I Think I Want To Give My Work Away
December 18, 2007 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Is there any reason I shouldn't post my out-of-print poetry book on Gutenberg under a Creative Commons license?

So my poetry book is out of print, and I don't expect it get re-issued or be picked up by any other publisher (except maybe in the distant future when I win the Pulitzer, and/or it gets subsumed into a Collected Works or something). The rights reverted to me when my publisher put it out of print, as per my contract, so I am free and clear to do whatever I want with it, including give it away.

I'd really like for more people to be able to read it - that's why I sought publication in the first place, after all - and it strikes me that I'd get much wider exposure this way and possibly increase my readership for my next book.

Gutenberg appears to have quite straight-forward guidelines for sending them your own work, and they can append licensing information that states that it can be reproduced only in its entirety and only not-for-profit. I'm not worried about it getting stolen, and my intent is not to release it into the public domain (and the legalese would state that), but simply to make it available for free. Here is an example of the sort of copyleft I'd assign it (except I'd use the more up-to-date Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported, I'm guessing).

Is there any reason I shouldn't do this? If I decide to do it, is there any reason I shouldn't go with Gutenberg?

And to clarify, I know y'all are not lawyers or not my lawyers, and that any advice you give me does not constitute legal advice. I'm more asking about practical difficulties/repercussions I might encounter now or in the future.
posted by joannemerriam to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As I understand it, once you do this you can't revoke it. That's one thing.
posted by futility closet at 4:07 PM on December 18, 2007

Creative Commons is a license, not a total transfer of copyright. The difference being that you CAN revoke a license at any time, whereas transfer is the act of giving someone else the copyright (like your publishing company did when the book went out of print).

The CC license you reference does exactly what you want to do - people can take it and print it for themselves or for a non profit purpose, but you can still sue or make someone stop if they're printing it for profit.
posted by lovetragedy at 5:07 PM on December 18, 2007

Actually, upon close inspection, futility closet is right: you can't revoke it, but you can change the licensing terms so that no new people can take it for free. And that doesn't change the fact that no one but you can make money off of it under that license.
posted by lovetragedy at 5:15 PM on December 18, 2007

This article by Cory Doctorow gets into many of the issues you're curious about.

Cory Doctorow writes extensively about copyright issues and publishes almost everything he writes, including books picked up by an actual book publisher, under a Creative Commons license as well. You'd be well served by reading around on his site.
posted by grumpy at 5:57 AM on December 19, 2007

Just post the stuff online. The copyright remains yours. You don't need to futz around with licenses or do anything like that. Just start up a web site and post your poems there and call it a day.
posted by chunking express at 7:08 AM on December 19, 2007

I notice that if you do want to add your work to project Gutenberg it has to be "free as in freedom". In that case the license you picked sounds fine. You can always sell your work if you like. People who don't want to buy your book can grab it from Gutenberg.
posted by chunking express at 7:14 AM on December 19, 2007

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