I remember reading this in Analog, some years back.

Not all that many years - post-2000.

The story involved a future in which all public domain literature had been removed from the public domain, and sold off to private interests.

Which interests did not make the available to the public, except as a part of reissuing them in new forms. Nobody, after all, actually read, anymore.

But our protagonist inherited an old mobile phone, with instructions to not look at its contents except in some remote part of the world. Turns out that the device contained copies of all of the great works of literature, and if it was ever viewed by someone with an implant (which is nearly everybody) in a place where the implant had online connectivity, it would have immediately triggered copyright violation procedures.

The story ended with the device being somehow smuggled off Earth, where it would be free of Earth's tyrannical copyright laws, and restored to the rest of Human society the great works of the past.

Any ideas?

2 Answers 2


Is it possible that you read The Right to Read by Richard Stallman?

It covers the same theme, though it doesn't match the details of your story.

In The Right to Read, Dan helps his friend Lissa by loaning her his copy of a book - loaning is illegal. Lissa and Dan end up migrating to Tycho on Luna. The right to read was one of the aims of an uprising.

The story was written in response to the concept of "digital rights management" (DRM.)

DRM is called "digital restrictions management" by its opponents.

  • 1
    The story I read was clearly inspired by Stallman's, but no, that wasn't it. What I'm remembering was published as a serialized novel in Analog.
    – Jeff Dege
    Feb 8, 2021 at 22:35

I found it.

"A Hole in the Ether", by Benjamin Crowell.

Published in Asimov's Science Fiction, September 2013

It was in one of the 120 Dell Magazine .epub files I had on my disk, from back when I subscribed.

Zipgrep is your friend.



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