June 8, 2009

Fitting a book into your boot

Grant Barrett, a lexicographer and co-host of the National Public Radio show A Way With Words, has posted an e-book version of his The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English on his blog as a free download.

He has done this because the book, which is no longer being printed by the publisher, has shown up on bootleg e-book sites. Barrett figures he'd just as soon have the traffic to his site as someone else's. He also says he's "resigned" to the bootlegging of his book.

Which is sad, really. No person should have to resign himself to the theft of his work.

Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done to stop book bootlegging. Or movie or music bootlegging or other forms of intellectual property theft, for that matter.

And it can't all be blamed on computers and the Internet, either. On an episode of Masterpiece Classics earlier this season, host Laura Linney mentioned that Charles Dickens's books, though immensely popular in the U.S., earned him little money here because most of the editions were bootlegged.

Now, as then, most people give little thought to copyrights. It would be laudable if the citizenry would consider it their bounden duty to uphold copyright law. But I hold out little hope for this, given a society in which we can't stop our own co-workers from taking their colleagues' sodas from the company fridge. Perhaps resignation is the less stressful response.

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