Friday, June 20, 2008

No Rights Reserved

If there is one thing I dislike it is the over-use of the concept of copyright. I am not suggesting that there is no place for copyright : it is understandable that people want a degree of protection for things they have created. But unless there are limits to such protection, the creative process (a process which is always a collective activity) is stifled. One of the great triumphs of the Internet is that it has largely managed to shun copyright. Some people still try to control who can cut and paste material from their websites, but in the main these are little people with little sites and a massively overblown idea of their own importance.

As I was looking for an audiobook to download to my new MP3 player yesterday I cam across a site called LibriVox and was thrilled to see a little notice attached to the site with three of the most liberating words in the English language : "NO RIGHTS RESERVED". LibriVox has the objective of making all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the Internet. Librivox is a non-commercial, non-profit and ad-free project which is powered by volunteers. Here is a brief description of how it works which, most appropriately, is cut and pasted from their website:

LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain, and then we release the audio files back onto the net for free. All our audio is in the public domain, so you may use it for whatever purpose you wish. Volunteering for LibriVox is easy and does not require any experience with recording or audio engineering or acting or public speaking. All you need is a computer, some free recording software, and your own voice. We accept all volunteers in all languages, with all kinds of accents. You don’t need to audition or send us samples. We’ll accept you no matter what you sound like. We operate almost exclusively through Internet communications on our forum, where all your questions will be answered by our friendly community. We have a flat structure, designed to let people do just what they want to do. Our annual budget is $0, and for the moment we don’t need any money. We’ll let you know if that changes.

It is a breath of fresh air, an example of what the Internet does better than anything else. Long may it continue to liberate literature.


  1. Presumably they only read from their own books, not other people's? Otherwise it really would be an infringement of copyright!

  2. Actually, most things published before 1923 are in the public domain and therefore not copyrighted. For a much fuller explanation, check out

    On Librivox, you'll find everything from Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Daniel Defoe, Adam Smith and literally hundreds more. It's a great resource for listening to classic literature.


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