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[d@DCC] Copyright, eBooks & Public Domain Sources
From: Ron Koster <ron _-at-_ psymon.com>
Hi everyone! Thank you for allowing me to join your forum here. I'm a small, one-person publisher of ebooks with a handful of books under my belt so far, and I joined this forum in the hopes of resolving a number of questions that have come up on another epublishing forum that I'm on over which there seem to be varying opinions on what is copyrightable and what is not. This questions arose essentially over discussions about a book I've been working on in recent months, namely, a collection of Shakespeare's works. My book includes six of his plays, plus several of his poems (plus the sonnets, complete), and in addition to those works of his I've also included one poem by Thomas Middleton, as well as the entire, complete book called "Loves Martyr" by Robert Chester (both from that same Elizabethan period as Shakespeare). The goal of my books has been to replicate, in digital format (as an ebook), the "look and feel" of those early texts. Thus, the Shakespeare works haven't been modernized, but rather instead arose from those original 16th and 17th century sources (such as the First Folio edition), and I've used an old-style font embedded in my book and things are all typeset to look like a book from that period (i.e. with the "long-S" and other anomalies). Naturally, all these works are currently in the public domain -- at least, the original source material is -- however, I've pored over about half of the texts and made revisions and corrections. Those early printers made a LOT of errors! And I don't just mean "funny spellings" of words -- I don't count those as errors -- but actual, genuine mistakes by the printer, some of which are quite obvious, while others are rather more obscure. I do have a veritable lifetime of experience in researching the early history of printed books, and so for me these latter were easy to pick out. As such, these are no longer the "original" public domain texts, but rather newly revised and corrected versions of them -- and this is where there are some questions which have arisen on that other forum (with various, and conflicting, understandings of what the law actually is). Firstly, because my versions of Shakespeare's works are now "revised" and "corrected," surely they would then be my own copyright (despite the original source material having been in the public domain)? Wouldn't this be considered a "derivative" work? On that epublishing forum, virtually everyone (except myself) has been arguing that I can't copyright works that are in the public domain, regardless of what changes I might make to them. Personally, I find that idea a bit ludicrous (that I can't copyright my efforts), but I'm willing to stand corrected from more informed opinions. ;) Secondly, there has also been the assertion that ebook publishers can't copyright the design, formatting, etc. of their books (whether the content is public domain or not), if only because "anyone" can check out the source code and do whatever they want with it. Well, after a bit of googling this afternoon, I found several sites which discussed that HTML, CSS and other source code (which make up both web pages as well as ebooks) ARE, in fact, copyrightable -- and if the source code for a publication is copyrightable, then only naturally the visual design of it would also be. Can anyone clarify that for me -- or, alternatively, correct me if I'm mistaken? Thank you so much, in advance, for any help you can provide me with these questions! Whatever the answers are, I'm sure they will be of great interest to many of my epublishing colleagues as well. Ron :) _______________________________________________ Discuss mailing list Discuss@list.digital-copyright.ca http://list.digital-copyright.ca/mailman/listinfo/discuss
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