In the light of recent reports regarding the efforts of various search engines to digitise in-copyright books I was very interested to read a thought-provoking article on copyright and copying by Vern Sheridan Poythress. Dr Poythress makes some good points, but I was particularly encouraged to read this paragraph:
Similar observations go for book publishers. I know for a fact that some copyrighted books are available on the web (including one for which I was a joint author). Their availability actually increases the publisher’s sales of hard copies. People may read a little on the internet. But then, if they like what they read, they want to have a bound copy rather thansomething that costs $5 in ink to print out on their home computer. Thus,even when access to informationis free, there remains a demand–even sometimes an increased demand–for traditionally bound books.
Over the last four years I have corresponded extensively with authors and publishers. The overwhelming majority have been more than happy to allow their work to be reproduced on-line at no charge. Personally I would welcome a change in the law along the lines that Dr Poythress is advocating. I too think that having found a good book or article on-line most people would wish to obtain a bound copy for themselves. Google are using the same argument in support of their digitisation project.