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Free the Books

conjugating international copyright laws
As a Google Library Partner , The University of Texas Libraries will digitize at least one million books from the Libraries’ unique collections, starting with our Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection. This rich collection holds over 800,000 titles about and from Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Librarians, faculty and alumni acquired these works by gift, exchange and purchase over eight decades to create a comprehensive collection to support teaching and research at the university.

Current technologies enable us to provide virtual access to these collections for study anywhere, but a tangle of international treaties and copyright laws complicates our use and distribution of foreign works. There is little guidance to help us reliably identify which of our books are already in the public domain so we are piloting a project to develop new tools for ourselves and for anyone who wants to tackle these difficult public domain problems. We will document our process, our progress and our results on these pages along with links to web resources we find useful. We invite suggestions and comments from other Google Library Partners and anyone undertaking similar or related projects. Comment on our posts.

Email us at freethebooks@gmail.com. We are here; we are building an evidence base and we are looking for virtual partners!

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 / conjugating international copyright laws

Golan v. Holder gets a second wind

As Lessig described it, “from the there’s-no-way-in-hell-you’ll-win-that-one department,” the case challenging the US roll-back of public domain status for foreign works that entered the pd here because their copyright owners failed to comply with US formalities at a time we had them, has gotten new life. Golan v. Holder (the defendant is always named as [...]

Air and Simple Gifts: Public domain shines within latest compositions

I was so happy all day long on Tuesday, watching the country, indeed the world, watch us welcome a new administration. One of the high-points was the fabulous rendering by four of the world’s finest musicians (even if they recorded it in the warmth) of John Williams’ composition, “Air and Simple Gifts,” based on the [...]

GBS is a worrisome development…

The buzz about Google Book Search (GBS) seemed to be dying down but then suddenly there are four articles in a week. Regardless of their numbers, behind the news stories work no doubt continues full tilt to realize the settlement’s potential. I just want to find out how the story ends. If there were a [...]

Jamie Boyle’s case for believing in the possibility of legislative change

Well, I just wrapped up Jamie Boyle’s book, The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. Cory Doctorow has a nice review at Boing-Boing, so I want to talk about something a bit more specific. I am struck by how forcefully he makes the point in his last chapter that communicating complicated and difficult [...]

Building on the corpus of the free and digital public domain !

Lessig links to a very cool new application that builds on the corpus of freely available public domain materials about our government representatives. It’s called apture, and there’s a little video that shows how it works on other people’s sites to allow you to see lots of information sources pulled together for a particular person, [...]

Woo-hoo! Jamie Boyle’s new book is out with a CC license!!

Go right now! The Public Domain – Enclosing the Commons of the Mind is out, it’s for sale and for free pdf download, with explanations of why downloading the whole book makes sense, not just to Jamie (well, duh), but to Yale University Press too. Go go go. We’ll talk about it later.

Another go at Orphan Works legislation

As I have indicated on many occasions, our work to determine public domain status of our digitized Benson volumes merges seamlessly into work to determine orphan work status. We pursue this inquiry even in the absence of legislative relief from the draconian penalties copyright law provides for infringement. I guess I feel strongly that one [...]

Our Google Book Searches…

We are just as frustrated as our readers about not being able to access TEXTS that are clearly in the public domain but for various reasons the books in which these texts are found are bound up by copyright. These books end up on your computer screens as SNIPPETS.   The complexity of several cases [...]

Rescuing orphans from obscurity

  Orphan works are those books, records, images, compositions, manuscripts, movies, screenplays, paintings and drawings — in short, any work protected by copyright — whose owner cannot be determined, located, or who does not respond when contacted. We have always had orphan works, but a number of factors have converged to turn their existence into [...]