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Copyright controversy over Marx & Engels’ Collected Works

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The following is a petition that recently appeared over at www.change.org, imploring the book publisher Lawrence & Wishart [L&W] to withdraw its demand that the Marxist Internet Archive [MIA] take down its transcriptions of Marx & Engels ‘Collected Works [MECW]. Like most of the petitions begun on that website, it will almost surely prove ineffectual. Nevertheless, it’s now reposted here for largely symbolic reasons.

I will say in passing, however, that I on’t begrudge L&W the decision to invoke copyright on the MECW, at least not any more than I begrudge any book company to do so. MECW is L&W’s rightful property — that is, property according to bourgeois right. So they are fully justified — from a legal standpoint, anyway — to insist that it be respected. They’re no worse than, say, the “counterhegemonic apparatus” of Verso, New Left Review, and Historical Materialism. Anyone who loudly protests L&W’s invocation of copyright while defending the copyright of his or her own publishing house just as loudly are total hypocrites for protesting L&W’s decision. Especially since the MECW alone is more worth reading than the vast majority of shit, most of it tedious exegesis, that they put out.

However, all things told, it’s pretty pointless to try and enforce this and will doubtless inspire a backlash. Below the petition are some links to a website where someone (I don’t know who it is) has apparently uploaded printers’ PDFs of the first 23 volumes of the MECW. Didn’t even know they existed before someone alerted me to it. And don’t know if any more are set to become available, so don’t ask. In a way, though, they’re preferable to the MIA versions, since they’re proofed and formatted. Not just for citation purposes, either, but because the MECW on MIA was incomplete and often contained clerical transcription errors.

Petition to allow Marx & Engels’ Collected Works to remain in the public domain

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We are very grateful for the work you have done, along with International Publishers and Progress Publishers, translating into English and publishing the MECW [Marx & Engels Collected Works]. This is an extremely valuable contribution to the workers movement and Marxist scholarship not only in the English-speaking world, but internationally.

MIA [Marxist Internet Archive] has made these works available for free on the web to an even wider public, and they have now become an essential tool for thousands of Marxist scholars and activists around the world.

We fully appreciate the efforts and difficulties that running a small independent publishing house entails. But allowing free access to the MECW on the MIA website does not hinder sales. On the contrary, the publicity it provides increases them, and we would support any attempt to further improve this aspect.

But over and above any commercial considerations, there is a crucial matter of principle at play here. Having been available freely online for ten years, the MECW have become an essential part of the shared knowledge and resources of the international workers’ movement. We cannot take a step backward.

This decision would only damage Lawrence and Wishart’s reputation without bringing any significant economic advantage.

That’s why we call upon you to reconsider this decision and reach an accommodation which keeps these essential resources in the public domain, where they belong.

PDFs of Marx & Engels’ Collected Works

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Note:
I’m not hosting any of this content, and don’t know who is.

  1. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 1
  2. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 2
  3. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 3
  4. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 4
  5. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 5
  6. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 6
  7. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 7
  8. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 8
  9. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 9
  10. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 10
  11. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 11
  12. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 12
  13. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 13
  14. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 14
  15. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 15
  16. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 16
  17. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 17
  18. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 18
  19. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 19
  20. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 20
  21. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 21
  22. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 22
  23. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 23
  24. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 24
  25. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 25
  26. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 26
  27. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 27
  28. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 28
  29. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 29
  30. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 30
  31. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 31
  32. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 32
  33. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 33
  34. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 34
  35. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 35
  36. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 36
  37. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 37
  38. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 38
  39. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 39
  40. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 40
  41. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 41
  42. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 42
  43. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 43
  44. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 44
  45. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 45
  46. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 46
  47. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 47
  48. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 48
  49. Marx & Engels Collected Works, Volume 49

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Finally, here is a word from Sebastian Budgen on this. Of course he’s lamely trying to counterbalance his own (very public) condemnation of those who violate copyright for books that he helps put out with the popular public outrage over Lawrence & Wishart demanding the same. He doesn’t fault them in terms of the principle of the matter — nor do I — as I assume he fundamentally agrees with them. Rather, he questions the viability of the demand that the public respect its copyright claim. I agree with him here, but have no clue why he doesn’t apply the same logic to himself.

Sebastian Budgen from Historical Materialism lamely hedges his bets over Lawrence and Wishart

Also, hats off to Doug Henwood for the following hilarious troll. I may have been unfair in characterizing his political stance on electoralism in a previous post; hopefully this maybe forgiven.

Screen shot 2014-04-29 at 3.46.50 PM

21 thoughts on “Copyright controversy over Marx & Engels’ Collected Works

    • I don’t think L&W are claiming copyright on Marx & Engels’ work but rather on the translations of same – translators need to be paid too!

  1. Thanks for the PDF links, Ross. Here are links for a torrent & a zip file, courtesy of marxismocritico.com:
    http://thepiratebay.se/torrent/6231000/Marxists.org_-_full_English_language_archive
    http://www.sendspace.com/file/l7wx0o (zip)

    The same post also includes a Marxists Internet Archive statement (Saturday 26 April), & a response by L&W to both the opposition they have created & the MIA statement itself (Monday 28 April):
    http://marxismocritico.com/2014/04/28/radical-press-demands-copyright/

    So Happy May Day from L&W. Maybe this will become a new tradition of the labour & socialist movements, re-asserting Chuck’s pithy defence of bourgeois right made in his evaluation of the draft Gotha programme.

    However this is not new. I believe that MIA were warned off by Pathfinder Press before they posted any Trotsky. Nice.

    And there’s a theme here, what may be called ‘the fate of the left’. Who administers the house in Trier where Chuck was born? A foundation, yes, but not the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung; quite the opposite, really: the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, he who orchestrated the murder of the Spartacists. So nothing new, I suppose.

    Anyway, the back of the house has nice red flowers for the special day:

    Even so, guess communist spirit has somehow gone missing in action.

  2. Thanks for the PDF links, Ross. Here are links for a torrent & a zip file, courtesy of marxismocritico.com:
    http://thepiratebay.se/torrent/6231000/Marxists.org_-_full_English_language_archive
    http://www.sendspace.com/file/l7wx0o (zip)

    The same post also includes a Marxists Internet Archive statement (Saturday 26 April), & a response by L&W to both the opposition they have created & the MIA statement itself (Monday 28 April):
    http://marxismocritico.com/2014/04/28/radical-press-demands-copyright/

    So Happy May Day from L&W. Maybe this will become a new tradition of the labour & socialist movements, re-asserting Chuck’s pithy defence of bourgeois right made in his evaluation of the draft Gotha programme.

    However this is not new. I believe that MIA were warned off by Pathfinder Press before they posted any Trotsky. Nice.

    And there’s a theme here, what may be called ‘the fate of the left’. Who administers the house in Trier where Chuck was born? A foundation, yes, but not the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung; quite the opposite, really: the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, he who orchestrated the murder of the Spartacists. So nothing new, I suppose.

    Anyway, the back of the house has nice red flowers for the special day:

    Even so, guess communist spirit has somehow gone missing in action.

  3. So, L&W claim to do this because of their workers. But what exactly is the work still to be done on the MECW? Apart from uploading it on some site? Maybe the money will go to other projects, who knows, but it really reads like typical rentier logic.

    • I don’t envision them selling many digital copies, but I suppose selling a dozen or so is better than making no money if royalties are how you eat. They would probably be better off commissioning an entirely new translation with introductions by modern thinkers and commentators for sell and allowing the existing version to remain online for free.

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  5. Thanks so much for helping to make this available. An incredible resource that needs to remain freely and constantly available until we have finally done away with this shitty epoch once and for all.

  6. One thing that I think it is interesting it is that making works available for free actually do not eat away profits (sometimes it helps). This was noticed 20 years ago, in physical and mathematical sciences, as you can see here http://www.arxiv.org, with almost one million papers. It seems some journals do not even accept papers for publishing, if it is not available there first (they have filter for low quality papers, not always work though, but this is another problem).

    It seems that some “revolutionary” publishers are more “reactionary” than many “bourgeois” publishers, heh!

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  9. To use copyright for such a work is ironic. If they allow it to be available freely in the spirit of human knowledge belonging to every person, and ask for a donation of whatever a person can afford, then I’m sure people who can afford more would have donated more, and people who can afford a little would have donated a little. People will now just download it for free and resent the publisher, though they may get a few sales.

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