[Taxacom] BHL and print on demand publishers: interpretation of law

Donat Agosti agosti at amnh.org
Mon Apr 2 13:20:21 CDT 2012

Donat wrote:

>Again, most of us have the funds to create work (from science 
>foundation, from another job or your wives' income, from your employer 
>with the goal to deliver great discoveries), not to live of works we 
>create. There is no museum, nor an individual that can make a live in 
>this environment by selling, what most obviously dream of, a NYT
(taxonomic) Best Seller.

But if someone like Nabu takes your work, which you (or your funding
source) have taken time and money to make freely available, and proceeds to
live off the proceeds from selling it and others like it, doesn't that (A)
effectively disprove your claim above (that profit from your work is
impossible), and (B) deny you what should be your share of this profit?

DA: Nabu, the way I understand it, does not take your new book at the moment
you publish it and competes with this. Rather, it takes oldish work and
creates a print on demand and sells it. Work, that is not available anymore,
like 95% of all the printed work, and only now, slowly through initiatives
like BHL becomes available as pdf. So, it is not a competition and you do
not loose money. As a scientist, you rather have a profit, if people can buy
your old stuff again, which raises the chance that somebody will actually
cite it again. What Nabu should do is saying that for each book it sells it
pays the author a fraction of its profit.

If you set up a roadside stand near your apple orchard, with a sign that
says "FREE APPLES", and someone comes up, outs a stand in front of yours,
with a much bigger sign saying "APPLES 10 FOR A DOLLAR" 
that blocks yours from view from the highway, and then takes some of your
apples every time someone asks to buy, would you have any grounds for
complaint? You grew the apples, paid all of the costs over the years,
including taxes on the land you raised them on, paid to have them harvested,
lugged them out to the roadside, and then some "entrepreneur" comes along
and parasitizes your efforts, making a profit almost entirely at your
expense (they did, after all, have to supply their own advertising, and hand
apples to customers). It might not be illegal, but it sure as heck isn't
RIGHT. If we can't agree on something that simple, then as a society, we are
totally screwed.

DA: I do not see it this way. Nabu doesn't take your fresh apples, but the
apples you leave in your orchard because you move from the apples to the
pears because there are so few apples left, and people strive for pears,
because it's pear season now. You leave them because it is too expensive for
you to chase the left overs or late apples. I do not mind, if somebody does
that - again, it would suggest that you leave your orchard with a sign, that
everybody who wants to harvest the leftover pays a fraction of the original
In fact, I prefer that the apples are used, and may be used for something
different, because they do not look so nice anymore and does are better for
apple sauce. Any derivative product of apples fosters to envy of people for
apples, and thus they will come back next year.
The same is for old work that has no real commercial value anymore: If more
people begin looking into rare and otherwise difficult to obtain stuff, then
they certainly will have an interest to purchase or read open access the new

In this respect, we should support Nabu to be brave to publish something
with which they will not make even a reasonable profit - the majority thinks
so  by no longer publishing it - and just come to a deal that they pay a
small amount to the author - to the author, and not the publisher, because
they owe the work and in most cases, before 1995 haven't signed a transfer
of copyright to the publisher. 



Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82


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