I just read about an article that says Amazon stands to make a fortune offering out-of-print books. One of the most appealing reasons for indie authors to publish e-books is that they will be offered forever. No out-of-prints; Amazon’s policy is that, if you buy a book from them, they will always have a copy available for you to download.
So, if copyright laws are for the life of the owner plus fifty years, and Amazon and other e-book retailers must provide copies of them forever, and 49 years after an author’s death, their books suddenly become branded as ‘important literary works’ by history or literature professors for studying our era, and the sales dramatically spike of that author’s books, and those new readers are in their 20’s, with a potential lifespan in their 100’s…. Can you say, “cash cow”? How about, “windfall of astonishing proportions”?
And WHO gets that money? The digital provider, who spends mere pennies sending you an e-book, would get it all. Not the descendents of the author.
What can we do?
- a. Change copyright laws for e-book rights to belong to their assignees ‘in perpetuity’, and let the heirs fight it out
- b. Register our books’ copyright under a business name/corporation, and let whoever runs the corporation decide where the royalties go
What I would prefer is:
- c. Create a corporation just for e-book copyrights – the executor of the estate of the author’s family signs up their e-books, the CEO guarantees a huge chunk of sales (95% minimum) will go to the designee of the family as determined by the executor, and the corporation uses its profits to maintain the database.
Now is the time to make these decisions! Look at how long copyright laws have been in effect!
Although many people laugh when referred to Wikipedia as a source, the minimum we should do is read their article on copyrights: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright
So, who can we indies trust to establish the standards?