In recent days there has been debate about the copyright of the Marx-Engels collected works. Publishers Lawrence & Wishart have asked that these works are removed from the Marxist Internet Archive (story here); a petition has been started to protest this; Lawrence & Wishart have issued a statement in reply.
I have sympathy with L&W’s position. The idea that knowledge should be freely available is laudable, but this does not mean it is ‘free’. There is a lot of un-compensated or under-compensated labour invested in book production, even for works that are assumed to be out of copyright – editors, translators, proof-readers, production staff, etc.
I do think that unless there is some ability to invest the proceeds of sales back into production, there is a considerable risk that important works will never be translated. And, as they say, there are many more appropriate targets of protest than a small independent publisher.