Free Culture, Book Freedom: Prof. Gabriella Coleman of NYU

Professor Gabriella Coleman

Over the last couple of years, book piracy has gone from a furtive, limited activity to something approaching a political movement.

If you're not familiar with what's been going on in the world of online book sharing, or how it relates to the larger free culture movement, there are two recent interviews with Prof. Gabriella Coleman of New York University worth listening to:

In the Radio Berkman interview, listen especially for the section starting at 4:40:

"Digital piracy online has produced a commons. I mean let's talk about book piracy today. It is unbelievable, the amount of books being shared, combined with, in the case of aaaarg, discussion. There's actually a community. But it's illegal, full on, right? And so there's definitely this legal commons and illegal commons, and I do think it's important to recognize the ... similarities and differences. In some ways, the pirate commons is valuable precisely because of its transgression, and its message that sometimes the law is overbearing, and legal solutions, even lauadable ones like Creative Commons, are not simply enough. And so from my ... more activist perspective, I think a healthy ecology has both legal and illegal ... modes of organizing, as opposed to playing a politics of the 'authentic' versus 'inauthentic' modes of sharing."

How Big are Books?

If you're building a book scanner (such as a Decapod or BookLiberator), you might find this information useful:

Graph showing distribution of book sizes, with sweet spot at 30cm.

Summary: after surveying 6.7 million books, 30cm seems to be the sweet spot — if your scanner can handle that, then you should be able to scan most books.



Raw data courtesy of the Internet Archive, which hosts book data supplied by the Library of Congress and the Open Library project. See LC's "Books All" files (to 2006), and the Open Library's JSON data dump (which includes information from libraries other than LC, from Amazon, etc). The LC data is in MARC format with the size in centimeters in field 300 $c. The OL data has size in the 'physical_dimensions' field, in centimeters except as otherwise specified (e.g., "11 x 9.4 x 0.7 inches").

Guest Blogger: "ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe"

Thomas Jefferson

QuestionCopyright.org welcomes Guest Blogger Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was the third President of the United States (1801–1809), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and one of the most influential Founding Fathers for his promotion of the ideals of republicanism in the United States.


It has been pretended by some, (and in England especially,) that inventors have a natural and exclusive right to their inventions, and not merely for their own lives, but inheritable to their heirs. But while it is a moot question whether the origin of any kind of property is derived from nature at all, it would be singular to admit a natural and even an hereditary right to inventors.

It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance. By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it, but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it. Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society.

It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.

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