I admit that I am a book reader and an avid one at that. In the past I would spend well over 200 dollars per year buying books but not anymore. Last year I only bought one book and that was all. It is not that there were less interesting books. No, I always look at the books in my bookstore like a dog looking at a bone and I salivate just as well. With my e-reader I don’t have to buy books anymore really, especially if I decide to stick to the classics or to books that have fallen in the public domain. And there lies the problem.
The public domain exists, but varies tremendously from country to country. For example, in Canada it is 50 years after the death of the author. This means that all the books by Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, are in the public domain in Canada and thus can be downloaded freely from a public domain website such as Project Gutenberg Canada. But in most countries it is only after 75 years after the death of the author. Some countries even after a 100 year rule.
Of course on the web there are no borders and thus anyone can visit the Canadian website and download the books there. No one will check if they come from an American location or a European one. There is simply no way of ensuring compliance on the part of the surfer who goes on such a website. And why would they respect such crazy laws?
In my opinion even the 50 year rule after the death of the author is exaggerated. Why should the grandchildren of an author profit from the works of their ancestor that they may or may not have known? I would put in a 25 year rule only after the author’s death. The children could still profit and to me that would be just fine.