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The Ludwig Wittgenstein Project is a multilingual website whose aim is to make available as many of Ludwig Wittgenstein's works as possible free of charge and with a free licence.
Excellent academic resources have existed for many years which provide a transcription of the Nachlass (the Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen's Interactive Dinamic Presentation tool) and even scans of Wittgenstein's manuscripts (Wittgenstein Source). These documents are very helpful for researchers who need to dive into the depths of Wittgenstein, but they are difficult to approach for the general public. The Ludwig Wittgenstein Project is a repository of high-quality digital editions of Wittgenstein’s writings that were published in book form—including the Tractatus and the Philosophical Investigations. Original-language editions are available as well as translations. Please see the All texts page for an up-to-date list.
The Ludwig Wittgenstein Project provides complete, well-formatted, downloadable, free books in multiple languages. Our purpose is to remove the paywall that stands between the prospective reader and the texts and to make the texts available to anyone who cannot access a library.
Wittgenstein's originals, as well as some of the translations, are in the public domain (see Copyright below), while the translations that were purpose-made for this site are available under Creative Commons Attribution or Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike. You will find more specific information in the individual page of each work.
The Ludwig Wittgenstein Project, a not-for-profit endeavour, was started in late 2020 by Michele Lavazza and is currently run by a growing international community.
Haus Wittgenstein, Vienna. Photo by Aldo Ernstbrunner CC BY-SA.
The Ludwig Wittgenstein Project, like most internet-based free culture projects and in particular the Wikimedia Projects, follows the principle of only publishing material that is free in its own Country of origin (as defined by the Berne Convention) and in the Country in which the website is based (legal registration, location of the servers).
Wittgenstein's own works are in the public domain in those Countries where rights expire 70 years or fewer after the death of the author. They are therefore out of copyright in most of the European Union, most of Africa, Asia and Oceania, most Latin American Countries and Canada. (The Ludwig Wittgenstein Project is based in Italy.) When a work is in the public domain, it can be used, shared, distributed, sold, translated, and remixed with no restrictions and without having to ask for permission, although some rights may still apply.
Most of Wittgenstein's works are also in the public domain in the United Kingdom, where rights expire 70 years after the death of the author. In the UK, however, a provision exists that grants copyright protection to posthumous works unpublished before 1989 until the end of 2039 (the so-called "2039 rule"). Although this might affect some parts of Wittgenstein's Nachlass, it does not affect any of the works published on this website, because each of them was published before 1989 or does not have the UK as its Country of origin.
In other Countries, including but not limited to the United States of America, the author of a work having been dead for more than 70 years is not a sufficient condition for determining its copyright status.
It is your responsibility to comply with the laws of your Country by making sure that a given work is in the public domain there before accessing it or downloading it. Please be aware that if the rights relating to the original text have not expired in your Country, using a translation is not allowed either.
Some of Wittgenstein's posthumous works underwent extensive editing before being published in book form. These works may still be copyrighted because of a further "layer" of rights connected to the creative nature of the editors' elaboration of the manuscripts. To know more about this issue and about the Ludwig Wittgenstein Project's policy in relation to it, please see the essay Why are some of Wittgenstein’s texts missing from this website?
Some of the translations available on this site are in the public domain in those Countries where rights expire 70 years or fewer after the death of the author (see § Originals above).
Most of them, however, have been made on purpose by The Ludwig Wittgenstein Project: these are available under Creative Commons Attribution or Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike. This means that they can be used, remixed, distributed free of charge, without having to ask for permission, even for commercial purposes, provided that credit is given by indicating the name of the translator and The Ludwig Wittgenstein Project (a link to the website is appreciated); in the case of works released under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike, it is also required that any derivative work be distributed under the same licence as the original.
The following map may help you to determine the copyright status of a work in your Country, although in many cases it is not sufficient alone.
The Wikimedia Commons page on copyright rules by territory provides a more thorough guide to the subject.
If you are based in the United States, the specific Commons page and the Hirtle Chart may be useful to you.
- What is a Free Cultural Work?
- Free as in freedom, free as in free beer
- A conversation with Michele Lavazza about the Ludwig Wittgenstein Project (archived)
- Una conversazione con Michele Lavazza a proposito del Ludwig Wittgenstein Project (archived)