Marxists Internet Archive
There can be several answers to this question:
1. The writer is alive and well. The MIA’s Charter forbids us from building an archive for a writer who is still alive. There are several reasons for this: (1) It ensures that the MIA stays out of current disputes and (2) remains independent of all political parties and groups; Also, (3) if a writer is still alive, they can build their own web site. This does not prevent the MIA from using material from living writers in an editorial role or in support of a subject section, so long as we have the author’s permission.
2. The writer is dead, but copyright to their work is held by their estate or a publisher and we cannot gain permissions. The MIA will never put our core work at risk by publishing works which may lead us into court. Unfortunately, there are writers whose works are very popular in academia and for this reason remain good commercial propositions, long after they are dead. Gramsci is an example. In some cases, even works by revolutionaries like Che Guevara or Trotsky are claimed as property by supposedly communist publishers who prevent others from publishing certain works.
3. The writer is dead and the writer’s estate is happy to give permission for us to publish, or the work may already be in the public domain, but there is no English (for example) translation, or what translations exist are owned by publishers or translators. In this instance, the only way forward is a new translation made especially for the MIA. A number of people do regular translations for the MIA and this work is highly appreciated.
4. The writer is no long alive and their works are free of copyright both in the original and in translation, but there has never been a volunteer who liked them enough to take the time and effort to transcribe their works and donate them to the MIA. Henri Lefebvre and Alexander Herzen, for example, are only absent from the MIA because no-one has been sufficiently interested in their work to transcribe them for us. That’s a pity, but the MIA is an exclusively not-for-profit, volunteer organisation. We have no money and we have neither the power nor the desire to tell any one of our volunteers what they ought to be working on, so long as they comply with our Charter.
5. In rare cases, a writer, or certain works by a writer, are so detestable (e.g. lying, racist or fascist) that even if they were to be donated and free of copyright, we would not publish them. The law in Germany for example, forbids us from publishing Hitler. But this never comes up. Our aim is to provide the original work of the Marxists of the past and other works which contribute to an understanding of Marxism. The way that this has always been interpreted is that if any of our volunteers thinks that a text contributes to an understanding of Marxism, then it does; end of story. And it also means that other revolutionaries (anarchists, anti-colonial fighters, etc.) and even opponents of Marxism are all equally welcome on the MIA, provided only that someone thinks they contribute to an understanding of Marxism, and is willing to back their opinion by doing the work.
6. Transcribing a writer does not mean copying a text from some other website and asking us to upload it. If a text is already available on the internet, then people can always find it using Google. We would have to have good reason to copy an existing web page on to the MIA.
So, if you find that the only barrier to a work that you appreciate being on the MIA is that no-one has bothered to transcribe it, and you believe this strongly enough to do the transcription yourself, then you have two options:
(a) Transcribe it and send us the text as an email attachment, taking care to ensure that the document is indeed in the public domain, and that you have included all the relevant bibliographical information about the source: title, author, date and medium first published, date written, copyright status, translator if any, etc.
Guidelines on transcribing texts are to be found at http://www.marxists.org/admin/volunteers/transcription.htm.
(b) Become an MIA volunteer. We do suggest that you enquire with us first about your plans before transcribing anything, because there may be issues that you are not aware of, but we will still want at least something from you before inducting you in as an MIA volunteer.
To become an MIA volunteer:
(i) Send us an email introducing yourself.
(ii) Have a read of our Charter and ByLaws and send us an email confirming that you will comply with our Charter and ByLaws.
(iii) Give us an idea of your interests and the kind of work you’d like to do, e.g., transcribing the works of Joe Bloggs or proofreading Marx and Engels, etc.
(iv) Let us know what languages you can read and write and whether you can translate to a professional standard.
(v) Let us know whether you have a scanner, whether you know how to compose HTML pages, what country you are in, what kind of computer your use, whether you have access to works you want to transcribe, etc., etc., so that we can assist you in getting into activity as a volunteer.
Best of Luck!
Marxists Internet Archive