A friend of mine, “Kate”, does graduate studies on rhetorics and composition. Like me, she was disappointed in the verdict in Eldred v. Ashcroft. Here’s what she said:
Yesterday I talked to [the program head] about a project she wants to start to get all the important historical texts for our field online since everything is going out of print… But it sucks because all the publishers are sitting on the copyrights.
But a lot of stuff is available…it’d just be a big project to get it all online. She wants to organize it so that each of the major programs will take responsibility for specific texts so all of it together will make sense and give the field a shape we want, instead of waiting to see what the publishers decide will be available for new people in the field to have access to.
Her book won all the major awards in our field and it was online in print for 2 years. It’s ridiculous.
One of the owners of the publishing co. died and his family doesn’t intent to ever publish the books again and they still won’t even sell the copyrights back to the authors.
That’s just one story. An entire academic field of study is damaged by a copyright system that lets publishers keep works they deem unprofitable out of the hands of the public for longer than a human lifespan.
What would happen if we were to collect thousands of similar stories from thousands of other fields? Could the damage be undone?
Would it? Could it? Should it?