The Public Domain's Classic Gold


Here's a bit from Jerome Weeks' interesting story in The Dallas Morning News on paperback "classics" lines:

"Shelf space in bookstores is at a premium," Mr. Hettler says, "and Modern Library has acquired a strong new position among the quality classics. It has forced the chains to make choices."

So some of this sprucing up [of paperback editions of classics] has been a defensive response. Classic lines are trying to stop incursions by the new imprints and re-prints.

All of which is a textbook example of business competition. Economist Adam Smith first explained such market forces in his 1776 classic, The Wealth of Nations.

Which you can find at many bookstores ? in a variety of handsome editions.

This story is worth keeping in mind next time the Eldred v. Ashcroft decision, which upheld extended copyright terms, comes up for discussion.

NEXT: Is the Camera Phone Just A Glorified Pudendascope?

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  1. “The League” is actually an instructive case on many levels. It seems that the Invisible Man is, somehow, still partially owned by someone. So, while Alan Moore was able to use him in his comic book without difficulty, the filmmakers had to create a slightly different “invisible man” for the movie, because someone else has the film rights to THE Invisible Man. It probably has something to do with the Universal movie from the 1940s.

  2. Have you seen the trailer for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? With all the public-domain characters like Tom Sawyer and Captain Nemo and Dorian Gray banding together to do wire-fu and shoot machine guns? That piece of crap is gonna be the nail in the copyright coffin. Anytime somebody speaks out against perpetual copyright, they’ll have to explain away that movie.

    The comic is still pretty awesome, though.

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