Free eBooks

Graham gct3 at blueyonder.co.uk
Fri Jan 12 16:37:14 GMT 2007


On Fri, 12 Jan 2007 12:01:36 +0100
"H.J.Bathoorn" <triade-lists at zeelandnet.nl> wrote:

> If you search a bit you'll find it falls under Russian legislation.
> Under that it is allowed to offer copyrighted material for reading in
> public places like libraries. That's the trick.
[snipped]

I didn't catch the start of this thread as I'm new on the list, so the
following information might be off-topic.

I use Project Gutenberg very often to get copies of books (even audio
copes of books) which I can read in my browser or PDA.  There's a nice
picture on the webpage of an ebook on a Palm handset.  Occasionally, I
download the text and print it off to use in my university course; the
University of Kent here in the UK RECOMMENDS that students use PG as a
source for texts.

PG has as many copies as is possible at any one time of books that are
in the public domain in the USA, and this means books created by a
public body for the purposes of education, as well as books whose
copyright has expired.  PG also has a number of copyrighted works whose
authors have agreed to be distributed under the terms that PG lays
down.  The license is very much like the GPL in that it stipulates that
the content of ebooks may not change from the version in PG, and that
ebooks may be distributed freely and without cost.

Their link is http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

Nevertheless, just because the text of an ebook is in the public domain
in the USA, or because Russian legislation allows it to be read, doesn't
mean that ebooks may be downloaded to computers, or even printed, in
your country. As a principle, most countries do follow the definition of
'in the public domain' set out by the Library of Congress and the
British Library and enshrined in law by the United States.  However,
legal systems vary and it is always worth checking.

If you download a book from PG to print off as a saleable book, you are
obliged under the terms of their license to pay a small fee to PG.  I
don't know how this works in practice, but since PG still have their
digital copy online, I don't see how you could be stealing the text of
the ebook if no fee is paid.  PG could institute a case for breaking
the terms of their contract (which is a civil matter) but not for
stealing the text (which is a criminal matter). The intellectual
property rights for the most part exist with the original author, and
in the case of books out of copyright, such rights that are left do not
include the right to block the texts being distributed.  So again I do
not see how it could be considered stealing from the author.

I agree that the Linux community doesn't want to be "infected" by some
practices in the market place, but the Linux community was created out
of a desire to distribute programs freely and accessibly so we must
have a similar mechanism for texts that does not infringing the rights
(including copyright) of the writers.  The Project Gutenberg model
seems to me to be a pretty good one for ebooks.
-- 

Graham




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