The threat of copyright claims to the web

An article in the Daily Mail today makes grim reading for every website author, if you pay attention and ignore the “eBook” angle:

eBook pirates cash in on Kindle sales boom as thousands turn to rogue sites for cheap downloads

… there are fears that their profits could be hit by a the sheer number of pirate eBooks available to download for free.

Creating pirate copies of published books is simple and can be done using a computer and a scanner in a relatively short period of time, or by converting the file format of a ‘bought’ ebook.

Freely available software which people can download to their home computers is able to convert just about any document file for reading on a Kindle or other ereader.

The Publishers Association issued 115,000 legal threats to websites to stop them offering free pirated books in 2011, a rise of 130 per cent on 2010.

Publishers are in talks with the Government and Google to find ways to combat the trade, which breaches their copyright.

They have asked Google to demote pirate websites to ensure they do not appear at the top of web searches for consumers looking to find eBooks. Pressure is also being put on internet service providers to shut down pirate websites.

The context put on this by the story is the piracy of just-published eBooks.  But the real story, for all of us, is the crackdown on copyright online. 

Remember that the publishers’ lobby has passed law after law that increases the term of copyright to absurd lengths — in the US it’s now about 95 years, in the EU it’s life of the author plus 70 years. 

What the publishers want, then, is the technology which will allow them to enforce all the worthless copyrights on long-out-of-print books, by allowing them to screw over websites that have put material from them online.  Amateur websites like myself will have very little defence against such claims.

The material that I have placed on the web is all out of copyright in the USA, to be the best of my knowledge.  I have always steered clear of doing anything liable to impact the profits of a publisher (although this is mainly because I actually do want those publishers to make money publishing Patristic texts, so that they publish more!)

But I confess all this makes me nervous.   The publishers are “in talks” with government, are they?  Well, website authors won’t be asked to those talks, of that we may be sure!

2 Responses to “The threat of copyright claims to the web”


  1. ikokki

    There is one “magic” copyright that is pushing back the extent of all: Mickey Mouse. Disney today makes some 20+% of its revenue from Mickey & Co and in order to maintain this are lobbying for copyright time extension, making economically worthless but scholarly valuable works out of reach. Do not be surprised if US copyright is further extended ca. 2023 (Steamboat Willie + 95) and EU copyright around 2036 (Walt Disney + 70)

  2. Roger Pearse

    I’ve heard about this also. It really is outrageous that a lobby should be able to mess up all of our lives in this way.