Tech Books to Enter Public Domain
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA -- Computer book publisher O'Reilly & Associates is taking a dramatic stand against automatic extensions of U.S. copyrights by voluntarily limiting its own copyright protection on hundreds of technical titles--and promising they'll enter the public domain after that.
The publisher is the first to adopt the Founders' Copyright program of the Silicon Valley-based nonprofit Creative Commons. O'Reilly is shortening its books' copyright term from life of author plus 70 years--the period allowed in the
Tim O'Reilly, chief executive officer, announced the stance at the company's Emerging Technology Conference here this week.
"I made a vow at last year's ETech to honor Founders' Copyright," said O'Reilly, referring to the promise he made after a presentation by Creative Commons Chair Lawrence Lessig at the 2002 conference.
Extending copyrights for long periods causes books to be lost to the public because of "fuzzy" copyrights and the difficulty of tracking licenses, O'Reilly says. But he suggests that small communities can give a forgotten work new life. "We have a moral obligation to make books available for others to use," O'Reilly says.
Books published by O'Reilly & Associates will be released only after their authors approve. They include 157 out-of-print titles under an attribution license, and 394 volumes currently in print that are now under the Founders' Copyright.
Among the titles that will be in that first round of Founders' Copyright releases include
Creative Commons is also accepting submissions from authors for Founders' Copyrights to replace the U.S. Copyright registration process.
All works under Founders' Copyrights will be listed in an online registry that includes the date they are expected to be released into the public domain.
Creative Commons licenses give authors and artists several options for sharing their work. They can choose to require attribution, restrict commercial use, or allow modifications under specified circumstances.
Licenses are expressed in a human-readable commons deed, lawyer-readable legal code, and machine-readable digital code. Artists put the digital code into the HTML of their Web sites to provide a link to the licenses. Creators can allow or block works derived from their own, or they can specify that derivative work can only be distributed under licenses identical to those of the original.