Thursday, April 24, 2008

Publishing zeitgeist

German publishing company Bertelsmann AG is planning to publish a series of yearbooks (use of "annual" before that as in the MSNBC report I found this on seemed slightly redundant) whose content is based on the top 50,000 searches on the German-language Wikipedia. A spokesman for the company (which also has Random House and Sony BMG as interests) said the print-version would bring Wikipedia to a new audience. But before they're published, the user-created online entries will be fact-checked. The book will be produced under free-licence, so its content can be distributed and copied. While the on-line authors won't receive any cash for their "contribution", Wikimeida Deutschland eV, which promotes the German-language Wikipedia, will get $1.59 a copy from the $31.80 sale price for the 992-page book.
So, my question is, how is this different from the onl-line fan-produced Harry Potter lexicon which ran foul of JK Rowling with publication in book form. The case against fan Vander Ark is that he infringed Rowling's copyright - although it could be argued that Vander Ark added his own interpretation, creativity and analysis to compile the lists of characters, places and spells from the novels which make up the book. While not denying that it does infringe Rowling's copyright, the publishers of the book are arguing that it is fair use allowable by law for reference books. The trial is still underway.

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