Tuesday, February 1, 2011

IP Law, Copyrights, and Ebooks

As I'm focusing my project on technology and the publishing industry, exploring Internet Copyright laws regarding ebooks and digital publications was extremely intriguing. While looking through the copyright restrictions listed on the CreativeCommons website, I began thinking about the implications of those laws on the meaning we attribute to certain publications. The most common guideline was that an author's works are not considered public domain until either 90 or 120 years after their death. What does this indicate about the value placed upon an author? Does this indicate that an author's works are somehow inherently devalued 120 years after their death? Or is the law more about an author's rights to make a profit. If this is the case, shouldn't their family be entitled to the profits later on? The whole issue prompts a slew of questions that I intend to investigate further in my project.

I also thought it was interesting that we have more access to works published in various other countries than in the U.S., provided that a language translation is available. Copyright laws do not often apply to or are not as harsh on works from other countries. What does this say about America? Does this result in Americans being more knowledgeable about artistic works from other cultures? Or maybe this is an indication that America values its own work more than that of other countries. Whatever the answer, the implications of these laws are extremely interesting.

During my investigation, I looked on the websites Project Gutenberg and Ebooks.com. Project Gutenberg is a nonprofit website that functions with the goal of providing free ebooks for anyone to download onto kindles, ipads, etc. They seem very dedicated to the idea of the free circulation of creative works online. While on their website, they discussed libraries and how they aspire to be a comprehensive online library. This certainly applies to my publications project. I began thinking is this the future of the library? It makes sense, a completely free database that one can access at any time without a library card or overdue fees. Yet, what is being lost? I have to wonder whether these books that the Project Gutenberg website says are printed in a "Plain Vanilla Format" have aspects of form missing. Often, especially in poetry, form and presentation of the words on the page are important to the piece...do online publications take these elements of reading away? I also began to wonder what happens to the ability of writers and artists to make a profit when these works are posted online. I can see pros and cons: on the one hand, writers are probably more easily published and generate a wider audience using online publications, but without copyright laws, how do they make a profit? How much does free circulation affect their well-being and their ability to make a living?

As I begin to investigate the transition from paper publications to digital publications, these questions will surely need to be researched further.

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