Some students in a university reading groups were loving The Market for Liberty by the Tannehills – one of those libertarian classics that advocates a fully free society and the privatization of courts and law. A mind blowing book. The students were using the PDF on Mises.org.
Then one day it was gone. They were stunned, and wrote us. We had to tell them the bad news. Laissez-faire Books was claiming copyright and demanding that it come down. Now, at one time, when this company was owned by Andrea Rich and later when it was owned by Kathleen Wickstrom, this company was the cutting edge in liberty, publishing so many books and also distributing them before the age of digital media. The company has a hallowed place in our hearts and in the annals of human freedom.
Difficult economic times caused the company to be land in the hands of its current owner who seems not to share the vision. The new owner came to possess the old’s company’s copyrights, and instead of seeing copyright as a means for keeping the book in circulation (which was how the Old School saw it, however incorrectly) the new owner (Jim Peron) believes that copyright is a stick that should be wielded against anyone who would get the word out. And so he claimed that the Mises Institute was stealing his book, even though we are the main market for selling it! If it really were the case that free PDFs hurt sales, we would surely suffer too.
In any case, I’m not disputing that Peron is the “owner” of this text, though the authors are dead and though I must admit that we thought the entire book was orphaned. I am making a moral point in favor of the distribution of ideas, and also the impropriety of “laissez-faire books” using the state to keep the ideas of liberty from circulating.