Robert Darnton's long, reflective piece on "Google & the Future of Books" in the New York Review of Books is justifiably generating a lot of buzz. There is much I can admire in the piece. For example, Darnton stresses the importance of having an open cultural heritage:
In a passing comment, he suggests that he thinks the original 28 year maximum term for copyright may be better than our current term of life + 70:
These are inspiring sentiments with which I generally agree. But while they are easy to espouse, they are much harder to implement. To illustrate this, we need only look at Robert Darnton's own works.
If we assume a 28 year copyright term, all books published by Darnton prior to 1981 should be in the public domain (or at a minimum freely available). Yet according to the records in WorldCat, of the books that Darnton authored before 1981, only one (The Business of the Enlightenment) is available in electronic form, and that is only available through the subscription product ACLS Humanities E-Books. Other important works, such as Mesmerism and the End of the Enlightenment in France, are totally inaccessible electronically.
Let's hope that as a first step in "subordinating private interests to the public good," Professor Darnton liberates his own works.