BlackmaskAlas, the Blackmask site remains dark, probably because of the legal situation. Meanwhile one wonder if Conde Nast’s lawyers will now send a warning to the World eBook Library–the WeBL catalog still has a Blackmask section listing Doc Savage and Shadow titles, the very stuff that got Blackmask into trouble. This is really sad. Fearing that the copyright interests will try to shut down Project Gutenberg, Michael Hart has been scrupulous to avoid violations of law.

Does anyone out there care what’s happening to Project Gutenberg’s good name as a result of associations with problematic partners like the World eBook Library? The real Gutenberg and Michael are closely tied. Although he doesn’t sit on the board of the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, three of the four board members seem to be cronies of his from the University of Illinois. The fouth is Greg Newby, Gutenberg’s executive director. If I were running PGLAF, I’d replace the cronies with some real e-book people such as Juliet Sutherland or Charles Franks from Distributed Proofreaders.

I’d also let the board control the “Project Gutenberg” trademark and disclose how it’s being used. The trademark remains Michael’s personal property, and I’d still like to know what business deals he may be using it to make. It would be cool to be for you and Gutenberg to prosper, Michael, and for you retire comfortably when ready; it is not cool to carry on commerce behind the backs of Gutenberg volunteers who made “Project Gutenberg” such a valuable name.


  1. It is possible, maybe even probyble, that somebody is going to try and make PG a “business”.
    I don’t think this would be such a good idea, but peole look for money everywhere these days, and the owner of PG is probably under quite some pressure from business people willing to pay him off and then run the whole thing as a commerical enterprise…expecially now that ereader devices are coming of age…maybe even some publishers fear that their old and uncopyrighted books won’t sell so well as long as Gutenberg is about and offers books for free…

    But let’s keep down the paranoia…:-)

  2. Roland Rohde suggests that it is probable “that somebody is going to try and make PG a “business”.” An organization called NetLibrary is already using Project Gutenberg texts in a very strange way. I found an electronic copy of The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle on the website of The publication data provided is the following “Champaign, Ill. (P.O. Box 2782, Champaign 61825) Project Gutenberg, 1999.” So the text was probably acquired from the Gutenberg archive. Unfortunately, I am unable to find any way to download the ebook. Instead, I have to read the ebook while online. NetLibrary is part of OCLC Online Computer Library Center which is a large non-profit corporation.
    My local library, I believe, pays NetLibrary to provide ebooks. This means that my library is paying another company to repackage Project Gutenberg content into a form that can not be downloaded. Perhaps some reader knows the rationale for this odd behavior. (Note NetLibrary does carry considerable content beyond the Project Gutenberg titles.)

  3. Project Gutenberg books are generally in the public domain. When not, they are accompagnied by a copyright license. All Project Gutenberg e-books (as published by PG) are accompagnied by a trademark license that outlines when you are allowed to use the trademark (in other words, when you are allowed to advertise e-books as being from PG). Basically the condition for using the trademark is that if you make money off PG e-books, PG gets a slice.

    Do not confuse trademarks with copyrights! It is perfectly fine to rebrand free PG e-books and resell them. If NetLibrary wants to sell access to PG e-books, that’s OK with PG as long as NetLibrary pays PG a percentage. If NetLibrary wants to keep all income for itself, that’s fine too, but then it has to strip all references that imply its e-books are of the Project Gutenberg brand.

    From what I understand (and IIRC), the owner of WeBL is a close personal friend of Michael Hart.

  4. Thanks, everyone. Not sure if we’re talking about the same that’s a branch of OCLC, although I do recall that the big NL does offer PG books. Michael’s friend John Guagliardo does own–probably independent of the others. Now, what I do find interesting is that the pub data in the Doyle book mentions the area in Illinois where Michael lives, but that’s probably a routine item listened in all PG book, so I wouldn’t make too anything of it. I still think that John G’s NetLibrary is independent of the big NetLibrary.

    As for the Project Gutenberg trademark, keep in mind that if a commercial interest buys it up, it might be able to influence what the nonprofit PG does–including maybe the nonprofit’s ‘tude toward intellectual property.

    If nothing else, the actions of a commercial entity should diminish the respect that the nonprofit enjoys as a result of the work of thousands of volunteers.


  5. My comments were aimed at which is the website of a division of OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. The address also maps to the same website as I did not notice until David Rothman pointed it out that the web address leads to another location. It leads to the website of the “World eBook Library”. Sorry about the confusion this may have caused.

    I brought up because it appears to be a prominent website for libraries that wish to provide ebooks, and it appears that they are using Project Gutenberg texts. Note, I am not asserting in my post that the actions of are illegal or unethical. I am saying that there actions are irritating because they are offering a “crippled” version of the Sherlock Holmes book that can not be downloaded. I also hoped that my comment would be pertinent because it follows the general theme of “organizations making money using Project Gutenberg books.”

    To access the website I had to first create an account through my local library. Hence, many readers of this blog may be unable to verify my claims about the Sherlock Holmes book. I just checked a few other texts: Emma by Jane Austen, Walden by Henry David Thoreau, and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells all have the following publication data field: “Champaign, Ill. (P.O. Box 2782, Champaign 61825) Project Gutenberg”.

    Thanks to Branko Collin for his interesting comments on trademarks and copyrights.

  6. Wherever ignorance exists, there will be someone trying to make a buck out of it. There will always be people who think that free eBooks can’t possibly be worth investigating. They’re the same people who think that a t-shirt is worth more if it has a rich designer’s name on it. All we can do is spread the word as far and as fast as we can and hope the fools eventually learn from their folly.


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