Mark Twain’s worst nightmare has come true – anyone can read any of his books online for free, and his estate has lost all control over his works.
Mark Twain, or Samuel Clemens was a huge proponent of copyright, and fought to keep strict copyright laws. He worried about the fact that it would eventually expire, leaving his heirs without a way to make an easy buck. Twain didn’t want perpetual copyright, only protection that would cover his children’s lives. He thought his grand kids should fend for themselves, but for Twain and his daughters, he sought to combat “the pirates.”
His idea was to augment his existing copyrighted works on the eve of their entry into the public domain in order to create new, copyrighted books. The original book would pass into the public domain, but Twain hoped that the newer, augmented works would outsell public domain materials if they offered additional material. He tried to create value from his older works that would be copyrightable and fully owned by him.
Mark Twain had a clever solution to competing with free, an in true form this didn’t involve publishers, attorneys, or government. He simply provided added value.
Many publishers today, especially newspapers, have to compete with free or risk going out of business. Information and entertainment will continue to be reinvented, and the best way to maintain business is to add value. If you can add value to a product or service, people will always buy it.
New York Times article from 1906 describing Twain’s plan to beat copyright law.
Google books blog describing
Read A Tramp Abroad in Google mobile book. See the Book Search blog announcing 1.5 million books in your pocket. Thats a lot of reading material, and Google is adding value to their own search engine by providing this for free.