PG Director admits error, promises new procedures

Yesterday I posted the letter from Greg Bear to Project Gutenberg in which Mr. Bear argued that some of his stories on the PG website were actually under copyright. Today, the Director of Project Gutenberg has admitted that they did make a mistake. Those titles were under copyright, and PG made a mistake in distributing them. I was right. I have a personal interest in this matter becuase I raised this issue with PG last year. My argument was the same as Greg Bear's, only I wasn't able to convince PG. You don't know how pleased I am to find out even at this late date that I was right (and that I am obviously smarter than PG's attorney). From an open letter by PG Director Dr. Gregory Newby: Dr. Gregory B. Newby Chief Executive and Director Dear Greg, Astrid, and others: My apologies for my long delay in responding. As promised in September, I discussed the situation with one of Project Gutenberg’s copyright lawyers. This particular lawyer had previously been very helpful in preparing and then providing legal advice and feedback on our procedures for determining non-renewal status.

Our lawyer advised that our non-renewal determination for The Escape was in error. Therefore, on October 1, I removed The Escape from the Project Gutenberg collections and catalog and announced its removal
to our mailing list.

On behalf of Project Gutenberg, I apologize for the error.

The error occurred because we did not know that Brainwave was a complete publication of the serial parts of The Escape. We did know from the publication of The Escape in 1953 that it was the first part
of a serialization, but did not know that Brainwave, from 1954, was the title of the complete serialization.

We are working on enhancements to our procedures for serial works so  that we are more likely to find variations in titles such as happened ith Brainwave.

As a result of your complaint, we have received clarification from our lawyer on situations where individual parts of entire works are published serially, but only some of the parts, or only the entire work but not the serial parts, are renewed. Until we received this clarification, our procedure was that each part must have a separate renewal for its first publication.

My long delay in responding is because our newly revised procedures are not yet posted on our Web site. We’ve had some exchanges with the lawyer I mentioned, as well as among the Project Gutenberg copyright team and production volunteers. I do hope to have the revised procedures for non-renewals in place soon, and meanwhile Project Gutenberg has put a hold on public domain determinations for non-renewals.

In the meantime, I will summarize for you the main points that allowed the renewal for Brainwave to apply to The Escape. Then, I will provide a listing of the titles by Poul Anderson that we are working with. That way, you might want to confirm whether our bibliographic research (on title variations) and copyright research (on renewal records) seems to be correct.

I would also like to offer to ask our lawyer to communicate directly with your lawyer on any of the topics we have covered. If you would prefer such an approach, please provide me contact information for your lawyer, and I will give the information to our lawyer. Here are the main points of variation from our old procedures as  they relate to what we have corresponded on:

  • variant titles, new reprints, compilations, and other republications of items need to be identified as part of our bibliographic research, within the time span for valid renewals
  • in serial works, the serial parts are considered to be part of the same act of authorship as the complete work. Thus, renewals for the parts, or the whole, may apply to the other parts (this applied to The Escape)
  • renewals due the 28th year after first publication may actually appear in the copyright registry in the 27th, 28th, 29th or 30th year, and still be valid
  • for serial parts, our conservative stance is that renewals from the 25th through 32nd year for any serial part, or the whole, including any type of republication, will be taken to apply to any parts within that time span (this applied to The Escape)
  • copyrights or renewals outside of the time spans listed above, for any type of republication, are not applicable to earlier publication. That is, serial parts or whole works published but not renewed do not become renewed by later republication outside of the 2-year (for non-serials) or 4-year (for serials) window. (this applies to Industrial Revolution)

By the way, we are checking again on whether the 1965 republication Industrial Revolution was subsequently renewed.

Here are the items we have already published, along with their Project Gutenberg eBook number:

... (removed for brevity)

Again, my apologies for the long delay in this correspondence. I do
anticipate we will have a revised procedure description online soon,
but did not want to delay further before sending this correspondence.

With best regards,

Dr. Gregory B. Newby
Chief Executive and Director
Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with EIN 64-6221541

** This message is granted to the public domain **

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About Nate Hoffelder (11471 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

3 Comments on PG Director admits error, promises new procedures

  1. Don’t break your hand patting yourself on the back.

  2. cool. kudos. not real hip though with the “(and that I am obviously smarter than PG’s attorney).” lame arrogance. made me wince. it’s your blog though……

  3. “(and that I am obviously smarter than PG’s attorney).” win some, lose some, ya know?

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