April 23, 2003
O'Reilly First to Adopt Founders' Copyright: Publisher Restores Balance to Copyright with New Legal Option from Creative Commons
Santa Clara, CA--Technology publisher O'Reilly & Associates has launched
the latest of its initiatives to shake up the intellectual property
establishment. At the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference today,
founder and CEO Tim O'Reilly announced his company's commitment to
applying the Founders' Copyright to O'Reilly books.
Developed by Creative Commons, the Founders' Copyright is a legal option
that allows copyright holders to voluntarily release their works to the
public after the period envisioned in the original 1790 US copyright
law--14 years, with the option of one 14-year extension. O'Reilly will
be releasing its books under the Creative Commons Attribution license,
which permits others to copy and distribute work as long as they give
the original author and publisher credit.
"Copyright law is a foundation of my business," said O'Reilly. "But the
original copyright balance has been distorted to tip heavily in favor of
creators and publishers. The 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act
increased the copyright term to the author's life plus seventy years,
yet only a few works are still in active use over that length of time.
This copyright extension, enacted to protect a small number of very
valuable works, has had the unintended consequence of depriving the
public of access to a far greater number of other works."
"As a publisher, I want to profit fairly from my work, but also nourish
the intellectual commons. It's in my best interest to ensure that the
public domain continues to be a deep well from which we all can draw. By
adopting the Founders' Copyright, my company can protect our
intellectual property for a reasonable term, and then give it back to
Although in most cases it owns the rights to the books it has published,
O'Reilly will release books under the Founders' Copyright only with the
author's permission. The company is in the process of soliciting that
permission, and 80% of the authors who have responded to date have
agreed to honor the Founders' Copyright. O'Reilly is also applying the
Creative Commons Attribution license to hundreds of out-of-print books,
pending author approval.
O'Reilly has been exploring alternative forms of copyright and content
licensing since the January, 1995 release of the "Linux Network
Administrator's Guide." Author Olaf Kirch posted the first version of
the book online in September 1993, and when O'Reilly offered to publish
a print version, Kirch wanted to ensure that the content of the book was
still freely available, as Linux was. O'Reilly agreed, publishing the
book under the Free Software Foundation's GNU Free Documentation
License, and contributing its extensive edits back into the online
version. In his preface to the print book, Kirsch noted, "In my view,
the great service O'Reilly is doing to the Linux community (apart from
the book becoming readily available at your local bookstore) is that it
may help Linux be recognized as something to be taken seriously."
O'Reilly has since released a number of books under various open source
licenses, either because the author requested it or because the book's
sales didn't warrant keeping it in print, but the content was very
useful to a particular group of people. A complete list of available
titles is at www.oreilly.com/openbook. As they implement the
Founders' Copyright, O'Reilly will continue to make more titles
available online under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.
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