The Internet Archive Liberates a Mountain of Materials Published Between 1923-1941

Why they are calling it The Sonny Bono Memorial Collection.

The Internet Archive (in my book, one of the few “wonders of the internet”) is now using a little known, and perhaps never used, provision of US copyright law (Section 108h) which allows libraries to scan and make available materials published 1923 to 1941 if they are not being actively sold. (Note: While I am not an anti-copyright advocate, I believe that certain types of copyrights should sunset in 14 years, renewable once if the copyright holder took actions to renew it. That’s 28 years. Okay, round it up to 30. But forever? At the bottom of this post, there’s a link to two articles I wrote on SmallBusiness.com about Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and their beliefs on the topic.)

Quote from the Internet Archive blog:

Elizabeth Townsend Gard, a copyright scholar at Tulane University calls this “Library Public Domain.”  She and her students helped bring the first scanned books of this era available online in a collection named for the author of the bill making this necessary: The Sonny Bono Memorial Collection. Thousands more books will be added in the near future as we automate. We hope this will encourage libraries that have been reticent to scan beyond 1923 to start mass scanning their books and other works, at least up to 1942. (…)

 

If the Founding Fathers had their way, almost all works from the 20th century would be public domain by now (14-year copyright term, renewable once if you took extra actions).

 

Some corporations saw adding works to the public domain to be a problem, and when Sonny Bono got elected to the House of Representatives, representing part of Los Angeles, he helped push through a law extending copyright’s duration another 20 years to keep things locked-up back to 1923. This has been called the Mickey Mouse Protection Act due to one of the motivators behind the law, but it was also a result of Europe extending copyright terms an additional twenty years first. If not for this law, works from 1923 and beyond would have been in the public domain decades ago.

 

Today we announce the “Sonny Bono Memorial Collection” containing the first books to be liberated. Anyone can download, read, and enjoy these works that have been long out of print. We will add another 10,000 books and other works in the near future.

 

Professor Townsend Gard had two legal interns work with the Internet Archive last summer to find how we can automate finding appropriate scanned books that could be liberated, and hand-vetted the first books for the collection. Professor Townsend Gard has just released an in-depth paper giving libraries guidance as to how to implement Section 108(h) based on her work with the Archive and other libraries. Together, we have called them “Last Twenty” Collections, as libraries and archives can copy and distribute to the general public qualified works in the last twenty years of their copyright.

Sidenote by Rex: Here are a couple of articles I wrote a few years ago for SmallBusiness.com about the founding fathers, patents, and copyrights.

Benjamin Franklin Never Sought a Patent or Copyright

Thomas Jefferson’s Views on Patents and Intellectual Property Rights

U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index

A database and search tool that provides the most recent cases and decisions related to different facets of fair use.

Search_Cases___U_S__Copyright_Office

I ran across the U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index recently. Since my legal training is from the Jackass School of Law, I’ve never attempted to dive into the deep end of legal research. But the approach of this search tool uses is tightly focused on the most recent cases relevant to the many different facets of fair use. It’s one of those hidden-gem resources you can find on government websites when you are looking for information that’s more than the Wikipedia version.

How the U.S. Copyright Office describes the Fair Use Index:

The Fair Use Index tracks a variety of judicial decisions to help both lawyers and non-lawyers* better understand the types of uses courts have previously determined to be fair—or not fair. The decisions span multiple federal jurisdictions, including the U.S. Supreme Court, circuit courts of appeal, and district courts. Please note that while the Index incorporates a broad selection of cases, it does not include all judicial opinions on fair use. The Copyright Office will update and expand the Index periodically…

For each decision, we have provided a brief summary of the facts, the relevant question(s) presented, and the court’s determination as to whether the contested use was fair. You may browse all of the cases, search for cases involving specific subject matter or categories of work, or review cases from specific courts. The Index ordinarily will reflect only the highest court decision issued in a case. It does not include the court opinions themselves. We have provided the full legal citation, however, allowing those who wish to read the actual decisions to access them through free online resources (such as Google Scholar and Justia), commercial databases (such as Westlaw and LEXIS), or the federal courts’ PACER electronic filing system, available at www.pacer.gov.


*By coincidence, “non-lawyering” was my major at the Jackass School of Law.

Mygazines.com’s creator responds to critics with incomprehensible buzz-speak

If you follow my link blog, you may have caught my comments about the “Anquilla-based” “magazine-sharing” website, Mygazines.com. For the record, technically, what is being shared are PDFs of magazines and magazine articles, not actual magazines.

My comments have basically been, “I wonder when they’ll be shut down.” Last week, Folio: reported that the consumer magazine trade group MPA has threatened legal action against them. Today, the website’s creator who is conveniently named John Smith sent an e-mail to the Press Gazette, suggesting the site is a service to the magazine industry.

Quote:

“We have every intention of working with the industry to provide not only revenue streams that are vast, but also an answer for the publishers in general. Our method will increase current revenue, halt and reverse advertising revenue lost to the internet, and overcome the lack of the ability for magazines to stay current.”

Mr. Doe, I mean, Smith, goes on to say:

“We have ways of drawing revenue from a number of sources, some more obvious than others. Mygazines is hardly a pirate website with the interest of breaking the industry. Rather, we offer a paradigm shift that is far more fiscally comprehensive than meets the eye and yet easily transitionable by even the biggest publishers.”

Had it not been for that e-mail, I think I could have dreamed up some “information wants to be free” philosophical defense for Mr. Smith. I would have said Mr. Smith is just catching the whole Free wave.

But then he had to write an email using phrases and words like paradigm shift and transitionable. I think anyone who uses the term “fiscally comprehensive” should be sued.

Note of irony: The idea of physical “magazine sharing” is, ironically, not something that magazine publishers discourage. If Mygazines.com were a service that, say, facilitated you sharing a print magazine with your co-workers or friends — for instance, a BookCrossing for magazines — magazine publishers would be applauding the efforts as any sharing of a physical magazine helps increase the “pass-along” readership of the magazine, and thus enables the magazine to tout a huge “readership” number for the magazine, sometimes many times more than its actual circulation. Obviously (at least as it would seem from the MPA’s action), when it comes to a PDF of the magazine, publishers don’t see the value of pass-along readership. I guess it’s because such pass-along can’t be measure scientifically like, say, the way they scientifically audit physical magazine pass-along readership. (Yes, that was also irony.)