Unlock My Books

You can unlock my books! What do I mean? Basically, I’m crowd-funding my copyright. With enough interest (or time), I will release my novels under a Creative Commons BY SA 4.0 license.

Copyright

Current copyright law protects the copyright of a work for the life of the author plus 70 years.”Few things in this world last as long as copyright protection. Indeed, an author’s work is likely to be long forgotten before the copyright in it expires.” (Fishman, 2014)

That’s crazy.

Copyright didn’t exist until printing presses made it easy to reproduce faithful copies. Initially, copyright was a 14-year period, renewable for another 14 years if you hadn’t died. In 1831, Congress doubled the initial period to 28 years, with a 14-year renewal. By 1886 the Berne Convention took it out to the author’s life plus 50 years, but it took a hundred years more before the US signed on (we liked pirating foreign works too much). Since then Congress has pushed the copyright period out even longer and the Supreme Court has shrugged their shoulders saying essentially that any ‘limit’ satisfies the Constitutional requirements, giving Congress the ability to keep pushing copyright out for longer periods.

So What’s the Problem?

The Copyright Clause states that Congress has the power “To promote the Progress of Science and Useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

Intellectual property has always been big business and it has only grown. Voices calling for attention to the balance between the public and private interests have been largely ignored. Once a copyright expires and enters the public domain it becomes fertile ground for new invention, creation, and expression. Think where we’d be today if Night of the Living Dead hadn’t inadvertently fallen into the public domain? The zombie genre might never have grown as it has since that time. It has certainly helped feed an insatiable appetite!

Unlocking My Books

Two things can unlock my novels. First, a book makes $100,000 US dollars. Or, 14 years after the publication date. I’ll create a page to track progress on both counts for each book.

Why So Much?

It isn’t really all that much. It isn’t uncommon for authors to receive that much for publishing their books. And we’re talking about an amount over time. What if it takes 10 years to make that? Or longer? And you really have to compare it to the copyright timeline. If I live another 50 years (crossing my fingers), plus 70 (probably longer before I die) years, that’s 120 years! So the book would earn less than $1,000 per year over that period. Not exactly a fortune. Certainly, nothing to make my heirs excited. It might sound like a lot, but it isn’t.

Why Not Use the Public Domain license?

I want rational copyright. A balance between public and private interests. A CC BY SA license allows people to use my work so long as I receive attribution and any copies or derivative works are released under the same license. A work derived from a public domain work is still protected under the current restrictive copyright e.g., Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. With a CC BY SA licenses derivative works can’t be more restrictive than the original.

When Does This Start?

I have to get books relaunched first! I don’t have a fixed date. I’ll work on getting everything set up as I work on the reboot. Although I don’t have any concrete dates yet, I hope to have new editions and new titles out in 2018.