The other day I wrote about the trouble between S. Fischer Verlag (part of the Holtzbrinck empire) and Project Gutenberg.

Here is a cri de coeur from Eric Hellman, originally at his blog Go to Hellman, reproduced by TeleRead. I hadn’t realized how devastating the judgement would be for Project Gutenberg: fatal it seems, as they can’t afford to pay the fine imposed. This is obviously ludicrous. Even the most ardent activist at Fischer cannot really want Project Gutenberg to disappear. One wonders how much income they lose on downloads of the 19 books in question. Not enough to consign all the free reading to the garbage heap.

Rather than fight to the death, I hope Project Gutenberg, if they can’t get the decision reversed, just delete the nineteen books, and let us all suffer from the inability to read Buddenbrooks, for example, for free. Of course that may open the door to other similarly dog-in-manger publishers, but that’d be better than losing everything.

Just as, whenever we have a school shooting in USA, gun sale spike, one consequence of this kerfuffle is no doubt a flurry of downloads of the books in question. I already have print versions of the ones I want, but I almost feel I should download for solidarity.

With the world’s borders dissolving before our eyes, some universal copyright code is desirable — if no doubt unattainable.