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July 28, 2004
The 9/11 Report -- A Bestseller from the Public Domain
The New York Times reports that the the 9/11 Report has been "a royalty-free windfall" for publisher Norton.
"The 9/11 Commission Report," the final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, has remained at the top of the best-seller lists at online bookstores since its release last Thursday.
The report is topping the Amazon charts despite being uncopyrightable and freely available on the web. It's one of the of the few types of works left -- works of government authorship -- that enters the modern public domain.
According to the typical copyright story playing in Washington, this publication and its profits for the publisher shouldn't have happened. What would be the incentive to publish a book that anyone else could freely read and even republish? Yet it seems that some people still want to read on bound paper, and a publisher can still make money by being first to market at a reasonable price. Of course the newsworthiness of the event and subject had plenty to do with this story, but it helps show, as do and
Lawrence Lessig's experience with it, that total control isn't the only workable business model for publishers.
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