Several weeks ago I launched my second website (favourite-poems.com) the aim of which is to share my favourite poetry with others. The site carries no advertisements and is wholly uncommercial in nature. Most of the poems which appear there are out of copyright, however in order to avoid breeching copyright I contacted the agents for W H Auden to gain their permission to include Auden’s poems on favourite-poems.com. They refused on the grounds that they are attempting to reduce the amount of the poet’s work which is availible, free online.
I was, naturally disappointed as I wish to include whole poems on my site. In order to comply with copyright law I’ve linked to my favourite Auden poems on sites which do possess the necessary permissions, however it seems a short sighted decision by the copyright holder to deny permission as the inclusion of Auden’s poems, on favourite-poems.com would, in my view encourage those who enjoyed reading them to go out and purchase a copy of his poems either in print format or electronically. Most people would prefer to have a book rather than having to trawl through websites to read poetry and I find it difficult to envisage how the inclusion, by me of a few poems would have any adverse effects on the sales of Auden’s works.
The irony of the situation is there are plenty of sites out there which reproduce copious amounts of literature without gaining the permission of the copyright holders. I do not, in any sense condone such behaviour, however it strikes me that publishers should be using electronic media to increase sales of their author’s works rather than by attempting to stem the flood which risks engulfing them if they fail to modernise their practices.