I've got a question that I think I know the short answer to, but wanted to hear from some of the Accordance staff particularly about. This is prompted by the removal of P. T. O'Brien's commentaries on Col (WBC), Philippians (NICNT), Ephesians & Hebrews (Pillar) for academic plagiarism. I give O'Brien the benefit of the doubt that it was unintentional and due to a faulty research process. While I understand those works are compromised from a scholarship & documentation standpoint, there's no doubt many pastors have found them to be some of the most helpful works on each particular book.
I have all of those works in print form, so I don't ask this out of hope for personal gain. Here's my question:
When a work becomes unavailable from a publisher with no indication of republication and unavailable for sale, why shouldn't it then become treated as a public domain work?
I fully understand the importance of intellectual property law and support its purpose. If we could just copy resources for our friends, authors, publishers, and software developers like Accordance would go out of business. So if I want an available resource, I should pay for it. No argument there. It's necessary and good.
Ethically speaking, when a resource is no longer sold, no one stands to make any money from it and you could argue that no one is harmed by its free distribution. So if I have a friend or church member who wants the best available resource for understanding the book of Hebrews, what would be the ethical concerns with sharing a digital copy of O'Brien's commentary. (I don't own the digital copies, don't have them, and don't plan to do this, so hold the arrows, I'm asking theoretically.)
Now what's ethical and legal aren't always the same, so I understand the licensing agreement likely bars this practice, and thus it becomes, strictly speaking, unethical to breach the license agreement, simply due to that fact.
Am I correct that this practice of sharing digital resources no longer available is actually illegal from a licensing perspective? Is it also a valid point that, apart from the license agreement, there would be no real ethical concerns with sharing resources like this? And if the only obstacle to being able to do this is a license agreement that likely didn't take into account this particular circumstance, is there any hope the license agreement could be updated to basically allow works like this to become public domain?