Best Copyright Chart Ever

Amazon pub domain-thumb-615x368-83391

You read the header right: Amazon has access to roughly twice as many new texts from the nineteenth century as it does from the twentieth. This is thanks to copyright laws that frankly haven’t kept pace with the promise of the printing press, much less electronic publishing.

The real grunt work in preparing the data came from University of Illinois law professor Paul Heald, who described his effort this way:

We broke these out by decade. … You would expect that if you can crawl through Amazon looking at only new books and only books sold by Amazon — so these are not used books, these are not sold by Amazon associates, this is what’s in Amazon’s warehouses — of course, the biggest number of books is from the decade 2000-2010. That’s what you’d expect; they’re more recent, more popular. Drops off really quickly for books in the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, ’60, 1950, 1940, 1930 — here’s the point in time where books start falling in the public domain. Suddenly it goes up and up and up. There’s as many books [that] Amazon is selling brand new right now from the 1900s to 1910 as from the 2000s to 2010. You go all the way back to 1850 — there’s twice as many books from the 1850s being sold on Amazon right now as the 1950s. So this sort of confirms the notion that there’s some sort of positive public-domain effect …

Read the whole article here.



Audrey Cohen, NBC, and the NYPD

 So the archivist at NBC is calling the cops on Lou, our director.

We have a VHS tape in the Audrey Cohen archive, a gifted video recording from over thirty years ago of Gabe Pressman interviewing her for NBC . We don't however have the necessary equipment or training to convert the material to DVD. Lou called the archivist at NBC to see whether they'd be able to transfer the video onto a DVD for us once we sent the tape to them.

I wasn't there for the conversation but Lou found it fascinating that the gentleman was apparently willing to call the cops to get that tape back. (This is the tape we were planning on sending them anyway.) I don't know what's going to happen next (hint: nothing!) but we agreed that the threat was a bit over the top, given the circumstances.

Personally, I wonder where that sort of reaction likely comes from. Anyone can have a bad day, and it might be the gentleman at NBC's turn. He might have gotten home last night to find the locks on the doors changed and his belongings strewn across the lawn. He might have opened a seemingly innocuous letter to find that his neighbors are suing him. NBC might have passed him over for a raise again or cut his department's budget for the third time this year. He might have opened his bag lunch–the same bag lunch he's been packing and eating every workday for the past 38 years (a tuna fish sandwich with lettuce and mayonnaise on wheat bread, with a baggie of baby carrots and a box of Welch's Grape Drink) to find that someone, perhaps his wife who meant well but just won't stop touching his stuff, had sent him to work with a roast beef sandwich on rye bread with mustard and Russian dressing instead, which completely threw him off his game because while he's okay with roast beef even through he likes tuna fish more, he hates Russian dressing, and who puts both Russian dressing and mustard on the same side of the same sandwich anyway? It's ruined! He can't even scrape the dressing off the meat because it slipped and slid around in the bag and now it's over everything. Lunch is effectively over for him and he's stuck in a little world of despair because the carrots and the juice box just won't fill him up the way the tuna fish sandwich would have, and now everything sucks!

And now the phone rings and he screams "Hello?" into the receiver and it's this person from MCNY who says he's the director and then says that he has NBC's property. What the hell did he think he was doing? The nerve! He's been hanging on to stolen property of NBC for 31 years? Is he insane? No, you can't have a copy made of the interview, sir, no, damnit, either send it back to NBC today or he's calling the cops.

The aggrieved archivist slams down the phone, picks it up again, dials 911 and then . . . nothing. The NYPD doesn't really do that. They didn't do that when the department was flush and they are far from flush now.

In fairness, there are copyright issues and permissi0ns involved. Also to be remembered is that both the interviewer and the interviewed subject are deceased. I don't think that Gabe Pressman would actually care that the tape he filmed is in our hands, although I allow that Gene Shalit, for example, might care had it been him.

In either case, it's interesting to imagine just what a scene from that alternate future would be . . .

A siren blasts down Canal Street and winds down and a police car screeches to a halt. Minutes later, a pair of giant NYPD cops barge through the doors of the MCNY library, guns drawn, one of them, the older one with a Sergeant's stripes on his sleeve and the voice of every Irish cop who ever walked a beat in any American city screams:

"All right, Director, where's that Audrey Cohen interview? Where are ye hidin' it?"

“It’s not in this cabinet!”

 “Ho-HO, it’s hiding in the cabinet, eh?”

 “Look, if that interview with Audrey Cohen was in this cabinet, would I turn on the gas?”

The cop stands his ground. “Hmm. You might, Director, you might . . .”

“Yeah? Well, if that interview with Audrey was in here, would I throw a lit match into it?”

Lou does. The cabinet explodes with a loud *BOOM* and a flash of light, but the weight of the director's body on top of it keeps the explosion localized.

The cops nods, and they holster their weapons. “All right, Director, you’ve convinced me. I’ll go look for that tape of Audrey in the Bronx . . .”

And like that.

I, for one, would pay real money to see that.

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