Journal
    It's kind of surprising little encouragement is given to the release of software under these terms. I suspect most software companies would have no problem with copyright lasting a maximum of 30 or so years. Most software seems to reach the end of its shelflife within five years of release.
    • Re:Software (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Gortbusters.org (637314) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:17PM (#5575170) Homepage Journal
      Well, I would say that 30 years is a little much.... maybe 10 years would be much better.

      The flip side of the coin is that software is incremental, unless there is a revolution in the software it will most likely take an evolutionary path. So if the copyright expires too quickly you can get a big taste of things like the Windows design and implementation.
      • Re:Software (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:48PM (#5575271)
        Would it *really* hurt Microsoft if the Windows 1.0 code went public? I can't see how -- it would probably cost more to duplicate the years upon years of incremental improvements than to reimplement ground-up; Likewise release of the original AT&T sources could in no way pose a threat to Sun's sales of Solaris.

        In any event -- the point of copyright is not to prevent the public from getting "a big taste" of how things work, but to allow the author sufficient opportunity to make money as to encourage the work's initial production. Permitting the public access to the source of 14-year-old software does little to harm copyright owners and much to widen the variety of sources available to curious tinkerers.
        • Re:Software (Score:5, Funny)

          by KDan (90353) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:57PM (#5575306) Homepage
          Are you seriously claiming that Microsoft has made enough money from Windows? I can't believe you can uphold such horrible beliefs!

          Understand this: No corporation has ever made enough money out of something. The only way that would happen would be if that corporation was the only corporation in the whole world, and made ALL the money. Then things would be right, and the world would be a happy place.

          Daniel
          • Oh, bullshit. A great many corporations only want to be monopolies (or near-monopolies) in their own fields, and have little intent of expanding out into other ones. Likewise, most don't want *all* the money -- just all the money that is spent on things for which their products are or could be a reasonable replacement. (Money is pretty useless if nobody else has any -- think about it for a moment).
            • Right, and those corporations that are satisfied without having *everything* are eventually purchased or run out of business by companies that do.

              Granted, sometimes a company wants everything and ends up merging with AOL as a result, but often they get monetary benefit instead.

          • by abe ferlman (205607) <bgtrio&yahoo,com> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @05:47PM (#5575501) Homepage Journal
            I think we're just waiting for MS to fulfill it's mission statement- a computer on every desk. Once there's a computer on pretty much every desk, they'll close up shop. Mission accomplished.

            What's that?

            Oh.

            • There are desks that don't have computers on them?
              You mean like in some incredibly poor 3rd world country right?
              • There are desks that don't have computers on them?

                You mean like in some incredibly poor 3rd world country right?


                Not to worry... I have six at home. That should help. Combine that with all the other self-respecting Geeks, and we should have the third-world countries covered. ;)

          • Re:Software (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rabidcow (209019)
            Understand this: No corporation has ever made enough money out of something.

            At some point it costs the corporation more to dig up and make a copy for distribution than anyone is willing to pay for it. When this happens, it is impossible for them to make any more money off of this product.

            Windows 1.0 probably falls into this category.

            OTOH, it also costs something to dig it up and release it for free. With books it's a little different, since the book's content is already out there.

            I wouldn't be supriz
        • Would it *really* hurt Microsoft if the Windows 1.0 code went public? I can't see how -- it would probably cost more to duplicate the years upon years of incremental improvements than to reimplement ground-up; Likewise release of the original AT&T sources could in no way pose a threat to Sun's sales of Solaris

          Even that copyright ends, it do not indicate that source of product will come available. Microsoft just can not require license (or payment) for someone using Windows 1.0.

          If source is avail

        • If Microsoft let their old Windows code out, then many people will learn how bad their code really is.

          Besides, how would Microsoft make money when legacy bugs are fixed and a superior competing product is produced.
          • Besides, how would Microsoft make money when legacy bugs are fixed and a superior competing product is produced.

            Simple: Because it would be more expensive to make a product superior to Windows XP from Windows 1.0 than to make a product superior to Windows XP when starting from scratch.

            Microsoft themselves threw out that old codebase. Why would anyone else be likely to do otherwise?
        • Re:Software (Score:5, Insightful)

          by iabervon (1971) on Sunday March 23, 2003 @01:34AM (#5577162) Homepage Journal
          If Windows 95 went public, it could be supported by other people, and MicroSoft would have even more trouble getting people to upgrade than they do now. Considering that MicroSoft's biggest competition these days is MicroSoft from the past, it's greatly in their interests to make their old software as dead as possible.
          • Re:Software (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cduffy (652)
            We're not talking about Windows 95 going public in the year 2003. We're talking about Windows 95 going public in 2009 at the soonest, or 2023 with the inevitable 14-year extension.

            '95 won't be useful in 2023 if for no other reason but that it won't be compatible with any hardware for which folks can still buy replacement parts -- it's incompatible with a good part of the hardware in most new systems now.
        • If you want to see the UNIX sources:

          Lions' Commentary on Unix 6th Edition with Source Code by John Lions

          ISBN: 1573980137

          Dan
      • Apple does this (they release the product not the code). Currently MacOS 8.0 is released free to people. Currently this is anything before 1st of Jan 1998. Have a look at what they have listed:

        http://www.info.apple.com/support/oldersoftwarelis t.html

        So if older Apple hardware you don't have to fork out dollars or break copyright to get stuff working. Although I note they don't have their old versin of unix (AUX) that ran on older hardware available :-(

  • Think Id (Score:5, Interesting)

    by absurdhero (614828) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:04PM (#5575116) Homepage
    It is pretty cool that another well known company found a way to get something out of a copyleft licensing scheme. This reminds me Id Software's similar strategy of Freeing their games after they get a bit out of date but are still useful. O'Reilly is attempting to do the same thing with books.
    One more reason why I like O'Reilly :)
    • Re:Think Id (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pseudonym (62607) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @07:43PM (#5575998)

      There's a key feature of Id's release scheme that you have to take into account, though. You can't take what Id has released and create a fully functioning Quake. That's because although they have released the source, they have not released the level files which make the game.

      That way, they can still sell the game (as part of a bargain anthology or something) if and when they want to.

      • I believe you can use demo levels and reconstruct a decent approximation of it. And if you're using some of the more comprehensive mods you might not even need any of the original textures and models outside those found in the demo.

        -A
  • What is your book? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    (For my out-of-print ORA book, I'm going to allow them to assign the rights to CC and make it freely available.

    What is your book?

  • Open Books Project (Score:5, Informative)

    by heli0 (659560) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:06PM (#5575122)
    Here is one of the more interesting entries in the Open Books Project: Free as in Freedom [oreilly.com]

  • by Eezy Bordone (645987) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:08PM (#5575129) Homepage
    That make me think not every company is a money leech. O'reilly has some awesome products and it's good to see them putting them out there for anyone (with a PC at least to start the cycle) to use.
    • by SirSlud (67381) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:50PM (#5575279) Homepage
      >That make me think not every company is a money leech.

      See, I think that when bad things happen in law, its only because people havn't realized that legislation or law that *sounds* like it will make you more money might actually not.

      Imagine if O'Reilly books are free. More people get them. O'Reilly's mindshare in the market increases, and there is more demand since more people have O'Reilly books and everybody sings the praises of the quality of their product (which, fortunately is the case with O'Reilly.) Economically speaking, this *could* make O'Reilly more in the long run. Theres also a collary here; the companys that lobby most heavily often have some of the worst quality products; they simply want to rely on law to make it easier to make money without having to worry about quality. Controlling the law with dollars is much more risk free than depending on the quality of code your employees can produce.

      I don't think its about being money leeches. All corperations have to be; its just that the ones with the balls (and confidence in their product) that figure out that sometimes letting some revenue go here and there in the interest of the public is actually *why* you might be able to bolster your bottom line in the long run.

      And thats just a round about way of saying that citizens with access to the commons are also customers; and I *think* some companies still hold onto that time honoured truth that if you keep your customers happy, they'll probably be in better shape to make more money of their own, and more likely to hand some of that over to you in the future.
  • It would be great... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gortbusters.org (637314) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:10PM (#5575138) Homepage Journal
    To start seeing a lot of old books appear online. It would create an easy way to do research, i.e. have a virtual library.

    How many times have you picked up a book for a research paper and it was dated from the 60s or 70s?

    Even then, I doubt that many people will get the extension... so we're talking 80 and soon to be 90s.
    • by HBI (604924) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (enidarapk)> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:27PM (#5575204) Homepage Journal
      I wonder how many older works are going to simply disappear due to fear of copyright infringement.

      I feel quite certain that many books from the 30's and 40's are probably gone forever. No one has translated them into online form, and the bindings are cracking and the books are going into the trash.

      I did some library cleaning in the early 80's and disposed of a treasure trove of books from this era under instructions from the military school I was getting an education from. The argument was "they are old and obsolete". Wish I could have saved them all.
      • Wish I could have saved them all.

        You could have.

        A proper OCR of a book destroys that book. Feel free to take your old, old books which are not in print, and cut & scan them in. Transfer them to a media that will last until their copyright expires, and when it does expire distribute them.

        Of course, in order to "register" a copyright (which gets you better legal protection, and used to be mandatory for any protection at all) you need to send a copy to the LIbrary of Congress--so those old books from
        • by zenyu (248067) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @08:21PM (#5576222)
          Of course, in order to "register" a copyright (which gets you better legal protection, and used to be mandatory for any protection at all) you need to send a copy to the LIbrary of Congress--so those old books from the 30s and 40s are, theoretically, stored at the LoC.

          Unfortunately that's not true. The LoC discards those two copies if the book is published, they only keep unpublished registered work on the theory that once a book is published someone is likely to hold on.
    • The problem is, even most older books are still under copyright. And it takes a large amount of effort to typeset a book. Perhaps if OCR gets a lot better, then this will start happening .. for books published before 1903 (is that the cut-off date?). I can think of a few books from that period that I might read, but not many. And none that I would bother to enter.

      Even 14 years is long enough so that practically everything will have become irrelevant. Think back 14 years ... where were you, what were y
  • Copyright trade (Score:4, Interesting)

    by koll64 (546377) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:11PM (#5575143)
    From my point of view, the whole issue about copyrighting is questionable because people are applying same rules as they are for money.

    Money is simplyfing things, of course, but the question is, if the thing which you trade for the money rather than for things you produce yourself, has the anymore same quality or will it become something different.

    Trading just things is easy, object remains object even after trade, you can still preted that it is _really_ the same object.

    Ideas are more flexible and their base value can change far more radically.
    • Re:Copyright trade (Score:4, Insightful)

      by joster (516980) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @05:12PM (#5575376)
      I'm not sure exactly what you are saying, but let me take a stab at it:

      Trading the pair of shoes that I made to my neighbor in exchange for a bag a wheat is easy. In the end I have a bag of wheat and he has a pair of shoes.

      This is different than if I exchange a book on how to make shoes for a bag of wheat. The knowledge of shoe making is more flexible and can radically change in value than a simple bag of wheat or a pair of shoes.

      (excuse me if that was a gross misinterpretation, but that's how I read it)

      Just looking at computers today, I'm not sure I agree. How much is a cutting edge Pentium 4 going to cost me today? How much is that same computer going to cost me next year? Within a short time that object significantly loses value. The same goes for ideas/books. What about the value of a book on how to operate my computer? For most people, it will be worthless in a few years. For my grandparents, however, should they have to pay a ridiculous amount for something that is valuable to them but worthless to everyone people? Or worse yet, what if this book is out of print? Take another book: The Lord of the Rings. As great literature, it will never be worthless.

      Both ideas and physical objects can radically change in value. What's great about this is that those books that are worthless to nearly everyone, including the author(s), can be availible to those that do value them.

      • Re:Copyright trade (Score:5, Insightful)

        by j7953 (457666) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @07:15PM (#5575883)
        Just looking at computers today, I'm not sure I agree. How much is a cutting edge Pentium 4 going to cost me today? How much is that same computer going to cost me next year?

        You're mixing up "price" and "value," but even if we assume that the value will be measured by looking at the price, you're still wrong: why does the price of CPUs drop? The main reasons are the devlopment of new, improved CPU designs, and advances in production technology. Those however are not physical goods but "ideas."

        In other words, the value (price) of physical goods degrades not because they're physical (that might be the case for with high wear and tear, but that's a predictable process, not a "radical change in value"). It degrades because of the invention of new products -- in other words, because of ideas.

        Also note that while physical goods lose value, the value of most ideas will increase. How valueable, for example, is the "idea" of electricity? Or the transistor? These are also both good examples of how the value of ideas can change in a very radical way, as claimed by the original poster: the invention of the transistor radically changed the value of electricity. Likewise, the invention of technologies for global-scale computer networks radically changed the value of computers.

    • Both money and copyrights are non tangable. But when you copy money you are making a fradulent representation of your self, of your value, and what you earned. Yeah, I know the government, banks, and some dishonest businesses do that all the time - but it still doesn't make it right for us to do it.

      Howerver, with copying it is a totally differnnt thing. I'd say 99.99% of people who copy music or whatever are not attempting to fradulently misrepresent themselves as the original creator, they just want to
  • by divide overflow (599608) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:14PM (#5575156)

    We ought to applaude O'Reilly for acknowledging the importance of honoring the original intent of copyright to promote innovation and the limited term of protection for intellectual property to benefit individuals. They are one of the few corporate citizens who have broken ranks to speak out against the attempts by industry to make copyrights more or less permanent. But we should also note that O'Reilly has a bit less self-interest in promoting extended copyright protections due to the nature of the majority of their publication: technical publications that have a limited shelf life.
  • Ambivalence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by weston (16146) <westonsd.canncentral@org> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:17PM (#5575168) Homepage
    I'm a bit ambivalent about this... on one hand, I like the idea of open flow of information, and think copyright periods could definitely be cut down. What the public gets out of the copyright "bargain" now is clearly less and less, and if you can't turn a good profit from a single edition of a book inside of 2-3 decades, another 4-6 decades isn't going to help (and if you can, profit in 2-3, don't just sit and coast on that).

    But under two decades.... I don't know. For one thing, if I wrote something famous, I'd want control over it long enough for a perception of it to soak into collective consciousness before it got Disney-raped or something. For another, the more substantial you make the time period you have copyright, the more you can recover risk/opportunity costs associated with a work -- or other works that didn't make it (indefinite or 75 years is waaay too long, but I don't think 30 is).

    • Re:Ambivalence (Score:4, Insightful)

      by smitty45 (657682) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:30PM (#5575219)
      I think 14 years is *plenty* of time for a copyright holder to hold control of permission over their work.

      My perspective is...if I'm an author, then I'm not going to be sitting on my hands for 14 years, soaking up the control-trip...I'll be writing more things along the way.

      I think that since the original idea of copyright (Jefferson) was 14 years way back then...then it might even be ok for it to be even less than that, since publishing is almost costless with some mediums now and instantaneous as well.
      • Re:Ambivalence (Score:5, Interesting)

        by weston (16146) <westonsd.canncentral@org> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:51PM (#5575282) Homepage
        I think 14 years is *plenty* of time for a copyright holder to hold control of permission over their work.

        My perspective is...if I'm an author, then I'm not going to be sitting on my hands for 14 years, soaking up the control-trip...I'll be writing more things along the way.


        Absolutely agree in the "sit on your hands" argument. The thing I'm anticipating... while it doesn't take much time to achieve modest success with a work, it takes a while for it to permeate most of society. So there's some financial concern with that, yes, but my bigger concern is creative/artistic. OK, so, say I'm Victor Hugo (even though there's no resemblance), and I'm just getting started and write this "Hunchback of Notre Dame" novel. It's not quite as accessible as, say, your average John Grisham novel, but it's pretty good, and a number of people like it. Disney, wanting new material, decides they like it too. They ask for film rights. I say, OK, but insist on preserving character of the book. They hum and haw, then decide they don't like me. A few years later, the copyright goes, and they do whatever they like. Mass-marketed and watered down, it goes to screen. Lots of people who might have actually liked the book the way it was get a different impression of what the story is, and decide never to pick it up.

        If the copyright is longer, the idea of the book has more time to permeate society, so people can at least compare....

        Or imagine you're Michael Crichton, and you have these books called "Jurassic Park" or "The Lost World"... oh. wait.
        • Disney, wanting new material, decides they like it too. They ask for film rights. I say, OK, but insist on preserving character of the book. They hum and haw, then decide they don't like me.

          Then make sure not to sign away exclusive film rights before Disney demands the privilege to change the basic theme of the film. Tell Lord Farquaad's minion that if Disney doesn't want to preserve the spirit of your novel, you'll take it to Warner/New Line or Fox or Universal.

        • Re:Ambivalence (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          On the other hand. If it's good stuff and still timely 14 years after you wrote it, its effect on society will increase when the material cost of adapting it/reusing it/raping it/whatever goes down to zero. Some trivial that come to mind-- When Erik Satie's music went out of copyright there were some new recordings of the original work, but also composers started adapting and playing with the material in ways they mostly hadn't before (although in many cases this wouldn't have been a copyright infringemen
      • Re:Ambivalence (Score:5, Insightful)

        by quantaman (517394) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @08:19PM (#5576211)
        Issac Asimov wrote Foundation as a series appearing in magazines and it was published in 1942 (in the magazine I don't know when it came out as a book). Due to various reasons after about a decade his total earnings for the trilogy were around $1500 (true it was the 50s but still not a lot). It wasn't until 1961 and a new publisher that he started making some good money. Now that is 19 years for a series that won the Hugo award for best all time series beating among others LOTR! And although I don't remember anything specific I think that LOTR took quite a while to start cashing in too. Now I'm not a fan of copywrites lasting forever but the fact is that when it comes to fiction books often peak late and have very long shelf lives (you're still going to find the Foundation trilogy doing well on book shelfs well over 1/2 century after its publishing). I can see reference books having short life spans and software definately deserves a shorter copywrite but I feel that for fiction it would be incredibly unjust to have too short a term and end up writing a major classic and not have any money to show for it.
        • Re:Ambivalence (Score:2, Insightful)

          by smitty45 (657682)
          This is the standard argument for most of why copyright is too long today, and for some examples, it's true. But the point can be made the other way, too. What about books that peak VERY late, like the Dead Sea Scrolls ? Yes, I'm being facetious here...just because everyone has the right to collect on writing a classic doesn't mean that we have to make a sweeping law of copyright that covers every work for 70 years plus the lifetime of the author. Without having much in the way of examples, the ability
        • I was surprised no one presented what actually happened to the LOTR and its copyright.

          Some one in the publisher's employ forgot to renew the copyright after 14 years. Within a very short time, many publishers came out with editions of LOTR. My impression ws that Tolkien's estate did not do well as a consequence of the copyright loss. I'm not sure whether Tolkien was still alive at time of the outburst of copyright-free publication; does anyone know?

          What I am sure of is that the three volumes of LOTR didn'
          • It was much more complicated than that, and, yes, Tolkien was alive. At that time the US didn't recognize British copyrights, and you couldn't get a US copyright on a paperback book unless the US edition was published as soon as the other edition. So when the British paperback of LOTR was published, and a US one wasn't, ACE came out with their own paperback edition, which wasn't bound by copyrights to Tolkien. (Then Ballentine came out with an edition that was "Authorized" by the author.) etc.

            It was pro
        • ...for writing the series of Foundation short stories, and presumably he was satisfied with the rate since he volunteered to do the work. After (and while) writing the series, he continued to work for higher and higher rate, as his talent was obvious.

          I don't see how it has promoted the state of science and art that he unexpectedly many years later got paid a second time for work already done when the short stories were collected and printed as a series.

          He was also paid a third time by doing later sequels
    • Re:Ambivalence (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, the original copyright term was 14 years, plus another 14 year renewal. So that's 28 years, which is just a hair under 3 decades. That seems reasonable to me.

      I certainly understand your point, however-- I actually think copyright is a good idea, and giving authors some control over their work for 30 years doesn't bug me (though maybe we should consider a different copyright term for computer software-- 15 years seems like a good term to me).

      What DOES bug me is the idea of people managing copyr
    • Re:Ambivalence (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DancingSword (412552)

      VERY interesting point...

      How, then, about a shorter copyright, BUT with a
      "No-one Can Harm Its Worth" period?

      Sorta:

      I publish work, non-bothering to register copyright, thereby getting minimum protection, or actually-registering it, gaining more protection.

      My right to EXCLUSIVELY-OWN the work expires after awile, but...

      For another while, it may be used only under liberal 'fair use' rules, in other words, no use that mutates it into something monstrous, and
      Community-use, rather than commercial/poli

      • Community-use, rather than commercial/political-use, for instance, and no 'community' use that reverses its intent

        The courts would just love making those kind of subjective calls. They would love it so much that they would likely declare the whole scheme invalid after the first case came up.
        • If the intent of the law is built-into it ( rather than just enacting a regulation ), then, as long as the author was able to communicate the intent, it'd have some possibility of working, in any sane legal-system...

          *cough*

          My opinion of any court-system where the judge isn't permitted to dig for justice, but has to only judge what the presenting lawyers present, though...

          Also, I hear that many civil cases are based on subjective conditions, in spite of the objection you offer...

    • Re:Ambivalence (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Selanit (192811) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @05:00PM (#5575321)
      But under two decades.... I don't know. For one thing, if I wrote something famous, I'd want control over it long enough for a perception of it to soak into collective consciousness before it got Disney-raped or something.

      On one small point, the maximum copyright period under the Founder's copyright scheme was 28 years -- 14 for the initial term plus one extension. That's a lot closer to three decades than two.

      To address your main point: if you've written something so un-frigging-believably good, the work will stand on its own. It shouldn't need babying along. Even if it does, you have just shy of thirty years to promote the work. That's longer than most parents take to launch their children into a fully independent existence. By the time the copyright expires, your work should be suitably well known.

      If it's not, then you should be glad for the free publicity that you would get from a Disney version. IIRC, they still have to credit the author of a public domain work, even if they don't have to pay you anything. Just a little "Based on $THE_BOOK_TITLE by $AUTHOR" in the credits is sure to cause some people to read it. And then they can give copies to their friends, because it's out of copyright.

      Basically, you have two different desires going on here: you want your work to make money for you, and you want it to be widely read. These two desires can be at odds with each other: maybe your book it's the best thing since the Odyssey, but the price is too high, so very few people buy it. In this case, you haven't made much money and you haven't made a splash in the collective consciousness.

      On the other hand, the two can be complementary: say your work goes public domain, and all of a sudden it's the inspiration for three new plays, two movies, a parody, and a children's book. In this case, you aren't making any money from it directly . . . but you are making a large splash. And once you've made that big splash, people are bound to ask "Well, what else have you written?" And then you can point out all the OTHER fantastic books you've been writing that are still under copyright. You HAVE been continuing to write, right? You'd have to, against the day when the first one goes out into the big scary world and leaves you behind. So now you've got the fame to go with, and your books are selling like hotcakes, and life is good.
      • Re:Ambivalence (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        IIRC, they still have to credit the author of a public domain work, even if they don't have to pay you anything.

        Nope. If it's public domain, then you can do anything you want with it, in any way you want. No credit required. (Though they might credit it anyway so as not to look bad.)
    • I'd want control over it long enough for a perception of it to soak into collective consciousness before it got Disney-raped or something.

      Keeping Disney's paws off your work can be done with "first mover" marketing, including official merchandising and licensing to a movie studio within a few years after publication. For example, J. K. Rowling is doing this with her Harry Potter series of novels about a young wizard in training. Such a "first mover" strategy doesn't need life plus 70 to be effective.

  • by Crashmarik (635988) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:28PM (#5575208)
    Its truly beautifull.

    I can't count the number of times, I have gone to the bookstore, seen a topic of some interest, and then been completely destroyed by the price of the book. Can anyone really think that pricing textbooks at over a hundred dollars a copy is anything but an attempt to rip students off. Should it require a business case justification to learn something new.

    Our whole society is becoming knowledge based, with skill and information as the new capital. If we want to continue to have a wealthy society we need to make access to knowledge easy for everyone. Dead tree models that price books to the skies will insure that we dont have a skilled or educated populace.
    • Incredibly true (Score:4, Interesting)

      by avignonpieta (646151) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:47PM (#5575267) Journal
      I couldn't say I feel more strongly about something. Before attending university, I decided to save money by taking general education and non-CS classes at a local community college. When I walked into the college bookstore with my checkbook, I looked at the books I was going to buy, and realized that I would have to take out a loan to cover the expenses! I ended up actually having to borrow about 300 dollars a quarter just to stretch my budget enough to cover each quarter's books. If only an ORA edition of Gardner's Art through the Ages was available...

      I can't count the number of times, I have gone to the bookstore, seen a topic of some interest, and then been completely destroyed by the price of the book.

      Computer books, anyone? Especially those with CDs...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      You really need to think about the cost of short publishing runs and the limited audience. The author doesn't really make very much money on these textbooks.

      Now the bookstores, they make a lot of money since the mark-up is nearly 100%, and then they but the book back at 30% of it's original value and then re-sell it at 50-60%.

      If more bookstores existed, prices could be lower (competition) and the internet has helped this. I wouldn't mind buying a textbook right from the author/publisher for $40. Buying
  • by q2a (519813) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:31PM (#5575222)

    Visit the man [stanford.edu] who is at the front lines of this battle for us all.
    "If this case has taught us anything, it is the importance of their battle."

    Viva la Resistance!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:32PM (#5575226)
    Yup, it would be useless. 14 years ago, it would be 1989, so what technology did we have then? 386s just coming into birth? I was still using my 640K 8088 with 8 MHz turbo speed. I don't think MS Windows 3.1 was officially out until 1990.

    It's a nice gesture, but effectively useless.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      C++, assembly, TCP/IP, lex, yacc, unix...yeah nothing important.
      • I'd strongly recommend against using that for anything but historical reference, the languag has changed a lot meanwhile.

        However, it was the year C got standardized, so a C book from 1989 is still relevant (C99 isn't widely supported yet).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Of course, anyone who's actually been to school would know that most of the fundamentals of computer science (data structures and algorithms, as opposed to 1337 0v4c10k1n6) have been around for over 20 years. So yes, a computer science book from the 80s could still be useful today. Plus don't forget that not everyone can afford to blow $100s on the latest and greatest hardware the minute it comes out - some people (remember, there are people other than iraqis beyond the great seas) have to use older hardw
    • by puddytat (120371) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @05:28PM (#5575429) Homepage
      Don't just think about subjects such as "how to use windows 3.1". There are books about CS theory which don't become outdated so quickly.
      For example, I am not sure how old "the Art of Programming" is but I am sure that it will still be quite usefull in 14 more years.
    • by weston (16146) <westonsd.canncentral@org> on Saturday March 22, 2003 @05:42PM (#5575483) Homepage
      Yup, it would be useless. 14 years ago, it would be 1989, so what technology did we have then? 386s just coming into birth? I was still using my 640K 8088 with 8 MHz turbo speed. I don't think MS Windows 3.1 was officially out until 1990.

      Some things, yes, but then there's things like McConnel's Code Complete, or Numerical Recipes, or Knuth's Art of Computer Programming.

      Granted, O'Reilly doesn't sell a whole lot of these things. Though they do have a vi pocket guide. :)
    • The computer science textbook I've learned most from was published in 1959, I think. The technology may be obsolete, but until the physical nature of the universe and the human mind changes, the concepts are still valid and valuable.
    • Will all due respect (AC's are still due respect, right?) I think you're missing the point. 14 years is a long time in any universe, be it computing or otherwise, but it is still a much SHORTER time than infinity (or, death+70+whatever Congress extends it by next time).

      Yes, 14 year old books will be "somewhat out of date". BUT ... it's starting to rebuild the creative commons, and it's a step in the right direction.

  • Does anyone actually have a license drawn up for this? I guess O'Reilly's using CC's thing, but that's not open to everyone.
    • Re:License? (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      How is it not open to everyone? You just go to their site [creativecommons.org], fill out a questionaire about what type of licence you want, and then link your work to the appropriate licence. Seems pretty accessible to me.
    • Re:License? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jungle guy (567570)
      Yes, someone has. The Creative Commons project has it writen here [creativecommons.org]. They have published a many other licenses in late 2002, with the intention to create degrees between full copyrights (the "all rights reserved) and public domain. Acording to their website

      We take inspiration from other folks interested in promoting the sharing of creative works. Foremost among these is Richard Stallman, founder of The Free Software Foundation and author of the General Public License, or the GNU GPL. We want to complement

    • Re:License? (Score:4, Informative)

      by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @10:33PM (#5576699) Homepage
      The GFDL and OPL are the two main, standard licenses. You can find out about them by Google searching.

      I guess O'Reilly's using CC's thing, but that's not open to everyone.
      I think you're misinformed. CC isn't a license. CC offers a variety of licenses. They machine-generate a license to give the author whatever license terms she wants.

  • by vadim_t (324782) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @04:41PM (#5575251) Homepage
    This is what I've been wondering for a while. Say I write a program, and in X years it becomes public domain. But what happens with things like the Linux kernel? Will it ever become public domain, or copyright will last until people stop updating it for X years?
    • Say I write a program, and in X years it becomes public domain. But what happens with things like the Linux kernel?

      That what is written X years ago becomes public domain. Linux 0.9 is not same than Linux 2.5.

      • The parent post is correct. Also, copyrights essentially don't expire any more. The last copyrights to expire in the U.S. were from 1922. All copyrights from 1923 and on will probably exist forever, since Congress shows every intention of making copyright into a permanent entitlement. Every time the 1923 batch comes up for expiration, they just extend the term again.
  • by eggboard (315140) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @05:23PM (#5575411) Homepage
    Interesting to see this story, because I just had a disaster in giving away the electronic edition of Real World Adobe GoLive 6 [realworldgolive.com]. Peachpit Press published the book in March 2002, and we had the rights to release it electronically, for fee or free, and with the sales of the title low, we decided to give it away.

    Unfortunately, I hosted the book on a server run by a friend at a Level 3 co-location, which charges by the 9th busiest hour. In 36 hours, we had 10,000 downloads of an average of 20 Mb each. Right. So we hit potentially a $15,000 bill for the ninth busiest hour being 16 Mbps (the first 1 Mbps was included in his monthly bill).

    So I'm screwed here, of course, and trying to raise a dollar or two from folks who downloaded the book and found it useful. We don't know the final bill, and we don't know whether Level 3 will negotiate. This is more like a natural disaster than a business decision.

    If I'd been smart, of course, I would have distributed the download to many sites with no bandwidth fees or limited numbers of simultaneous users. I just thought we'd get a few hundred downloads. Not 10,000.
    • by GeorgeH (5469) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @05:39PM (#5575476) Homepage Journal
      First off, it's very cool that you released your book as such. I saw a link off of BoingBoing [boingboing.net] saying that you released your book for free and reaction seemed very favorable. That said, next time (assuming there is a next time) you should release your book on a P2P network (such as Freenet [freenetproject.org]) and direct everyone to search the network for your book. The more people who download it, the more available it will be. Encourage people to mirror it on their own servers for WWW access and you can save yourself a world of hurt.

      Maybe you could make back some of that $15,000 by writing about how to release something for free to the audience and the publisher...
      • You're exactly right, although a P2P network would only be part of it: someone without access to the client software should still be able to download the book. Or I can encourage folks using the P2P network to also host. That's started to happen. The ancient Info-Mac archive agreed via a colleague to host the file, so it's already been mirrored onto 20 or 30 sites, and I'm using a script to round-robin select one of those locations for the current download page.

        I'll be making a tiny tiny amount of money wr
        • You're exactly right, although a P2P network would only be part of it: someone without access to the client software should still be able to download the book.

          I've seen situations where the P2P client is built into a browser plugin or Java app. For an example of this, see the Open Content Network [open-content.net], which provides distributed downloading free for content under an approved license.
        • You're exactly right, although a P2P network would only be part of it: someone without access to the client software should still be able to download the book.

          Um, whether you download a book via WWW or P2P you still need client software to do so. It's just that (currently) a lot more people have a browsing client than a sharing client. I suggest placing the book on gnutella and freenet, and giving download links to both the book and some P2P clients?

          Advantage of freenet over gnutella is that anyone

    • Donation made. Now who else will kick in a couple of bucks for someone doing a good thing?
    • I feel your pain. I just had to upgrade the webhosting for my own free books [lightandmatter.com], and it's not cheap. However, I sell printed copies, so for me it's just an advertising expense.

      Another possibility is to use a certain feature of Apache, which lets you throttle bandwidth. For example, you can set up Apache so that any file greater than 3 Mb in size is only served up at a bandwidth like that of a modem. This might discourage some looky-lous who have fast connections and would otherwise just download the book, say

      • mod_bandwidth (Score:2, Informative)

        by jpkunst (612360)

        Another possibility is to use a certain feature of Apache, which lets you throttle bandwidth

        mod_bandwidth [cohprog.com]. I have used it succesfully to prevent automatic downloaders from taking over our webserver.

        JP

  • Knuth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nagora (177841) on Saturday March 22, 2003 @07:53PM (#5576059)
    I wonder what Knuth would think of this; he's one author in computing that would be affected by this; many (including ORA's) would not.

    TWW

  • by Anonymous Coward
    As ORA specializes in technical publications, published material can become dated fast. When older material becomes freely available due to an expired copyright, ORA will be able to include that material royalty-free in the next generation of publications. No need to negotiate with the earlier authors, just pay someone to update the material.
    • Every ORA contract I've signed has included a clause that if they do a new edition of your book, you have right of first refusal to author it. If it gets included in someone else's work, you get a cut proportional to the page count used. IANAL, but I don't think those contractual terms change even if the book goes out of print or gets released to the public under a different license.
  • Perhaps this is where we need to focus when worrying about copyright length. If businesses can make rational decisions on their own, we don't have to waste our time with the government. 1. Company's confident in their products voluntarily release them after a reasonable time 2. Customer's reward these company's with their business 3. profit
  • by arvindn (542080)
    This is almost exactly what I was wishing for [slashdot.org] a while ago.

    Now if this idea takes off, and is adopted even outside the realm of book publishing, the world will be a much better place.

    • Re:Wow (Score:2, Funny)

      This is almost exactly what I was wishing for [slashdot.org] [slashdot.org] a while ago.

      Now if this idea takes off, and is adopted even outside the realm of book publishing, the world will be a much better place.

      Hey! Prior art! Business Process!! You could patent this! And then charge people royalties for going into public domain! And....

      Why is everyone looking at me like that?

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