Enclosing the public domain: The restriction of public domain books in a digital environment

Alex Clark, Brenda Chawner, Transforming the Curriculum: South African Imperatives and 21st Century, Jun 09, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Picking up a longstanding discussion I've had with people about enclosure, here's a report from First Monday on how commercial publishers make you pay for resources even through they're free and in the public domain. "Using a sample of 100 pre–1890 New Zealand heritage books... of the 50 titles that had been digitized, only three were hosted by repositories that do not restrict any type of subsequent use. Furthermore, 48 percent (24) were subject to access restrictions." While legally readers may have the right to download and repost public domain works, terms of use make this difficult and risky, as policies are applied and penalties imposed without verification. "The widespread application of usage restrictions upon public domain books is characteristic of an online environment where user agreements and terms of service are ubiquitously imposed as a precondition to access content."

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