Project Gutenberg Blocks Access In Germany To All Its Public Domain Books Because Of Local Copyright Claim On 18 Of Them

from the worse-to-come dept

Project Gutenberg, which currently offers 56,000 free ebooks, is one of the treasures of the Internet, but it is not as well known as it should be. Started in 1991 by Michael S. Hart, who sadly died in 2011, Project Gutenberg is dedicated to making public domain texts widely available. Over the last 25 years, volunteers have painstakingly entered the text of books that are out of copyright, and released them in a variety of formats. The site is based in the US, and applies US law to determine whether a book has entered the public domain. Since copyright law is fragmented and inconsistent around the world, this can naturally lead to the situation that a book in the public domain in the US is still in copyright elsewhere. To deal with this, the site has the following "terms of use":

Our eBooks may be freely used in the United States because most are not protected by U.S. copyright law, usually because their copyrights have expired. They may not be free of copyright in other countries. Readers outside of the United States must check the copyright terms of their countries before downloading or redistributing our eBooks. We also have a number of copyrighted titles, for which the copyright holder has given permission for unlimited non-commercial worldwide use.

That approach seemed to be working, at least until this happened to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation (PGLAF):

On December 30, 2015, PGLAF received notification that a lawsuit had been filed in Germany against it, and its CEO. The lawsuit was concerned with 18 eBooks, by three authors, which are part of the Project Gutenberg collection.

The lawsuit was filed in the Frankfurt am Main Regional Court, in Germany.

The Plaintiff is S. Fischer Verlag, GmbH. Hedderichstrasse 114, 60956 Frankfurt am Main, Germany. They are represented by the law firm, Waldorf Frommer of Munich.

The essence of the lawsuit is that the Plaintiff wants the 18 eBooks to no longer be accessible, at least from Germany. It also seeks punitive damages and fines.

Based on legal advice from its US attorneys, PGLAF declined to remove or block the items. The lawsuit proceeded, with a series of document filings by both sides, and hearings before the judges (all of which occurred in German, in the German court). PGLAF hired a German law firm, Wilde Beuger Solmecke, in Köln, to represent it in Germany.

On February 9 2018, the Court issued a judgement granting essentially all of the Plaintiff's demands.

Court's original decision (in German). [pdf]

Decision translated into English. [pdf]

PGLAF complied with the Court's order on February 28, 2018 by blocking all access to www.gutenberg.org and sub-pages to all of Germany.

The German court agreed with the publisher that since people in Germany could access Project Gutenberg files stored in the US, and freely download the 18 ebooks in question, they were making unauthorized copies in Germany, even though they had entered the public domain in the US. A recent EU-funded study showed that unauthorized copies have almost no effect on sales, and can even be beneficial, so it is likely that the German publisher in this case suffered negligible losses as a result of these downloads. This legal action is evidently more about enforcing copyright to the hilt, than about seeking redress for serious harm suffered.

The most famous among the three authors mentioned in the lawsuit, Thomas Mann, died in 1955, so his writings will enter the public domain in Germany in 2025. The fact that the publishing house is trying to stop Project Gutenberg from distributing works written between 1897 and 1920 (listed in the court documents above) shows how absurdly long the term of copyright has become -- the first modern copyright law envisaged just 14 years' protection. The lawsuit also underlines that it is always the longer copyright term that trumps a shorter one, never the other way around.

There's another important point that this case raises. As the Project Gutenberg page on the lawsuit explains:

PGLAF is a small volunteer organization, with no income (it doesn't sell anything) other than donations. There is every reason to fear that this huge corporation, with the backing of the German Court, will continue to take legal action. In fact, at least one other similar complaint arrived in 2017 about different books in the Project Gutenberg collection, from another company in Germany.

Project Gutenberg's focus is to make as much of the world's literature available as possible, to as many people as possible. But it is, and always has been, entirely US-based, and entirely operating within the copyright laws of the US. Blocking Germany, in an effort to forestall further legal actions, seems the best way to protect the organization and retain focus on its mission.

This is a classic example of the chilling effect of heavy-handed moves by the copyright industry. In order to forestall further legal action, organizations lacking resources to stand up to legal bullying often decide it is safer to over-block. In this case, the whole of Project Gutenberg is now inaccessible to people in Germany. That's a serious loss of an important public domain resource, but it's just a taste of what could become routine in Europe.

As Techdirt has reported, there is a new Copyright Directive currently working its way through the EU legislative process. One of its key elements, Article 13, is a requirement for all major sites that make user-uploaded material available to filter those beforehand to remove possible copyright infringements. Such an upload filter would not only represent a gross invasion of privacy, but could lead to sites opting to block access to users in the EU when they receive legal threats for not filtering certain material, rather than contesting the claim in court. The Gutenberg Project's experience should stand as a warning to EU politicians not to allow the copyright industry to take away people's rights to privacy and freedom of expression in this way.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 3:39am

    Not the whole story

    Yesterday I read about this story on heise.de (https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Gutenberg-org-S-Fischer-Verlag-kritisiert-Aussperrung-der-d eutschen-Nutzer-3987204.html). Here they say: "Eigentlich gehe es lediglich um die betroffenen deutschen Werke von Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann und Alfred Döblin, die man erst ohne ein Gericht zu bemühen von Gutenberg.org habe entfernen lassen wollen." So basically Project Gutenberg was notified first, they refused and then the story went to the courts.

    Perhaps this is just another "classic example" of stupid Anti-Copyright-Maximalists giving a shit about the law. But I really don't know.

    Personal opinion: While I like Project Gutenberg they clearly deserve a kick to somewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 7 Mar 2018 @ 4:08am

    Re: Not the whole story

    While I like Project Gutenberg they clearly deserve a kick to somewhere.

    Why?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 4:34am

    Re: Not the whole story

    Here they say: "Eigentlich gehe es lediglich um die betroffenen deutschen Werke von Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann und Alfred Döblin, die man erst ohne ein Gericht zu bemühen von Gutenberg.org habe entfernen lassen wollen."

    Oh! Well this clears EVERYTHING up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 4:34am

    'The Gutenberg Project's experience should stand as a warning to EU politicians not to allow the copyright industry to take away people's rights to privacy and freedom of expression in this way'

    the problem is that the European Commission isn't interested in the public but concerned only with aiding the entertainment industries, of which publishing and publishers are a part. those industries have 'aided' the commission and 'encouraged' the head to do their bidding rather than operate as an organisation 'for the good of all'. the really scarey thing is the reach these industries have and have been allowed to gain, particularly by further encouragement, this time of the courts and their officials (read bribed judges!), in order to protect themselves from having to adapt to modern times, particularly with the advent of the Internet and how far they will go to gain cash but do nothing for it or to aid the world in general! Germany is, like the USA, an example how far these industries have been able to screw the public and how far they are prepared to go to simply get 'something for nothing'. the cliche is that we, the public, are always portrayed as being 'pirates, after everything for free'! shame the industries dont look closer to home (and the artists involved not able to see what pricks they are being made of!) but then they haven't been able to look the present, let alone the future squarely in the eye for decades!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 4:36am

    Re: Not the whole story

    The 18 works in question are out of copyright in the US and have been manually restored to electronic format.
    Nothing wrong or illegal what Project Gutenberg did.

    Because someone in and because of Germany has longer copyright claims on these works and the websites to these books at Project Gutenberg are (probably auto-)translated to German the judge gave (correctly imo) in to the claims of plaintiff.

    From a small volunteer point of view it is simply easier to block a whole country than to maintain which links work in which country when.
    So simple claim meets simple solution.
    No one is satisfied.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Pixelation, 7 Mar 2018 @ 5:02am

    Does Project Gutenberg have a presence in Germany? If not, couldn't they simply tell the German courts to fuck off and go filter themselves?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 5:14am

    Re: Not the whole story

    […] these books at Project Gutenberg are (probably auto-)translated to German […]

    The books are german works by german authors, so the site probably hosts the original versions (which may or may not have been uploaded by german citizens in the first place). The decisions says its hosts german versions too, so I guess it hosts versions in both languages.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 5:22am

    They have german users (who might be responsible for the uploads) and is 'engaging' german citizens with a german-language version of their site. I think this is interpreted as 'doing business' in germany. That seems to be it.

    Then again, having german users was seemingly enough to declare facebooks real name policy invalid in germany, so who knows if they have jurisdiction?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    PaulT (profile), 7 Mar 2018 @ 5:29am

    Re: Not the whole story

    "So basically Project Gutenberg was notified first, they refused and then the story went to the courts."

    Yes, an American company was told to remove something from their service because it was not legal in Germany, and they refused because it was legal in the US. I don't see the problem here.

    "Personal opinion: While I like Project Gutenberg they clearly deserve a kick to somewhere."

    You're entitled to your opinion. But, I'd say that it's the system that forces a company to block access to 55,000+ historical texts because a company lays claim to something whose author died 60 years ago that deserves the kick.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Cowardly Lion, 7 Mar 2018 @ 6:01am

    Re:

    Technical point - no, having German language features on a website does not construe "doing business in Germany".

    German law doesn't work that way, but in any case the counter-argument would be that such features could be viewed as benefiting Swiss or Austrian users.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 6:19am

    Re: Not the whole story

    The law is the law. In Germany the publication is illegal and the "safe harbour"/fair trade etc. rules are followed. Thus, the courts interpretation is logical. The question is if S. Fisher Verlag should have taken this issue to court in the first place, given the collateral damage it predictably would cause...

    To me, the solution is the real point of contention as it is a very common reaction: When a court makes unrealistic demands, the site would rather use the nuclear option of IP-bans than spend millions of dollars on R&D to make the content 100 % compliant with every potential jurisdiction.

    When EU makes pre-vetting obligatory we may see self-censorship of the internet make Europes internet less accessible than Chinas as a result. Don't get me wrong, as opposed to China, it is still legal to break the ban by tunneling, but that is the absurd level of legal hypocricy from Bruxelles...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 6:43am

    Re: Re: Not the whole story

    it is still legal to break the ban by tunneling

    Not really. Tunneling itself is still a legal activity (unlike in China), but breaking the law while tunneling is very much illegal. That you did it while tunneling doesn't get you out of legal trouble.

    Of course, the EU (and most other groups) have long realized that it's not efficient to go after people who actually break the law, which is why we have all these efforts to create ways to punish companies when their users break the law. So you can de facto still get around this by tunneling, but only because the EU isn't interested in prosecuting you directly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 6:49am

    Re:

    Does Project Gutenberg have a presence in Germany?

    The theory among some is that any person or entity on the internet has "a presence" everywhere and thus the most restrictive law found anywhere applies.*

    (* Unless you're sufficiently big and important, then few laws actually apply)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 6:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story

    With copyright, it is the copyright owner that has to bring the action, and not the state, and that makes it too expensive to chase individuals. Also, the legacy publishers want an excuse to gain control over the Internet to remove the completion of self publishers and archives of public domain works.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    PaulT (profile), 7 Mar 2018 @ 7:12am

    Re: Re:

    ...or even German speakers who don't live in a country where it's a native tongue. Although authorities might like to pretend otherwise, there's nothing to say that instead of targeting Germany they were just targeting German speakers in the US with this content.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), 7 Mar 2018 @ 7:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story

    Hello Coward!

    why we have all these efforts to create ways to punish companies when their users break the law.

    You do know that's the most intensely stupid thing ever, right?

    You think we should sue the Dollar Store every time a person uses a cheap screwdriver for something illegal?

    You think we should jail McDonalds the moment some McDonalds customer kills their neighbor with the fossilized remains of a Big Mac?

    Just because something is "on the internet" doesn't mean it's now magical and can be done instantly. Here's an easy one: If you cannot/should not do it IRL in front of you, then the same applied on the internet.

    Think!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Annamouse3, 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:06am

    Re: Re: Not the whole story

    The project is not scans, the volunteers transcribe the books into text which is later converted into other formats. No "Original" versions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Jeroen, 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:12am

    All books still easily available in Germany....

    The problem is that determining copyright status under a life+XX regime is extremely hard. For common authors and illustrators, it may be easy to find relevant dates, but for lesser known authors, translators, writers of smaller articles , etc. such information is simply not available, meaning you may always be confronted with some claims, and the only safe course of action is to add about 150 years (100 years life expectancy, assuming an age of 20 at publication + 70 years copyright after death) to the publication date, which severly limits the appeal of the collection. (This is the approach Google follows with its scanned book archives.)

    It is my opinion that copyrights are far too long. The proper response is not to attack the publisher in question (they are just using the legal system for their profit), but to steer towards more reasonable copyright terms (say at most 30 years from first publication), that is push for political change. With this in mind, the total block also helps putting this issue on the map.

    For the affected works, they are all still easily available on the Internet Archive (https://archive.org/search.php?query=Thomas%20mann), as are many, many more. I wonder when they will be hit by a German court case. Of course, The Internet Archive foundation is much better funded, which may be the reason they first attacked Project Gutenberg to establish a precedent.

    I am not a lawyer, but wouldn't it be an idea to counter-sue in the US (where the German plaintiff clearly has a business presence) for willful obstruction of a fully legal US operation (by trying to force Project Gutenberg to pay for IP blocking services and maintaining a foreign lawyer, all things not required by US law), and claim automatic reimbursement of all costs and possible fines the foreign court my attempt to impose.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Annamouse3, 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:12am

    Re: Re: Not the whole story

    Sir, you do not seen to be able to see the point here. The project and it contents are LEGAL in the country of origin. The US is not Germany, Gutenburg is an American project thus they are not required to comply with German law.

    They should not have needed to go to court unless they maintain a presence in Germany (servers, offices or the like), I believe there are international laws that prevent or circumvent this. Can someone help me here with clarification of this thought please?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story -- now includes ZOMBIES!

    AND RESURRECTING AFTER NEARLY FIVE YEARS IT'S ":Lobo Santo"!

    Yup, prior comment to this was in 2013!

    Finding "account" zombies is now my main fun here, since the STORIES are so dull and repetitious.

    I've done enough looking to conclude that over half of comments here are sheer astro-turfing, no more real than women on the Ashley-Madison site.

    After my hooting it humorous, I mean numerous times, it's JUST AMAZING these "accounts" with huge gaps keep popping up! I'm near to concluding that are driven by "AI" that's oblivious to fact that it's BLATANT. -- You can speculate why it's let run, then. My guess is persons are keeping the experiment going, besides amazed as I am that (the few real) fanboys STILL ignore it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:16am

    Re:

    Facebook probably has offices and a business presence in Germany. Completely different situation...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story -- now includes ZOMBIES!

    Wow - a new Techdirt sport!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re: Not the whole story

    They block anonymous browsing ("Don't use anonymizers, open proxies, VPNs, or TOR to access Project Gutenberg. This includes the Google proxies that are used by Chrome. Don't access Project Gutenberg from hosted servers."). They're pretending to be a library but library assocations are generally in support of anonymity. Not really related to the story though...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    PaulT (profile), 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story -- now includes ZOMBIES!

    "My guess is persons are keeping the experiment going, besides amazed as I am that (the few real) fanboys STILL ignore it!"

    Nobody else gives a crap. It's just funny watching you lose your mind because someone decided to stop posting as an AC / log into an old/alt account to watch you lose your shit over it. I wish I had one available to be honest, it looks fun.

    The most amusing thing is that if there really are as few real commenters as you claim, then you believe you're ranting into thin air with nobody really reading what you say. Yet, you waste hours every day doing so. That says more about you than anything else on this site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story

    That can be bypassed by using the official mirrors, if you know what they are (the official list of mirrors is inaccessible due to the same error).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story -- now includes ZOMBIES!

    What? I've been busy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:32am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story

    With copyright, it is the copyright owner that has to bring the action

    Traditionally, yes, but the USA has made copyright infringement criminal (in some cases) and is pushing for other countries to do the same. And then the state can bring the action.

    And tunneling doesn't work if the server blocks tunnelled connections, as Project Gutenberg tries hard to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story -- now includes ZOMBIES!

    Nope, just been busy.

    Thanks though, I haven't been called an AI before!

    Is this one of those "takes on to know one" things?

    Are *you* an AI?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story

    Then we are talking semantics here. Since my primary point was that the nuclear option is getting used heree and the main use of Gutenberg is for legal purposes as per German law. Even if the site has banned european IPs, it doesn't make my use of the site illegal per se. Thus my use as such is legal untill proven otherwise...

    That it would de facto be almost impossible to establish if I had done something illegal while tunneling is merely a hypothetical in this case and doesn't even come close to contest the hypocricy of IP-ban as an "out of sight, out of mind"-legislation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 7 Mar 2018 @ 9:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story

    Well, I use a VPN and just downloaded "The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by Oscar Wilde". Where do you get your information?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 2:21pm

    Re: All books still easily available in Germany....

    Anything below life + 30 years will likely never happen, barring madmen stopping WTOs TRIPS agreement which is the world-wide standard for international trade (and even Trump knows US benefits economically from a copyright chapter that is over the top "copying is murder one" or "infinit copyrigh term"-insanity!).

    Even anything below life + 50 years is almost impossible to imagine with the WTC-agreement which is supported by almost 100 countries. While countries can ignore these treaties, the consequences may include severe retaliation. Btw. WTC is by WIPO, which is a US agency exported to UN under te guise of "...facilitating the transfer of technology related to industrial property to the developing countries...".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 7 Mar 2018 @ 2:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story -- now includes ZOMBIES!

    What? I've been busy.

    Hey, welcome back! You used to be a fairly regular commenter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 3:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story

    Where do you get your information?

    I clicked the "started in 1991" link from Tor Browser. The text is directly from the resulting 403. The link to the main page is working somehow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 3:47pm

    Project Gutenberg conceded this one because, face it, they can't afford to fight.

    If they could have afforded the battle, it was a no-brainer win. Lose in Germany; German court sets whopping big fee; plaintiff seizes all Gutenberg assets in Germany (i.e. zilch marks); plaintiff goes to U.S. to enforce edict and collect money; U.S. law has _very specific and stringent_ words and _extremely short_ shrift for foreign courts that make judgments violating the U.S. constitution and try to enforce them in the U.S.--nein, nicht ein pfennig!

    But that would mean spending years, maybe decades of operating funds which the organization does not yet have on legal expenses. Gutenberg can afford to shut down; it simply cannot afford to fight.

    [Caveat: I'm a Gutenberg supporter, with credits on more than several hundred contributed books--and yes, several of those books have significant German-language content. The Mann-parasites have deprived all Germans of their rightful access to all those books, thus reducing the social value of my volunteer contributions: so I take this personally. May they all die slowly--but not too slowly--of painful, disfiguring, dispicable medical conditions.]

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Rekrul, 7 Mar 2018 @ 3:52pm

    Re:

    Even governments must bow down to the highest law in the land; The Holy Church of Copyright.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    Rekrul, 7 Mar 2018 @ 3:55pm

    Re:

    Germany can always point to the MegaUpload case as setting a precedent that a foreign company can be destroyed at the behest of another country's government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Rekrul, 7 Mar 2018 @ 3:58pm

    Project Gutenberg will eventually go away when the Holy Church of Copyright succeeds in retroactively making copyrights perpetual. Almost everything in the PJ library will instantly be re-copyrighted across the entire world, leaving them with very little to share.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 4:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story -- now includes ZOMBIES!

    You are by far the biggest crybaby I’ve ever seen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. icon
    NaBUru38 (profile), 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:02pm

    Re: Re: Not the whole story

    Dear Mr/Mrs Anonymous Coward,

    The message you posted on this website not blocked for access in our country, despite being a clear violation of our sarcasm protection laws, and is therefore punishable under the laws of the Republic of Retardia.

    The judge Bigg Phatt Bozz has sentenced you for life plus 120 years of jail at the Universal Disney Bros prison, plus a fine of 666 trillion Retardisan dollars (17,000 US dollars).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. icon
    section8 (profile), 7 Mar 2018 @ 8:40pm

    It's a little ironic that Project Gutenberg isn't available in it's namesake's country of origin.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Mar 2018 @ 9:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story

    Perhaps your Tor exit node is in Germany. Many are... I guess the block works...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. identicon
    can't remember my handle, 7 Mar 2018 @ 9:18pm

    ironic that Project Gutenberg isn't available in it's namesake's country of origin

    Yep, haunted me throughout the article. Gutenberg's press, the great non-violent Leveler.

    I been bizy to; do i get a fist bump?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2018 @ 12:36am

    Germany

    Consistently the Land of Reasoned Self-Restraint, and Calmly Measured Government Action...you be you, Germany!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44. identicon
    tp, 8 Mar 2018 @ 12:51am

    Web to blame

    This is clearly a problem in the web platform. They couldn't encode laws of different countries to their technology, and thus anyone who publish anything in the web takes a risk of violating laws of other countries. A check for copyright expiration date or license file availability could be easily built into the web platform, but the authors of the technology chose not to do it, but instead impose the risks to all the users in the globe using the technology.

    Building a global network without any consideration of different laws around the countries is bound to fail, as soon as slower moving lawyers figure out what kind of horror technologies techies are building.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2018 @ 1:35am

    Re: Web to blame

    A check for copyright expiration date or license file availability could be easily built into the web platform,

    Just where are the databases recording what works are under copyright, and in which countries any licenses apply? The test may be easy to code, but the data required to get the test right is not available.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46. identicon
    tp, 8 Mar 2018 @ 2:02am

    Re: Re: Web to blame

    > the test may be easy to code, but the data required to get the test right is not available.

    There's bigger problems with the test. Once such testing is available, there will be constant demands for more accurate legal testing for all the license limitations that companies want to enforce globally. But at some point, the accurate testing becomes impossible, and the tests are failing to deliver what it promises.

    But the risks of using web platform are real.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47. identicon
    Jeroen, 8 Mar 2018 @ 2:28am

    Re: Re: All books still easily available in Germany....

    A very legalistic approach, depending on the fiction that international treaties are cast in stone. Such an hard-handed approach will have to break somewhere. Brexit was unthinkable, and legally it still is impossible: to leave the European customs union, the UK will have to introduce a hard border in N. Ireland, which it cannot do under the Good Friday agreements, an international treaty: doing so may also reignite a civil war; to leave the border open without staying in the customs union will require the UK to rescind the WTO agreements. Let's see what happens. (PS. I think the entire brexit is the summit of stupidity)

    Similarly, when enough people had enough of the current copyright rules, a democratic society will change them. Note also that the WTO TRIPS agreement are extremely one-sided: they call for free-trade, but as long as free movement of people is not included, that free-trade is a total fiction, leading to such absuses as forcing Chinese workers to work for redicilously low salaries, or allowing African mining companies to totally destroy the environment. A revision of those agreements is much overdue to make them sustainable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Mar 2018 @ 7:56am

    Re: All books still easily available in Germany....

    For common authors and illustrators, it may be easy to find relevant dates, but for lesser known authors, translators, writers of smaller articles , etc. such information is simply not available

    Not just "lesser known authors". For example, I challenge someone to find the official death certificate for Shakespeare.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49. icon
    PaulT (profile), 8 Mar 2018 @ 8:10am

    Re: Re: All books still easily available in Germany....

    Death certificate? Hell, there's still conspiracy theories over whether or not he even wrote half the work he'd credited with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50. identicon
    stephen.hutcheson@gmail.com, 8 Mar 2018 @ 5:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Web to blame

    >A check for copyright expiration date or license file availability could be easily built into the web platform...

    This is almost, but not QUITE, as well-informed a statement as "if nerds would only nerd harder, they could invent an encryption scheme that only people authorized (by the Elbonian regime currently in power) could circumvent it."

    What is it about the internet that causes people to want to expose the depths of their ignorance to as wide an audience as possible?

    I regularly attempt to determine the public-domain status of books in exactly two countries. And it aften takes longer to adequately document that status than it takes to convert the ASCII text to eBook formats for publication.

    Imagine what it would be like to clear a song recording (where the performers, composer(s), author(s), and who knows how many arrangers all have a legitimate copyright claims; not to mention every shakedown artist with a lawyer ready to stand up claiming that he's already used that beat or those two chords in his happily-forgotten drivel....) or a movie (ditto but with actors, cameramen, etc.) or an analog photograph (without any reliable record of date, subjects, or any conceivable way of tracking down the photographer).

    Imagine doing all of that for all the hundred and umpleteen countries that are connected to the internet, each with its own bizarre take on copyright or its own bizarre traditions (like the European feudal rights of all of the distant descendants to control whether their ancestor's work is being presented in the way that would maximize profits to the Baron Robber, laird of the intellectual manor; or the U.S. state laws that may still govern some sound recordings.)

    And imagine reviewing your website every times any country anywhere changes its copyright law, either by new legislation or new court case, because some countries have clawed-back material that was already in the public domain.

    And the answer isn't "metadata." The metadata usually doesn't exist, often simply cannot be generated, and is unreliable to a degree that would astonish anyone who hasn't spent as much time looking at it as I have. This is true even when there is a statotory body responsible for keeping the metadata correct and current--look at the perpetually-rolling scandal about royalties for music not being paid! And it is especially true in the Life+X copyright span imposed by current international treaties: there is, in geneal, simply no way for me to know or find out when John Smith (the photographer of Grand Canyon Game Preserve in 1911) died, assuming for a moment that I had any way of knowing who the name of the photographer was in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51. icon
    PaulT (profile), 9 Mar 2018 @ 12:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Web to blame

    "What is it about the internet that causes people to want to expose the depths of their ignorance to as wide an audience as possible?"

    We've been having fun with this guy in other threads. Believe me, he thinks that proudly displaying ignorance is some kind of special achievement.

    Anyway, you're correct in stating how complicated and how prone to error the suggested process would be. The idea that this could ever be simple is laughable, as is the idea that the current mess is somehow preferable to older systems that simply stated a certain timescale following publication.

    The problem isn't technological, it's the over-complication of copyright law that's designed to do one thing and one thing only - rob works from the public domain to profit a handful of corporations, and keep them doing that forever. Until people get that through their heads, they won't agree with reality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 9 Mar 2018 @ 2:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Web to blame

    That's not going to happen for as long as those same people continue to believe that copyright is a magic money tree to be harvested at will by rightsholders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53. identicon
    tp, 9 Mar 2018 @ 3:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Web to blame

    > Imagine what it would be like to clear a song recording (where the performers, composer(s), author(s), and who knows how many arrangers all have a legitimate copyright claims;

    To publish a work, the publisher needs to first do that exact same operation, i.e. get permission from the various parties. Usually this happens via employment contract/transferring the permission to your company, but if that is not available, the publisher needs to collect those permissions to single place _before_ publishing the work. Otherwise publishing is copyright infringement.

    This is why publishing "aggregate" works where multiple people worked independently is difficult without having a company setup. Many indie artists are working in such environments where companies are not available, so co-operation between different people have strong chance of copyright infringement / they need to be very careful with publishing what other people have created.

    > not to mention every shakedown artist with a lawyer ready to stand up claiming that he's already used that beat or those two chords in his happily-forgotten drivel....

    This would only happen if you're already extreamly popular and competing artist wants to enter your market.

    > or a movie (ditto but with actors, cameramen, etc.) or an analog photograph (without any reliable record of date, subjects, or any conceivable way of tracking down the photographer).

    They can always setup a company and let it handle all the details.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54. icon
    PaulT (profile), 9 Mar 2018 @ 4:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Web to blame

    Your first paragraph is a perfect description of why robbing work from the public domain is so odious and why the current system is such a mess that desperately needs to be fixed. It should be noted that even people who *do* go to such lengths often still get screwed if they get big enough.

    "This would only happen if you're already extreamly popular and competing artist wants to enter your market."

    Ah, the parallel universe you live in... at least the one you imagine here is more positive than the dystopian nightmare you insist everything should be in your previous comments!

    Here in the real world, what happens as often as not is that a new work appears that the authors believe/claim is original, then once *that* work becomes successful then everyone who created something remotely similar in the last 50 years comes looking for an easy pay day.

    "They can always setup a company and let it handle all the details"

    Yes, they can go to huge lengths and expense every time they wish to access something. Far easier than streamlining the process and ensuring that everything is in the public domain when it should be there according to a set of easy standards. /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2018 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re: Re: All books still easily available in Germany....

    Oh, I agree that international treaties can be changed by force (Russian annexation of Crimea) or by public demand (ACTA). But both precedents are terrible, might makes right is a war-machine in the long run and needing a widespread public denounciation to bomb the good with the bad in a deal is a severe public confidence problem for politicians.

    As for Brexit, the problem was the completely non-eexistant preparation for the election: The brexiteers had no plan and nothing was prepared by humble sir Cameron Camelot for one of two outcomes of the election. Whether EU should have let the brexiteers negotiate a possible solution to put up and/or the Cameronians needed to negotiate something tangible. As soon as you lack something tangible to put up for discussion, there is o boundary to the insanity of the campaign!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2018 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Web to blame

    >To publish a work, the publisher needs to first do that exact same operation, i.e. get permission from the various parties.

    And those parties have approached the publisher, so that is not a big problem. However 30 years down the road, after several company bankruptcies and buyouts, just finding who holds the copyright records to identify the authors is a monumental task. If there are no public records of the authors available, their names are often useless as a means of identifying them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57. icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), 9 Mar 2018 @ 8:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not the whole story -- now includes ZOMBIES!

    Thanks!

    Had a desk job back then. These days I lurk and listen to the podcast. Glad you're still busy advocating for sense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58. identicon
    tp, 11 Mar 2018 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Web to blame

    > However 30 years down the road, after several company bankruptcies and buyouts, just finding who holds the copyright records to identify the authors is a monumental task.

    This is only because you're using pirate channels who have not handled their permissions correctly. Why is there any products like this available at all, when the activity has been illegal for 120 years at least?

    The real solution is that the products which do not have active author available, will disappear from use. Once author no longer is available or refuses to give permissions, end users are not allowed to use or distribute those works, and thus their use gets smaller until it completely disappears and there will be room for newer products to take their place. If this doesnt happen, no new products are needed, and you will be using outdated stuff written in 1950's...

    When author's publisher stops selling the product, and no new permissions are given, the work should disappear from consumption, until only preservation efforts have few random copies of it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59. icon
    nasch (profile), 11 Mar 2018 @ 5:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Web to blame

    The real solution is that the products which do not have active author available, will disappear from use.

    That sounds more like a problem than a solution. You would describe the gradual loss of cultural works as a positive outcome?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60. icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Mar 2018 @ 7:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Web to blame

    "When author's publisher stops selling the product, and no new permissions are given, the work should disappear from consumption,"

    That is exactly the problem people are trying to avoid. Culture does not, and should not, depend on how commercially viable it happens to be at some random moment in time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61. identicon
    Jeroen, 18 Mar 2018 @ 4:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Web to blame

    It has always been a pet theory of me that publishers want such outrageous copyright terms just to do this: avoid competition, so they can keep milking in a world of artificial scarcity. It is the first time I see this crazy idea so brazenly advertised.

    The exact problem Project Gutenberg is trying to resolve is preservation of historical and cultural artifacts: keeping culture alive, and offering a fertile field on which new artists and authors can build. Of course, we won't be teaching electronics from books published in the 50's. That is not the point. Preserving is more than just keeping a few copies in an archive never to be touched. Preserving means that it is accessible, can be used and reused by whoever wants it, so it can stay culturally relevant (if that is what the current or future public wants).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62. icon
    PaulT (profile), 19 Mar 2018 @ 1:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Web to blame

    Even if not culturally relevant by current standards, it's still important to preserve works. Once they're lost, it's too late to realise what value they might have had to be regained. History is littered with examples of things that were considered throwaway then highly sought after once they were lost.

    As for their usage, this can and often will change, sometimes well beyond their original purpose. Teaching current electronics from material printed in the 50s? No, of course people won't be doing that. Using them as historical documents to look at how both technology and teaching methods have changed over the years? Quite possibly. Using them in ways that the original authors never intended, or even perhaps would not approve? Absolutely.

    "(if that is what the current or future public wants)"

    ...and this is ultimately the thing that the maximalists try to forget - once work is released to the public, it becomes the property of the public. There is an agreement that the public has made to forego unlimited access for a limited time, but once to encourage the creation of new works. Once it's returned to the public domain, the original author has no more say on it than Michaelangelo's descendants get to tell people where his statue of David is displayed. But, to have the public use the work in the way they wish, it first has to be accessible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Mar 2018 @ 1:22pm

    I'm located in Germany, and I only found this page and other similar pages looking for an explanation of this IP-based blocking, but reading the posts got me thinking. It really seems to be down to the difference between the internet and the lack of adequately considered international legislation, and international trade governed by laws that are easier to implement or by virtue of having been revised and revised, cover more edge cases.

    So, leaving the internet out of the equation ... there are publishers out there producing print books of works no longer under copyright. I remember buying one a while back and subsequently regretting it, as it was printed on very cheap paper with bad print quality, no proofreading for transcription typos, etc., but I guess you get what you pay for.

    If Project Gutenberg were one of these publishers, they would obviously be able to sell their books in the US (possibly for just a few cents, in the interest of disseminating the world's culture at a price anyone could afford) and also export them to other countries.

    When it comes to Germany or countries with similar copyright laws, however, they wouldn't dream of insisting on being able to sell their books there, just because they can be sold in the States, would they?

    So until internet law catches up, that's one way of looking at it. What do you think?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2018 @ 2:53pm

    This is pure arrogance by Project Gutenberg. I am absolutely sure there would have been dozens of volunteers who could have hacked blocking of these three specific authors in an afternoon. Besides, there isn't even a credible threat to them,they could safely ignore the German court. Fuck these jerks. How about you change your name?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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