I’ve been meaning to get this discussion started for a while. Most books I read, art I look at, music I listen to (independent, corporate, whatever-you-want-to-call-it, or otherwise) still bears that scarlet encircled ‘C.’ And, if doesn’t and no language to the contrary is included, the laws of America ensure that copyright applies by default. With my own book, I am lucky enough to have a publisher who very happily tucked a Creative Commons license among the opening ephemera (although, it is not the standard for the press). This choice seems like a no-brainer to me, and really the only humane way to go considering that state of the American legal system and the nature of art. My work (and your work) is a work of acquisition, collage, and community. I would like to see that idea furthered when I make it available to the public. (I’d also like to make it available – to the public – all of them.)
Also, with most of us (even those of us with agents and book deals) making little money off books sales, I can’t understand why someone would seek to limit the distribution of his or her book, unless, of course, the author aims to hit a limited audience. (This is actually, in a way, the case with my book, which includes drawings, that, so far, I have not decided to make available electronically, although, I know I will eventually to use it as a gateway drug.) By eschewing copyright on your work, you are opening up the channels through which it can be shared. Let’s face it, our problems with finding larger audiences are not based in impostors selling copies of our work under a different author’s name, it’s getting the word and the work out there.
I’ve talked with friends about this, and most seem to stick with copyright not by choice, but because it’s the default, it doesn’t take an active decision to do it. Others have publishers who insist on it, or other parties in their working agreement who demand its use. (I myself run into this problem with my own journal, Action,Yes, which includes no copyright language – hence, it’s copyrighted – because of editorial fears – perhaps, not my own – of displeasing contribs.)
So, I’d like to hear your thoughts on copyright. Why do you use it? Why don’t you? What do you expect of publishers – both of books and larger collections/journals in which you’re included in. I’m especially interested in hearing from publishers, and how they make their choices.