Sunday, 27 April 2014

MIA: Marxists Internet Archive or Missing in Action?

The Marxists Internet Archive (MIA), as readers may know, is a non-profit online library/publisher of the work of Marxist and non-Marxist authors, made freely accessible by a group of voluntaries.

The Marx and Engels Collected Works (MECW), understandably enough, are a part of the content MIA features.

However, a consortium formed by Lawrence & Wishart (self-described as “independent radical publisher”, founded in 1936 and originally linked to the British Communist Party), Progress Publishers (Moscow) and International Publishers (New York) holds the copyright over at least volumes 1 to 10 of MECW and demanded that MIA remove them from their website by April 30th: ironically, Labour Day's eve.

If I am not mistaken, this would affect the first 10 volumes as in the following list:
  • General Introduction
  • Volume 1: (M) August 1835-March 1843
  • Volume 2: (E) August 1838-December 1842
  • Volume 3: (M) March 1843-Aug 1844. (E) May 1843-June 1844.
  • Volume 4: (M/E) 1844-45, incl. Holy Family & Condition of Working Class
  • Volume 5: (M/E) April 1845-April 1847, including German Ideology
  • Volume 6: (M/E) 1845-48, including Poverty of Philosophy and Manifesto
  • Volume 7: (M/E) 1848, articles for Neue Rheinische Zeitung
  • Volume 8: (M/E) 1848-49, articles from Neue Rheinische Zeitung
  • Volume 9: (M/E) 1849, articles from Neue Rheinische Zeitung
  • Volume 10: (M/E) 1849-51, including Peasant War in Germany
Lawrence & Wishart claim they need the revenue potentially generated by the sale of those volumes to educative institutions (W&L's full statement); while the MIA acknowledges L&W's legal rights, they deplore their decision (here, for their response).

Scott McLemee (from Crooked Timber) commented on the subject (some of the interventions in the comments thread are particularly useful); Ammar Aziz (from Lahore, Pakistan) is collecting signatures for his No Copyright for Marx Engels Collected Work public petition to L&W.

I'd urge L&W and MIA to keep the discussion, hoping that a compromise between their legitimate interests is reached.


  1. Whatever the copyright date of the MECW, the underlying works are clearly out of copyright. All one has to do to avoid the threat is to re-collect works with an earlier copyright date. If it is the works themselves that matter, and not editorial comments, etc., this should not be a problem. Really no problem at all.

    1. I'll have to take your word for it, Tao, as I know nothing about these matters.

    2. It looks like MECW was first published in 1975.,0,303004.story#axzz30gDua5EN

      The owners of the copyright on MECW point out that the underlying works are out of copyright. As I recall, anything first published before 1935 is now out of copyright.

      Still, kind of a dickish move, and the LA times calling people who want to maintain access to the works of such an historical figure "Radicals" is itself absurd.