Making money from my efforts; but do I care?

A Google search for Pionius reminded me that, back in 2006, I had scanned the late Life of Polycarp by ps.Pionius — it is probably 4th century — and added it to my collection here.

What I did not expect was to find the same item for sale on Amazon, here and here, added in April 2010.  The US item is $1.17; the UK one has a price of £0.77.  The item has been converted into a Kindle-format piece.  I wasn’t able to work out who created these.

This doesn’t happen very much, but it always rocks you, slightly.  I scan and upload material to make it freely available.  Somebody here is making money from it instead.

Some people would be very angry about this.  If anyone should profit, goes the argument, it should be the person who did the legwork.  “The worker is worthy of his hire” and similar verses of scripture come to mind.  To sell what is freely available to the unwary is deception.

Perhaps so.  It does feel a little weird.  But …

I have no time or interest in converting materials into formats like Kindle and the like.  The tiny revenues — they must be tiny, I think — wouldn’t compensate me for the time taken away from more useful tasks.  And it does mean that copies of these translations get into the hands of people who otherwise might never read them.

I have always remembered with gratitude coming across the digitisation at the CCEL of the 38-volume Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, back in 1997, and realising that it was free, and that I could do anything I liked with it, by way of creating derivative works and so on.  It was an extraordinarily liberating feeling.

This was a feeling I hoped to preserve, when I created the Additional Fathers collection.  Let the texts reach the widest possible audience.  No purpose would be solved by claiming copyright.  No significant sum of money would reach me, from such a claim.

In consequence I always state explicitly that these materials are public domain: and these days I clarify, that this means anyone may make any use they like of it, personal, educational and, importantly, commercial.  No teacher who decides to produce a textbook need fear a lawsuit.  No-one who would like to add them to some CDROM need omit them for fear of “rights” issues.  Let them circulate!

I don’t quarrel with those scanners who feel differently.  It really is quite an odd feeling seeing others selling your work!  But it suits my objective in digitising — and in commissioning translations — that the results should have the widest possible circulation.


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