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Getting the work of Ayn Rand into the Public Domain

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I posted recently about the following issue in the middle of a long thread on another topic, but I think the issue is so important that it merits a topic of its own.

The current flap with Obama criticizing the virtue of selfishness screams for Ayn Rand's introduction to her book by that name to be sent out far and wide to everyone who can read. What would prevent that? I presume the current copyright situation.

Phil Oliver brought up the point in relation to the Objectivist CDROM that he pioneered:

he [referring to Dr. Peikoff] should at least place all of Ayn Rand's works into the public domain so that they can be freely copied, quoted, translated, wiki-fied, analyzed, argued about, stored on millions of electronic devices, transcribed onto etched superalloy sheets (one of my ideas) that would last millions of years, and searched all around the internet.

I have no clue who owns these copyrights or the background of that ownership, but Phil Oliver is making a hugely important point here. If a fund-raising campaign needs to be undertaken to buy out the copyrights, so be it. It ought to be a prime focus of organized Objectivism to get the work of Ayn Rand freely available and organized on the internet in its fullest possible extent, in as many languages as possible, as soon as possible.

If this is not near the top of the agenda for ARI, I wish someone would explain why it isn't so we can get to work and deal with the problem!

One more thought -- I think I've read comments like this from Phil before, and yet I've never seen much followup from others. Phil, I want to publicly volunteer to sign on and contribute to any effort you might decide to put together to carry on this effort, and I publicly challenge others on this board to do the same! This goal is too important, and time is too short, for this issue to remain in the shadows.

If no one agrees that the copyrights need to be purchased and the work released to the public domain, then I'll just shut up!

But I, for one, think Phil Oliver's point is correct and gets more important by the day.

Anyone else thinking the same?

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Even if all her writings were put into the Public Domain, how are your going to convince people to read them. Volition and learning do not allow for force.

Look around you and find people that seem to hold similar values as you or that are willing to rethink their premises, then start handing out books. I would add that what ever book you give out that the book has to be important to them at that time. Listen to what the person has to say and then try and decide which book would fill their need at that time. What I mean in other words is that you cannot choose what people need to get from Objectivism.

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I posted recently about the following issue in the middle of a long thread on another topic, but I think the issue is so important that it merits a topic of its own.

The current flap with Obama criticizing the virtue of selfishness screams for Ayn Rand's introduction to her book by that name to be sent out far and wide to everyone who can read. What would prevent that? I presume the current copyright situation.

Phil Oliver brought up the point in relation to the Objectivist CDROM that he pioneered:

he [referring to Dr. Peikoff] should at least place all of Ayn Rand's works into the public domain so that they can be freely copied, quoted, translated, wiki-fied, analyzed, argued about, stored on millions of electronic devices, transcribed onto etched superalloy sheets (one of my ideas) that would last millions of years, and searched all around the internet.

I have no clue who owns these copyrights or the background of that ownership, but Phil Oliver is making a hugely important point here. If a fund-raising campaign needs to be undertaken to buy out the copyrights, so be it. It ought to be a prime focus of organized Objectivism to get the work of Ayn Rand freely available and organized on the internet in its fullest possible extent, in as many languages as possible, as soon as possible.

If this is not near the top of the agenda for ARI, I wish someone would explain why it isn't so we can get to work and deal with the problem!

One more thought -- I think I've read comments like this from Phil before, and yet I've never seen much followup from others. Phil, I want to publicly volunteer to sign on and contribute to any effort you might decide to put together to carry on this effort, and I publicly challenge others on this board to do the same! This goal is too important, and time is too short, for this issue to remain in the shadows.

If no one agrees that the copyrights need to be purchased and the work released to the public domain, then I'll just shut up!

But I, for one, think Phil Oliver's point is correct and gets more important by the day.

Anyone else thinking the same?

Why should the owner of the copyrights release them to the public domain? Is this a duty?

Are you asking that the owner sign the "Gift Certificate"?

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I don't see the public domain as being the big issue holding back Objectivism. It helps fund the ARI operations, and the price is no stumbling block. In general, if someone can't afford $7.99 for a good book(which even a 3rd world person can afford), they got far bigger problems in their life, that the book won't fix. (i.e. Lazy, no ambition or so on). The exceptions to that rule that I just stated, well an Objectivist who knows the situation to judge for himself, would be all to happy to spend that money out of benevolence when they see a friend who could be given a leg up in their life by the philosophy.

The thing I am curious about however, is why there is no electronic distribution in any form that I presently know of. (Even if not PhilO's, why not on devices such as the Kindle).

If they are worried about piracy, well it is already currently freely available via pirate networks so it can't be anymore pirated than it already is, but releasing online can help maximize profits from yet another medium of distribution.

On a related note, does anyone know the copyright or moral status of Anthem? That has always been not clear to me.

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-------------

On a related note, does anyone know the copyright or moral status of Anthem? That has always been not clear to me.

It appears to be in the public domain.

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It helps fund the ARI operations, and the price is no stumbling block.

Is that a known and established fact?

Does anyone know what the last will and testament of Ayn Rand says about this? Anyone ever seen a copy of her will posted on the internet? Presumably it is a public document in the probate files of the county in which she lived in New York(?)

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Darn I pushed the button too fast and was unclear.

Of course my question as to "is that a known and established fact" refers to the part about whether it "helps fund the ARI operations".

Does it really? Is ARI now the copyright holder for all of the work of Ayn Rand?

It helps fund the ARI operations, and the price is no stumbling block.

Is that a known and established fact?

Does anyone know what the last will and testament of Ayn Rand says about this? Anyone ever seen a copy of her will posted on the internet? Presumably it is a public document in the probate files of the county in which she lived in New York(?)

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Darn I pushed the button too fast and was unclear.

Of course my question as to "is that a known and established fact" refers to the part about whether it "helps fund the ARI operations".

Does it really? Is ARI now the copyright holder for all of the work of Ayn Rand?

As has been explained to you previously, Leonard Peikoff owns the copyrights as Ayn Rand's sole heir. This has been well known for the quarter of a century since she died. Leonard Peikoff has donated some of the rights to ARI, such as the videos of her lectures, which are on the ARI website.

It does not follow from the fact that something is important that there should be no property rights to it. Quite the contrary. Leonard Peikoff has put forth an enormous effort to publish everything that Ayn Rand wrote that was suitable for publication and to work with the publishers to promote the books. The criticisms of Leonard Peikoff regarding Ayn Rand's works have been in the realm of exploiting more modern media such as electornic access on CDs and some translations. These criticisms have been raised by Phil, who has had direct experience unique to him and which the rest of us have no first hand knowledge of.

The copyright to Anthem expired several years ago.

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And as to my question about what Ayn Rand's will said about the subject? A copy of that showing Ayn Rand's full intent as to the future of her work is available where on the internet?

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I want to state for the record that this is not *my* "campaign" and I would appreciate it if those who want to push it, do not so in my name. The remark I made was in a specific context.

I will say this: the simple and obvious fact is that the electronic world is rapidly replacing the physically printed word. To be indifferent or actively hostile to this change is to actually suppress the dissemination of the ideas, ESPECIALLY for those whom it matters the most: the young.

My point is that it *is* better (though not necessarily ideal) to place all of her works into the public domain, so that those who *do* still give a damn can do something with them, than to state hopelessness about the future of the world while not doing enough to maximize the spread of those ideas, especially when the replication of them is legally restricted.

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I don't see the public domain as being the big issue holding back Objectivism. It helps fund the ARI operations

ARI does not, as far as I know, directly receive anything from any of Ayn Rand's work. Indirectly from donations, yes.

The issue with the spread of the ideas is not the price per-se. The issue is the ability to access and study the information. When was the last time you physically went to a bookshelf of Encylopedia Brittanicas to look up something rather than googling it?

The thing I am curious about however, is why there is no electronic distribution in any form that I presently know of. (Even if not PhilO's, why not on devices such as the Kindle).

Have you not been reading what I've been writing on exactly this issue?

There isn't because there *isn't* "an enormous amount of hard work" going on to disseminate the ideas in wider forms (electronic and translations.) Not by my definition of "hard work" anyway. There is a lot of outright complacency about the status quo and letting other people (e.g. literary agents) do the work and not "getting involved" - even if those third parties themselves are incredibly indifferent.

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There isn't because there *isn't* "an enormous amount of hard work" going on to disseminate the ideas in wider forms (electronic and translations.) Not by my definition of "hard work" anyway. There is a lot of outright complacency about the status quo and letting other people (e.g. literary agents) do the work and not "getting involved" - even if those third parties themselves are incredibly indifferent.

Given the number of authors who have used e-book formats, it doesn't seem like it could be that complicated. What would ARI have to do to make Ayn Rand's books available for download from Amazon or other vendors?

In just a few years I can see a lot of people not even wanting to buy books in paper, when they can carry entire libraries in a device a quarter of an inch thick.

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Given the number of authors who have used e-book formats, it doesn't seem like it could be that complicated.

Today, it isn't complicated at all. The issue isn't complication, it's the will to get it done.

What would ARI have to do to make Ayn Rand's books available for download from Amazon or other vendors?

ARI has no control over Ayn Rand's intellectual property, their use of any of it is 100% by permission.

In just a few years I can see a lot of people not even wanting to buy books in paper, when they can carry entire libraries in a device a quarter of an inch thick.

Indeed.

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And as to my question about what Ayn Rand's will said about the subject? A copy of that showing Ayn Rand's full intent as to the future of her work is available where on the internet?

In 1982 Ayn Rand didn't know about the internet or CDs to say how she wanted them used. The estate of Ayn Rand was left to Leonard Peikoff. That is what a will does -- it legally transfers ownership of property, it does not and cannot direct the future actions of the heirs. Probate was completed a couple of decades ago. It's a little late for you to contest her will. What else do you have to know? Leonard Peikoff legally owns the property she left to him. It is apparently in the form of a legal entity, still called the Estate of Ayn Rand, which he controls. If you don't believe it ask ARI instead of demanding that we produce a copy of the will for you.

If you want to know what Ayn Rand said to Leonard Peikoff and what their relationship was, you can look up his own statements on the matter in his Ford Hall Forum lecture after she died, his biographical video available through ARI, some statements he made on his radio show in the 1990s, and possibly his more recent podcasts at his own website http://peikoff.com. Leonard Peikoff was the last of her personal associates. He once said on his radio show that he was the heir only because all the others had broken off with her. One of her last statements to him was to encourage him to do the best he could for Objectivism.

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Even if everything was perfectly replicatated (which would be nice) how is that going to motivate people to learn and apply the information? I think it is going to take a lot more than advance replication to get people to read Ayn Rand's works, which I have already mentioned.

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The thing I am curious about however, is why there is no electronic distribution in any form that I presently know of. (Even if not PhilO's, why not on devices such as the Kindle).

Have you not been reading what I've been writing on exactly this issue?

There isn't because there *isn't* "an enormous amount of hard work" going on to disseminate the ideas in wider forms (electronic and translations.) Not by my definition of "hard work" anyway. There is a lot of outright complacency about the status quo and letting other people (e.g. literary agents) do the work and not "getting involved" - even if those third parties themselves are incredibly indifferent.

The enormous effort that was put in was in the form of book publication and setting up the ARI website where you can at least find videos and descriptions advocating the published books. The only such effort that we know of that was put into direct electronic forms was the work Phil did himself to produce the Objectivst Research CD ROM. Phil worked with Leonard Peikoff directly, who according to Phil, had no enthusiasm for the project and did not want it extended.

Publishing in digital form does not have to be the same thing as putting the works into the public domain.

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Even if everything was perfectly replicatated (which would be nice) how is that going to motivate people to learn and apply the information? I think it is going to take a lot more than advance replication to get people to read Ayn Rand's works, which I have already mentioned.

Without intending to sound like an advocate of this "project", I don't think it's so much motivation as it is *accessibility* and the ability to analyze and study in unexpected ways that can utilize the power of computers and networking. Paper is dying at an increasing rate.

Guess what a top 25 iPhone application is now? One that helps Obama supporters campaign and connect. They know how to connect to their young constituency who are electronically literate. Why should the evil be better prepared for the 21st century than the good?

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The enormous effort that was put in was in the form of book publication and setting up the ARI website where you can at least find videos and descriptions advocating the published books.

I'm not sure why you think that is "enormous effort". There are loads of errors with each new printing of the books because the Cretaceous era publishers manually re-key them with each new printing. Yes, really. (Maybe that's finally changing, I don't know.) The owner of the rights of the material has the perfect ability to demand, insist, and ensure that such stupidity not be implemented - if he cared. But it's been that way for decades, long into the era of word processors.

Phil worked with Leonard Peikoff directly

No, I worked with his agency to get the rights. As far as the actual work went, of OCRing all of the material from paper and organizing it into electronic form, that was done 100% by myself with no help and no encouragement.

Publishing in digital form does not have to be the same thing as putting the works into the public domain.

Certainly, and there are loads of opportunities for digital dissemination that could be profitable. As I've said a number of times now, if they *aren't* going to be pursued, I would rather see the material go into the public domain than to languish in the information stone age while the world is diving headlong into a very dark age.

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I was under the impression that the Ayn Rand Estate was already offering greater and better access to her works. Stuff like the new websites like aynrandlexicon.com or the new content at ARI's site. It would be nice if all of her works were easily available in digitized form, but I don't think accessibility of her ideas is a problem.

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I do not believe you will find in these or any other of my posts any hostility toward Leonard Peikoff or ARI, and nothing here was intended as such.

It is my professional experience that last wills and testaments are public and generally intended by their authors to be recorded by the probate court for purposes of seeing that their instructions are carried out. There is nothing sinister involved in asking the question as to what were the last statements and instructions of the person whose work we all on this board care so much about --- ESPECIALLY since Ayn Rand would have been well aware of the public nature of the document and therefore expected that those instructions would be public.

Since most things she wrote were so insightful, anything she wrote for the public record is of interest. If she wrote one line saying "I leave everything to Leonard Peikoff" or if she somehow had her will sealed from the public, those facts are themselves both of interest to those who are "fans of Ayn Rand" and seek to apply her examples and thoughts to their own lives. And certainly I am not demanding anyone produce anything -- if it's available on the internet then it would be of interest, if it's not then so be it -- I'm certainly not driving to New York to look it up. If it's not available on the internet I'll likely never read it and it will never have any effect on me one way or the other -- which is also the point why it's desirable to make all of Ayn Rand's work as easily available as possible.

Also, as to Phil, I have never met him nor spoken to him -- my cite to his comment was purely to attribute the idea and avoid the implication that I was passing it off as my own. I have great respect for the work he has done and the value that his CDROM has been to me, and I agree with the thoughts he has expressed before on this subject and the need to expand computer access to Ayn Rand's work.

Obviously if Leonard Peikoff or others own the copyrights through will or otherwise, then as stated originally it would be a matter of attempting to purchase those copyrights for a price acceptable to him.

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Guess what a top 25 iPhone application is now? One that helps Obama supporters campaign and connect. They know how to connect to their young constituency who are electronically literate. Why should the evil be better prepared for the 21st century than the good?

In the 2004 election the Democrats used hand held computers with data bases on the people they canvassed door to door. Before going up to the door they would look up the people to find out what particular issues concerned them. They then spun their pitch to address those concerns as reasons to vote for Kerry.

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The enormous effort that was put in was in the form of book publication and setting up the ARI website where you can at least find videos and descriptions advocating the published books.

I'm not sure why you think that is "enormous effort". There are loads of errors with each new printing of the books because the Cretaceous era publishers manually re-key them with each new printing. Yes, really. (Maybe that's finally changing, I don't know.) The owner of the rights of the material has the perfect ability to demand, insist, and ensure that such stupidity not be implemented - if he cared. But it's been that way for decades, long into the era of word processors.

An enormous effort was put into publishing new books -- like Journals, Letters, Ayn Rand Answers, and early fiction; supplementing IOE with the Workshops; and publishing previously published essays from the periodicals in anthologies. Leonard Peikoff and/or ARI also worked with the publishers and book sellers to promote the major books like Atlas. I agree that the publishers introduced a lot of typos into previously published books -- including whole garbled passages and omitting the "only down to a certain point" passage in The Fountainhead -- as we have discussed here before. I don't know what was done about that or if newer editions have been corrected.

Phil worked with Leonard Peikoff directly

No, I worked with his agency to get the rights. As far as the actual work went, of OCRing all of the material from paper and organizing it into electronic form, that was done 100% by myself with no help and no encouragement.

I had the impression from previous posts that you had talked to him directly. It has been clear all along that you did all the work -- at a time when this was a relatively new technology for personal PCs -- and that Leonard Peikoff was not interested in it, to the point of not renewing the contract prioer to your donating the remaining CDs to ARI.

Publishing in digital form does not have to be the same thing as putting the works into the public domain.

Certainly, and there are loads of opportunities for digital dissemination that could be profitable. As I've said a number of times now, if they *aren't* going to be pursued, I would rather see the material go into the public domain than to languish in the information stone age while the world is diving headlong into a very dark age.

Is ARI more interested than Leonard Peikoff? Does their interest in audios and videos of lectures extend to digital forms of the books? If Leonard Peikoff isn't interested in selling the material in digital form maybe he would donate the digital rights to ARI? If he thinks that would compete with his royalties from the books, then why not do it himself? Does he want everyone to RTFS?

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I was under the impression that the Ayn Rand Estate was already offering greater and better access to her works. Stuff like the new websites like aynrandlexicon.com or the new content at ARI's site. It would be nice if all of her works were easily available in digitized form, but I don't think accessibility of her ideas is a problem.

It's a matter of making it accessible in a form that is most convenient as the technology of publishing changes and older forms decline in use.

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On a related note, does anyone know the copyright or moral status of Anthem? That has always been not clear to me.

This isn't a clear yes or no answer, but here's my experience as a club leader. I asked the ARI if I could distribute Anthem for free among my club prior to the start of this semester. I offered to proofread it against my own printed copy to ensure accuracy. I was told quite firmly not to distribute it or the link to it. I was not given a reason.

Addressing the subject of public domain, copyright now lasts life of author + 95 years, thanks to a certain large company that has made its fortune in public domain works. This is the same law (PRO-IP) that created the new copyright czar. This also means that Ayn Rand's works will not enter the public domain without being released by whoever the owner is until 2077 (barring that same large company paying more lobbyists to extend copyright again).

Unfortunately, it also bars easy access in zillions of formats "so that they can be freely copied, quoted, translated, wiki-fied, analyzed, argued about, stored on millions of electronic devices, transcribed onto etched superalloy sheets (one of my ideas) that would last millions of years, and searched all around the internet."

Putting it all online for free does not mean that any degree of fame will come. How many names and titles do you recognize when browsing Project Gutenberg? Getting people interested enough to dedicate time to read is still on an interpersonal level.

As a somewhat distribution-of-labor idea (sorry, but homework calls), I'll leave with a few sources to learn more about why Ayn Rand's work should be at least put under Creative Commons, if not public domain.

"Giving It Away" by Cory Doctorow

Steal This Film II (the first half being more relevant than the second, but you need a BitTorrent client to download it - I recommend Opera or Transmission, but they really are easy to find)

Chart for Determining Public-Domain Status (note, does not take into account the recent PRO-IP law)

"Don't Download This Song" by Weird Al Yankovic (pretty much unrelated, but funny)

It appears to be in the public domain.

There is a very big difference in being available for free online and being freely available. The first is legal, the second is not depending on where you live. Whether it should or shouldn't be illegal is a separate, but inevitable, argument.

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I don't see the public domain as being the big issue holding back Objectivism. It helps fund the ARI operations

ARI does not, as far as I know, directly receive anything from any of Ayn Rand's work. Indirectly from donations, yes.

The issue with the spread of the ideas is not the price per-se. The issue is the ability to access and study the information. When was the last time you physically went to a bookshelf of Encylopedia Brittanicas to look up something rather than googling it?

The thing I am curious about however, is why there is no electronic distribution in any form that I presently know of. (Even if not PhilO's, why not on devices such as the Kindle).

Have you not been reading what I've been writing on exactly this issue?

There isn't because there *isn't* "an enormous amount of hard work" going on to disseminate the ideas in wider forms (electronic and translations.) Not by my definition of "hard work" anyway. There is a lot of outright complacency about the status quo and letting other people (e.g. literary agents) do the work and not "getting involved" - even if those third parties themselves are incredibly indifferent.

Unfortunately, I can only visit the forums when time permits, so sometimes I am upto date on all the current threads being posted on, and sometimes there are months in which I have not read a single post.

I have read some of the stuff on it, but can you link me to all available threads on it?

I know that I have hit the stage in my life that if I can't read something electronically, I don't read it at all anymore with the exception of Ayn Rands stuff. The majority of the time, I am traveling but it is just too inconvenient to lug books around. ^_^

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