Intellectual Property Rights
Doubleday wants to print The Al Qaeda Reader
, a compendium of the thoughts of Ayman al-Zawahri and Osama bin Laden. The publisher thinks people need to know what the founders of al Qaeda are thinking, and feels that there is a market for the book. Doubleday says it will donate any profits to charity.
The book is opposed by some families of victims of the September 11 th
attack, who feel publishing the book will spread the al Qaeda message to the wrong sort of people.
That's enough controversy for most books, but then the intellectual property laws enter the picture. Under US law, Doubleday is required to pay a royalty to the owners of these thoughts: al-Zawahri and bin Laden. Doubleday says it won't do that, but the law is quite clear.
Personally I would have set up accounts for both men and sent royalties to those accounts. That money would then be available to pay claims against them made in US and foreign courts. If Doubleday refuses to do that they are in open violation of the copyright laws, and would probably get away with it. What jury would be willing to find for two of the most hated men in the country? What are the chances of either man filing a claim against Doubleday in a US court?
What troubles me is the blatant intent of a publisher to violate copyright law. This could have been done within the letter, if not the spirit of the law, but corporations have privilege, private law
. Corporations think it is reasonable for them to sue a 12-year-old for 3 minutes of "bubblegum" music downloaded from the Internet, but perfectly reasonable for them to profit from another's work.
If they go through with this, bin Laden wins; he has another example of the criminal behavior of the West.