Let me start by saying sorry to listeners in the USA – this will not benefit you.
International copyright law is a mysterious beast. Most countries have laws that give copyright protection to authors for a certain number of years after their death. The USA is different. In fact, their copyright law is unbelievably complicated. Read about the Copyright Term Extension Act if you can bear to. LibriVox audio recordings are all hosted in the USA, so LibriVox needs to observe US copyright law scrupulously.
We non-US readers also have to consider the copyright laws of our own countries, so we are frequently unable to record works by, say, British authors which are in the public domain in the US, but not at home (e.g. early works by P.G. Wodehouse). This is frustrating. Very frustrating. But it’s the law, and we are a law-abiding bunch.
However, of course there are works that are in the Public Domain in Europe, but not in the USA – because the author died more than 70 years ago, but the books were published in or after the US cut-off point of 1923. Examples include The Prophet by Khalil Gibran and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence.
Several individuals have been thinking about this for a long time, but the critical factor which has always stopped us, has been where in Europe to get the files hosted. The storage and bandwidth costs for audio files are substantial and of course we have no money :D.
There seems to be no European equivalent of the US Internet Archive, which, of course, generously hosts all LibriVox audio recordings free. Leastways, there are European archive sites, funded presumably by the EU, but they do not (yet!) seem interested in assisting. If anyone has any ideas or contacts, do please let me know.
In the meantime, we have decided to go ahead, finding free hosting where and when we can. Not ideal, but it is a start. It will be of interest to European listeners, whose laws specify 70 years of copyright protection following an author’s death, and also Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, China (50 years), Australia (50/70 years), India (60 years), Brazil, Israel (70 years) and many other parts of the world. Check your country’s copyright duration here. This means, for instance, that we shall be able to record later works of Conan Doyle, D. H. Lawrence, John Buchan and next year, Virginia Wolfe and James Joyce… and many European authors, increasing every year.
So (drum roll) I am pleased to announce that I shall also be recording for Legamus (let’s read aloud in Latin!). We are not up and running yet, but we will be soon. I will, of course, announce it here. And, you guessed it, those two I mentioned earlier will be among the first I record.
These will be free downloads, but unlike LibriVox they may not necessarily be available for other people to sell.