Critical Linking: April 16, 2012

 

In a statement, he says that in the EU, “there is a provision in law that the first person to publish previously unpublished material entering the public domain acquires economic rights equivalent to copyright for a period of 25 years”. He says he temporarily holds these rights in trust for “scholars, librarians and artists”. He adds: “To make the situation explicit, I will make over to the Irish State such rights in the Joyce text in the Ulysses documents that I have acquired.” Mr Rose indicates he decided to publish the manuscripts at this time in order to forestall any less well-disposed party acquiring the rights and exercising a strangle-hold over Joyce scholarship.

Copyright law is so messed up.

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If Penguin is going to become an “attention marketer,” it will quickly realize that the biggest opportunity is to convert the $7.50 it earns from me into a bigger number. Let’s propose that Penguin now makes its entire Classics series available to individuals in electronic form for a subscription of $50 a year. The first reaction by a publisher to a suggestion like this is, we can’t give all those books away for that price! But of course you are only “giving away” what a reader has the time to consume.

Such a good point. I would buy, say, a collection of essential Latin American novels for a bulk price just so I could have them at my disposal. Cut me a break on “full price” and you can get money out of me that you wouldn’t anyway.

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But competition isn’t only about price. It’s about pushing companies to improve their services, or the technology they offer. When it comes to books, it’s about ensuring access to ideas. It’s certainly about more than just dollars and cents. 

Here’s where the argument falls apart. Anyone  with internet access can publish their ideas, virtually free of charge, to the entire world. Publishing is a caretaker of ideas in about the same proportion that a multiplex is the caretaker of visual art.

 

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