Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hackers attacking

Attempts to visit are either not being answered or coming up reading 'by kuwait hacker'. hosts an ancient coins discussion site and photo databases. I visit nearly every day. The site is run by Bill Puetz, who also designed and runs Vcoins. Vcoins does not appear hacked but was responding slowly, possibly because it shares resources with

This doesn't seem to be an attack on this specific site; Google reports 46,000 sites with 'kuwait hacker' in the text. Most of these are defaced sites, a few are discussion sites asking about it. Seems to be a mass attack on Linux-based web sites?

The oldest mention I found is this post on announcing the founding of a Kuwait hacker organization.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

PDF downloads from Google Print

Google is now letting anyone (in the US only?) download PDFs of many public domain numismatic books. I see BMC Sicily (6.2 MB), BMC Macedonia (4.7 MB), BMC Corinth (7.4 MB), BMC Parthia (11 MB).

Folks on other websites are saying all the public-domain books are available this way. At least one, Coins of the Greek and Scythic Kings of Bactria and India isn't, probably because oddities in scanning would make that volume huge.

PS: I didn't post last week because I was on vacation in western Newfoundland. I highly recommend it. There is a nice museum and tour that shows how the Vikings smelted bog iron to make nails.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Panormus or Probus?

Here we have a fake coin from Roman sicily, taken from an eBay Germany private auction closing on Saturday. Coinarchives has a real specimen from a Nachfolger auction.

It's tough to get this coin without Medusa's face worn smooth, so if genuine this coin would be valuable. The presumably genuine Nachfolger example sold for 300 euros (plus buyers fee) in 2003.

The forger made an obvious mistake. Not realizing the obverse depicts Athena, the forger has given the head the features of the emperor Probus, including beard! The auction text says the coin depicts Cato! With spelling errors: "bearbed and elmated head of CATO".

The seller is also auctioning a coin of Iaetia with a similar reverse. It looks much better and would have fooled me. The Iaetia fake has the same triskeles legs as the Panormus, but the gorgoneion is at a different angle, suggesting some kind of partial hubbing.

A number of artistic works were involved in the making of this fake. It seems struck, so someone cut a die. Someone used the die to strike a coin. The striking probably wasn't creative, but choosing a color for the false patina probably was. Then someone took a picture of the fake wrote the phony description about Cato.

When I post a picture of this coin I might be infringing the copyright of those three people. Maybe I'm just engaging in "fair use." This seems unlikely, though, because I'm copying the entire artistic work, not just a portion of it.

Copyright law doesn't have an anti-fraud or anti-forgery exemption. I'm probably breaking the law by showing you this fake. What protects me is the unlikelyness of some shady characters in Germany wanting to draw more attention to their crimes by taking me to court demanding I pay them for use of their "artwork."

For my readers who think it is always immoral to use another's copyrighted image without permission, I apologize for this post. I've let you down. I should have asked the seller for permission to expose his fraud.

I could have merely linked to the eBay auction. However, eBay's picture will vanish soon after the auction closes and I wanted a public record of this fake beyond Saturday. There is another reason. You'll note I didn't link to the auction itself. This is because it is considered immoral by many collectors to directly expose eBay sellers to fraud accusations before the seller shows himself to be a repeat offender. I'd rather put up a copyrighted image than levy fraud accusations against a seller previously unknown to me.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Copyright extension is a real problem for numismatic research.

To give an idea of copyright length, Percy Gardner wrote BMC Seleucid in 1879, but didn't die until the 1930s. His works are public domain in the US, but won't be in Britain until next year. George Hill wrote BMC Lycia in 1897, but didn't die until the late 1940s. His books won't be free for more than a decade in Britain. ESG Robinson wrote BMC Cyrenaica in 1927, but didn't die until the 1970s. Most of us won't live to see that book free.

The books were never published in the US, and are legally considered 'unpublished' here.

The BMC Greek volumes are at least in print — but not in Britian or the US. The reprints come from Italy. I have no idea if the Italian publisher licensed them or just prints without permission.

Libaries won't photocopy books if they are still in copyright (they'll often let patrons photocopy the books, although there is a sign explaining the illegality of thee action.) Some books are a century old, still in copyright, but too brittle to let library patrons photocopy. Or the books are so rare that no libary within 200 miles has the title. The book comes up for auction maybe once or twice a year at Kolbe or Charles Davis. They never appear on used book web sites. These books you just can't get.

The lack of access to scholarship is a problem for new research. No one wants to write about coins without having read the important papers or books on the topic. But the books are often unobtainable, and photocopies are difficult to obtain and expensive.

There is a profit to be made for someone, reprinting the works. Unfortunately, most numismatic works are copyrighted and it's illegal to reprint the works without permission. Asking for that permission proves difficult.

Unlike Best-selling fiction authors who register with rights organizations and wait for the phone to ring, lessor authors cannot be traced. It isn't like real estate, where the government keeps a list of who-owns-what. In fact, it would be illegal for the government to keep track of who owns what book! Yes, that's right, there is a treaty that makes it illegal for any government to require copyrights be registered.

Copyright is established by a chain of book contracts and wills going back to the author. Neither the book contracts nor the wills are public records. Hopeful publishers start by writing to the publisher of the first edition asking for rights information. They also try to contact folks named in the authors obituary, asking about wills. If the author has been dead for a few generations this can get expensive. Of course, if the book was written in the course of business, like the BMC volumes, the author's employer may also have a claim.

So everyone photocopies books, or, if the books aren't around, another researcher's photocopies. It may be illegal to photocopy books, but there is a good economic argument to commit copyright crime. It is cheaper to get sued for photocopying and lose in court than it is to hire a detective to track down an author's estate.

I'd like to see legislation allowing anyone to reprint any out-of-print copyrighted work with an agreement to put a small amount, $5 or $10, into escrow for the title. The copyright holder can come forward when the money raised for a title makes it worthwhile.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Two classics by Percy Gardner

Google brings us The Coins of the Greek and Scythic Kings of Bactria and India in the British Museum (1886) by Percy Gardner.

Although not officially part of BMC Greek (it's volume 1 of BMC India) it looks just like the BMC Greek volumes and covers Greek coinage.

Plates begin here.

I'm happy to see this; I have an Indian reprint which is low-quality (smudgey newsprint) and nearly unusuable. There seems to be some problems with the plates here — when you can see them they are high quality but parts are missing. Perhaps the original is brittle and falling apart?

Even if your local library has these fragile original it often makes sense to use Google's copy avoiding further damage to the original. Rather than destroying the originals I'd prefer to see them archived in giant warehouses in Alaska north of the frost line.

Also new is A Grammar of Greek Art (1905) by Percy Gardener. I'd purchased a cheap original on eBay with the intention of scanning the coin chapter and some of the clip-art (it's hard to find copyright free Greek clip art for school presentations, etc). Now I won't have to. The chapter on coins is Chapter XVI: Coins in Relation to History.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Catalogue of the McClean collection of Greek coins

Catalogue of the McClean collection of Greek coins, Fitzwilliam Museum. Provided by ABZU (whatever that is. It's at the University of Michigan).

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3

Hundreds of plates! However, the plates are low-quality .gifs, even using the "large" option. Unlike yesterday's BMC Cyprus, there is no way to get high-resolution .tifs for better manual processing.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

BMC Cyprus online

UC Berkeley's 'Ebind' project has put George Hill's BMC Cyprus (1904) online.

Plate quality is terrible, though.