Submission + - Physicist Stephen Hawking dies aged 76 (

gubol123 writes: Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76, his family has said.

The British theoretical physicist was known for his groundbreaking work with black holes and relativity, and was the author of several popular science books including A Brief History of Time

Submission + - Project Gutenberg blocks German users after outrageous court ruling (

David Rothman writes: The oldest public domain publisher in the world, Project Gutenberg, has blocked German users after an outrageous legal ruling saying this American nonprofit must obey German copyright law.

Gutenberg is fighting the latest threat to the global Internet, but meanwhile, out of prudence, it is understandably fencing out German book-lovers. This, of course, is not an acceptable permanent solution. Nor is an effort at book-by-book blocking. Imagine the technical issues for fragile, cash-strapped public domain organizations--worrying not only about updated databases covering all the world's countries, but also applying the results to distribution. TeleRead carries two views on the German case involving a Holtzbrinck subsidiary. Senior TeleRead Writer Chris Meadows is more sympathetic to the German court than I am. My pro-Gutenberg views, as TeleRead's editor-publisher-founder, are in the comments section.

Significantly, older books provide just a tiny fraction of the revenue of megaconglomerates like Holtzbrinck but are essential to students of literature and indeed to students in general. What's more, as illustrated by the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in the U.S., copyright law in most countries tends to reflect the wishes and power of lobbyists more than it does the commonweal. Ideally the travails of Project Gutenberg will encourage tech companies, students, teachers, librarians and others to step up their efforts against oppressive copyright laws.

While writers and publishers deserve fair compensation, let's focus more on the needs of living creators and less on the estates of authors dead for many decades. The three authors involved in the German case are Heinrich Mann (died in 1950), Thomas Mann (1955) and Alfred Döblin (1957).

One solution in the U.S. and elsewhere for modern creators would be national library endowments. The money for a $20-billion U.S. library endowment in five years is, in fact, there. Just ten American billionaires are together worth more than half a billion. Harvard's endowment alone is a whopping $35+ billion, while all the library endowments in America total only several billion or so. A little social justice, please.

Meanwhile, it would be very fitting for Google and other deep-pocketed corporations with an interest in a global Internet and more balanced copyright to help Gutenberg finance its battle. Law schools, other academics, educators and librarians should also offer assistance.

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