Copyright alert

David Langford warns:

7 November 2021 Today I discovered something I’d have kept back for Ansible if not for the December deadline involved. The National Library of New Zealand quietly announced in July that it’s giving a huge tranche of discarded books from its overseas collection to the Internet Archive, which will digitize them all and put them online. In October it was revealed equally quietly that authors who’d rather not be pirated have until 1 December to opt out. See here. I downloaded the immense spreadsheet of 428,232 titles and found only one by me. But 46 by or edited by Robert Silverberg; 24 by Michael Moorcock; several by Chris Priest; many more still-in-copyright titles. Author friends may want to check for their names.

That’s a scary thought for those who depend on copyright protection to restrict the pirating of their books, and protect their income stream.  It seems that New Zealand law may allow the circumvention of such protections in the case of a donation like this.

If you have bestselling books, and/or you have author friends who do, you might want to check out the list for yourself, and perhaps alert your friends to do the same.

6 comments

  1. “Put them all online” doesn’t mean freely give them away. Books still under active copyright are available under archive.org’s restricted borrowing program, where you may either log in and read for one hour, or use their decryption app to temporarily be able to read the downloaded book — same as what public libraries are doing as an online presence.

    I am reminded that most library discards go to the dump and are lost forever, and have a hard time considering *any* preservation as a bad thing.

    1. Agree. At least they’re still available and not being erased. It’s heartbreaking to hear stories of libraries de-accessioning and putting classics and everything else (including recent titles!) into dumpsters.

  2. It looks like around a quarter of these were published prior to 1923 and are in the public domain (at least in the US). Additionally many other books were published outside the US where copyright protection is shorter.

    I write history. A donation like this is pure gold for me. Sources. These are books I would be getting through interlibrary loan by the normal course of things. Internet Archive shortens the period between learning about the book and actually reading it.

    My preference would be for copyright to expire after no longer than 70 years, If an author or publisher cannot get their money out of the work after 70 years, it is not worth locking away in copyright.

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