Stealing from the Public Domain

Everybody is talking about “illegal copying” (most often in propagandist terms like “stealing” or “piracy”), but nobody of the opposite: Taking a work in public domain and slapping your copyright-notice over it; something which very much borders on plagiarism. And of course asserting to have a copyright on something which you are not entitled to is also a violation of copyright.

The very funny thing is, there is a repository of thousands of books whose copyright is violated this way. It’s Nowhere else, such a mass of works wrongly tagged “copyrighted material” can be found.

An example? Captain Frederick Marryat died in 1848, yet a search for his books returned one of his books featuring a copyright notice from the 21st century. How the bloody hell does this publisher think he can slap a copyright notice on it? or another one: A Young Sea Officers Sheet Anchor, 1819. Note the “copyrighted material” on each and every page — well, of those few available that is. The Author Darcy Lever died 1839. Well ye, those authors are relatively unknown, what about the literary heavy-weights? Goethe! His Die Leiden des Jungen Werther is of course not downloadable from google, tough they indexed the whole content.

Google Booksearch is of course in some ways only the messenger. The real problem really being rogue publishers assuming copyright on one hand, and publishers bullying Google and the rest of the world about “respecting” copyright (which, as we see, may or may not be theirs). Of course, “do no evil” Google helps them by craving in and taking the easiest approach of assuming everything is copyrighted.

Addendum: As I’ve learned, this is actually known, and there is a word for it Copyfraud

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