The site with the best logo in the world, The Register, has a must read article on copyfraud written by Charles Eicher, who is an artist and multimedia producer in the American Midwest. He has a special interest in intellectual property rights in the Arts and Humanities. The article is too long to summarize, but his basic thesis is:
The public domain is the greatest resource in human history: eventually all knowledge will become part of it. Its riches serve all mankind, but it faces a new threat. Vast libraries of public domain works are being plundered by claims of “copyright”. It’s called copyfraud – and we’ll discover how large corporations like Google, Yahoo, and Amazon have structured their businesses to assist it and profit from it. …
This is something I’ve thought about, myself, when I see public domain works “re-branded” with copyright notices. The scam is this:
Committing copyfraud is astonishingly easy and costs nothing. I can borrow a public domain book from any library and scan it, or I could download the text from Project Gutenberg. I reformat it as a PDF, mark it with a copyright date, register it as a new book with an ISBN, then submit it to Amazon.com for sale. I may not even need to print and bind any books, I can offer it through Amazon’s Booksurge print-on-demand service, or as an ebook on Kindle. Once the book is listed for sale, I can submit it to Google Books for inclusion in its index. I could easily publish thousands of books; most would never sell, but with zero up-front cost, any sale is pure profit.
Go over and read the whole thing.