Works of Shakespeare Copyrighted on Project Gutenberg?

September 24, 2010 | Public Domain Resources | By: Mark VandeWettering

As a followup to my earlier posting on the public domain, I noticed something rather curious. if you surf over to Project Gutenberg looking for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, you can look at the Copyright Status field, and it says “Copyrighted. Read the copyright notice inside this book for details.”

Frown.

Sure enough, it says inside:

THIS ELECTRONIC VERSION OF THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE IS COPYRIGHT 1990-1993 BY WORLD LIBRARY, INC., AND IS PROVIDED BY PROJECT GUTENBERG ETEXT OF ILLINOIS BENEDICTINE COLLEGE WITH PERMISSION. ELECTRONIC AND MACHINE READABLE COPIES MAY BE DISTRIBUTED SO LONG AS SUCH COPIES (1) ARE FOR YOUR OR OTHERS PERSONAL USE ONLY, AND (2) ARE NOT DISTRIBUTED OR USED COMMERCIALLY. PROHIBITED COMMERCIAL DISTRIBUTION INCLUDES BY ANYSERVICE THAT CHARGES FOR DOWNLOAD TIME OR FOR MEMBERSHIP.

Okay, that’s not the biggest deal in the world, but I do think that it’s pretty annoying that the works of someone whose been dead for 394 years could still be under copyright. All is not lost though. While some of the plays such as this version of King Lear are copyrighted, other versions are available which are properly in the public domain. One just has to be careful about these details when one seeks to modify or redistribute these works.

While digging around, I also discovered another interesting resource. Some free online references made reference to the Complete Moby Shakespeare, and with a little digging I found that the Moby Shakespeare was available online, and it claims to be in the public domain. It is a part of Grady Ward’s Moby Project, and in addition to Shakespeare, includes a bunch of other resources: a list of 185,000 word hypenations, parts of speach, a thesaurus, and pronunciations for many words. A very neat resource. Bookmarked for later consumption.

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