Happy Freedom to Read Week

February 24 through March 1 marks the annual Freedom to Read Week as promoted by the Book and Periodical Council. It is a very well intentioned event meant to educate the public about the dangers of censorship and to promote freedom of expression.

Their lofty policy statement states "As writers, editors, publishers, book manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and librarians, we abhor arbitrary interpretations of the law and other attempts to limit freedom of expression. We recognize court judgments; otherwise, we oppose the detention, seizure, destruction, or banning of books and periodicals – indeed, any effort to deny, repress, or sanitize. Censorship does not protect society; it smothers creativity and precludes open debate of controversial issues."

Their website lists many examples of books which individuals or groups have tried and sometimes succeeded to have removed from the libraries.

Their intent is highly admirable, but incomplete without a note about the threat to freedom of expression from their own industries. Here are some of the lost works they wont mention themselves.

Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie - is actually now for the first time available in the UK. The sale of this book was banned there previously, not due to government censors, but due to industry claims of copyright infringement.

Similar circumstances existed for After the rain by Emily Somma and The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall.

Other books such as "The Cat NOT in the Hat" never even saw the light of day due to loose claims of copyright infringement.

Any Internet fanfiction based on the following authors can be very difficult to find.

Robin Mckinley
P.N. Elrond
Terry Goodkind
Raymond Feist
Anne Rice
Irene Radford
Archie Comics
Nora Roberts
Laurell K. Hamilton
Dennis L. McKiernan
George R.R. Martin
Robin Hobb

These authors have expressed their disapproval of fan fiction based on their work and have threatened lawsuits. At a time when the Internet is allowing every person the opportunity to express themselves freely, having old laws which allow individuals to suppress this expression when there is no demonstrable harm, is unacceptable.

Many other literary and non-literary works are held ransom as documented here and here

While authors, for a period of time, have some legitimate interest in what others do with their work. Any real movement to increase freedom of expression in general must include limiting the power of past authors over future authors to only the bare minimum required to promote creative expression. In some jurisdictions the term of copyright has reached ridiculous lengths (95 years in USA, 150 years in Mexico) that copyright itself is becoming a very serious obstacle to freedom of expression. It is time that organizations like Freedom to Read take a stand against excessive copyright the same as they stand against government censorship.