The Missing 20th Century: How Copyright Protection Makes Books Vanish

This chart shows a distribution of 2500 newly printed fiction books selected at random from Amazon’s warehouses.

This is an interesting graph I saw on Linked In today.  Paul Heald, a law professor at the University of Illinois, was curious how copyrights apply to older works of literature in the new digital age.  In other words, if an outfit like Amazon publishes a long out-of-print book in digital format, can the author – or his or her heirs – claim copyright infringement?  In a speech he gave to the University of Canterbury on March 16, Heald pointed out that most books published since 1923 have copyrights.  But, he also noted that there are just as many books with copyrights in the first decade of the 21st century as there were in the decade from 1910 to 1920.  It’s a significant observation with a global impact, considering how the publishing industry is moving more and more towards digital formats.  As always, it seems standard laws can’t keep up with technological advances.

 

 

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