I have to admit that I had no idea that the Marxist Internet Archive
was even a thing, but apparently it is. And it's in the midst of a copyright fight, because some folks representing publisher Lawrence & Wishart -- who, it should be noted, declare themselves as "independent radical publishers" -- have claimed a copyright on many of Marx and Engels' works
, and forced them offline
. To be fair, the book they're concerned about is the Marx/Engels Collected Works
, which was translated and put together over the past few decades -- meaning that new and unique elements of it may very well be under copyright. However, the underlying material, written in the mid-19th century, is absolutely
in the public domain. And, yes, the Archive says that other translations of many of the same works will remain online, but the whole thing seems bizarre -- especially given the general views of Marx and Engels. Amusingly, Scott McLemee at Crooked Timber has a decidedly capitalistic suggestion for why L&W might want to reconsider:
Somehow it has not occurred to Lawrence & Wishart that, by enlarging the pool of people aware of and reading the Collected Works, the archive is actually expanding the audience (and potential market) for L & W’s books, including the somewhat pricey MECW volumes themselves, available only in hardback at $25-50 per volume. I’m stressing the bottom line here, given that the press’s decision is rational only on the narrowest conception of it.
Separately, he points out that economists at the other end of the spectrum seem to get this point pretty clearly:
About the time the Marxist Internet Archive announced that it would be taking down all the MECW material, Corey and I both, by coincidence, were ourselves of radically under-priced materials from the enemy’s publishing apparatus. He’d received an order containing dirt-cheap copies of Bastiat from the Liberty Fund, while a day earlier I had downloaded free digital editions of the major Austrian School books on theory of value and the socialist-calculation debate from the Mises Institute website. There’s more to neoliberal hegemony than loss-leader pricing, but as ideological combatants those people know what they’re doing.
I do find it amusing, at times, when we talk about the importance of free as an economic concept, and how copyright abuses can cause serious problems -- and then have people accuse us of being "communist." To me, a centralized system of government granted monopolies that is used to stifle speech can, in many ways, be seen as much more communist than the alternative free market approach that I believe in. And now, it appears that the major supporters of Marxism apparently agree with the idea that copyright is a fundamentally Marxist approach -- so much so that it means that no one can share Marx's works!