an e-mail from author John M. Ford, making a couple of sensible points:
Looked belatedly at your latest log entry. You were very nice to the
copyright fellow, which is good. I don't think I would have been. His
case, while I'm sure it's very sincere, seems utterly witless -- the idea
that a book vanishes into the aether when it goes out of print is not
something that any actual book person (or, indeed, anyone who knows what
o.p. actually means) could say seriously, and while I have generally good
feelings about the Gutenberg Project, I suddenly wonder just what the hell
they are thinking.
If the idea of the Project is to broadly and inexpensively disseminate
works in the public domain -- I don't care if they're "important," because
I don't want to judge that -- then that seems a cool and even important
thing. If their notion is that they are saving work from disappearing, on
the Alexandrine model (as if there were no changes in technology between
Hypatia and Now) then they are hunting the wrong snark, especially given
the instabililty of electronic storage. Tear a page from a book and you
may be able to interpolate. Damage a disk and it makes a nice
beermat. Not that you don't know this perfectly well, but it's late and I
haven't spun down the motor yet. And way too recently I've had to
determinedly keep quiet through the Same Old Argument that it's okay to
steal intellectual property because, well, it's easy, and writers should be
happy they don't have to work (I am, as I'm sure you know, not making that
and this also came in, on a sadder note...
I read your blogger entry regarding copyrights and the statement that all books published in the U.S. are subject to deposit with the Library of Congress. All the information you have provided is true, but however, far from complete.
Although the Library of Congress receives copies of all works published in the U.S., the only items that it is required to maintain by law are those works submitted for copyright which have not yet seen publication. All other items are subject to removal (ie: destruction -- the L.O.C. cannot sell or donate these works in any way) at their discretion. This happens to numerous books and works which the Library feels it does not have room to contain.
I highly suggest reading (if you have not yet already) Nicholson Baker's "Double Fold", an account of the L.O.C.'s systematic destruction of many irreplaceable works in its posession over the past 50 years that will chill, frighten and leave you sleepless in ways that no fictional horror story can equal.