Saturday, April 17, 2010

Copyright Cheesiness

Here's a bit of copyright cheesiness which is probably not illegal (what kind of copyright overreach is illegal these days?) but represents, at least, a want of gentlemanly courtesy on the part of a publisher.

Anyway, I'm lookin' at a copy of SuperReview: Greek, billed as "All You Need to Know!" from somebody called "The Research & Education Association," with a copyright date of 2001. What caught my eye was that it's not modern Greek; the cover specifies "Classical/Ancient." No kidding? A modern mass market publisher turning out a study guide on so esoteric a topic?

Well, no. If you know any Greek at all, a five-second flip through the pages will confirm that there is (virtually) nothing new about this book at all. The style, presentation, even (perhaps especially) the type face are a dead giveaway that it goes back to another century, perhaps more.

Twenty seconds on Google Books is enough to confirm the suspicion: in fact, what we have here is The First Year of Greek, assembled by James Turney Allen, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Greek at Berkeley. The title page says it was published by The Macmillan Company with a copyright date of 1917.

I suppose, then, you could say it's fair game, out of copyright. And really, now, is this anything worse than what Dover does when it reprints oldies and sells them cheap (Powell Portland was selling the SuperRerview Greek for as comparatively modest $8.95).

Well, yes it is different. For the fact is, granting all the subtle cues, still there was not a murmur of a trace of a whisper of a hint that this was an old text repackaged. We do have a copyright notice; it says "Copyright 2001 by Research & Education Association." No mention of the original Macmillan copyright. The book does list Allen's name in the author position on the title page,but it adds "...and the Staff of Research & Education, Carl Fuchs, Language Program Director." If this is the way these guys do business, I'd say ol' Carl has a pretty easy gig.

Other than that, zip. Well, there is a scattering of pictures, at least one of which shows tourists in shorts and tee-shirts, but that does more to enhance than correct any possible deception.

The text, by the way--in terms of content, it's pretty respectable, intelligently selected to make its point. But the support stuff--review questions and suchlike--is primitive compared to what we would expect today. If you really want top refresh your Greek, I think you want the admirable offerings from the Joint Association of Classical Teachers, available via Cambridge University Press. Of course, you might be dishonoring the memory of James Turney Allen, but that has already been done.

Afterthought: Or maybe it's not fair game. I learn here that a second edition was published in 1931. Apparently Allen himself died in 1948. Could it be that some kind of copyright claim continues via this 1931 text?

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