I have noticed that a lot of online ebook stores have the nerve to try and charge as much as $10 each for ebook versions of books that are out of copyright, and thus to be found legally free on many honest on-line ebooks sites, so if you simply go to a site such as one or other of the two Gutenbergs you can download them perfectly legally for nothing at all – which is how it should be.
Different countries, different copyright laws:
As the majority of online ebook sites are based in the USA just now, obviously American copyright laws pertain to them, which I believe have copyright for about 70 years after the death of the author, but there are plenty of sites on line that are registered in other countries, who have much more sensible copyright laws. In Australia for example it is 50 years, so basically anything written up to 1963 is now out of copyright in Australia and can legally be given away on sites such as Gutenberg Australia.
So it is well worth checking on the original date of publication before parting with good money for an ebook…. if it was written 50 or more years ago you can probably find it for free somewhere on the net, and the only laws you might possibly be breaking might be your own countries laws if you are unfortunate enough to live in the USA that is.
What is the point of long copyright periods?