Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Copyright ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Copyright
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: probonopublico-ga
List Price: $2.50
Posted: 11 Sep 2003 08:48 PDT
Expires: 11 Oct 2003 08:48 PDT
Question ID: 254593
I have a copy of some very rare memoirs that were published in London
in 1928, the same year that the author died.

Now, supposing I were to reprint these, could I establish any further
copyright (for myself) to prevent anybody else from ripping them off?

And, if so, how?
Subject: Re: Copyright
Answered By: read2live-ga on 11 Sep 2003 11:43 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi, Bryan,

Let's start with the disclaimer: I'm not a legal expert, so take any
advice here with care and do get a legal opinion.

A I read it, if the memoirs were NOT published, per your comment, then
copyright almost certainly lies with the estate of the author,
probably the children and grandchildren to whom you refer.  Copyright
does not exist with the owner of the materials, it lies with the
estate.  (Thus libraries which own unpublished materials still in
copyright do not own the copyright:
Rules Governing the Use of Manuscripts and Archival Materials
<> This according to
US copyright law).

However, copyright in unpublished materials created before 1989
extends to at least year 2039.
"Manuscripts which have not been published

"Unpublished manuscripts with an author created before 1989 remain in
copyright until at least 2039 and until at least 70 years after the
death of the author (whichever is the later date). Where such works
are 100 years old and the author has been dead for 50 years, the work
may nevertheless be reproduced by the Library for the purposes of
research or private study or with a view to publication. Permission
for publication itself however must be sought from the copyright
owner."  fom the British Library pages cited in my earlier comment, at

This is confirmed by The WATCH File (Writers, Artists, and Their
Copyright Holders)at <>.  It's a US URL,
but they refer to British law.

Thus, if you can persuade the copyright owners to assign copyright to
you, or alternatively allow you to quote extensively from the memoirs,
then you can claim copyright in the new work, and copyright in the
original should still exist until 2039.

The matter of copyright in the original unpublished mauscripts which
are then published could, of course, be a more contentious issue.

Hope that answers the quesion, but as I say, if you do take this
further,do get sound legal advice!

Google search : "unpublished materials" copyright

Cheers,  r2l

Request for Answer Clarification by probonopublico-ga on 11 Sep 2003 12:03 PDT
Hi, l2r

Many thanks for your answer.

However, as I stated in my Question, the memoirs WERE published in
London in 1928, the year that the author died.

My comment stated that the memoirs were not published elsewhere.

Sorry for the confusion.

Not to worry though ... I never knew the implications of unpublished

But, in this case, (though not relevant), I would not know where to
find his descendants, if any.

So there you are ... you've gone beyond the call of duty.

Kindest regards


Clarification of Answer by read2live-ga on 11 Sep 2003 23:20 PDT
Hello again, Bryan,

Wow! the intricacies of copyright!

I'm sorry I mis-read your earlier statement - but the fact that the
memoirs really were published does, I think, make the book's position
and your position clearer.

I'll go back to my original comment: copyright in this work lapsed 70
years after the author's death; the work is now in the public domain. 
Anything you add, your photographic plates if you make a facsimile
edition, your notes and comments if you preface or intersperse the
text in a new edition, is your work and therefore copyright, but the
text as written by the original author remains in the public domain.

It might be worth considering the rarity of these memoirs : "I have a
copy of some very rare memoirs".  Are the memoirs rare because not
many copies of these memoirs are now available as there was, and is,
not a lot of interest?  Or is it the edition itself that is rare, as
in a book widely available but this particular edition is not easily
found, it had only a limited or short print run?

"Now, supposing I were to reprint these…" you say.    If the memoirs
are rare because there is not too much interest, then presumably there
would not be a lot of interest by anybody wanting to "rip them off"?

On the other hand, if it's a rare edition of a widely available text,
then your market could possibly be those interested in facsimile
reproductions.  I have just taken a look at some Dover publications:
Dover is a publisher which specialises in reprinting editions of
works, sometimes still in copyright and sometimes out of copyright.
This is an American firm, but the copyright principle almost certainly
applies in UK.

It would appear that Dover attributes copyright to the original author
or publisher for those works still in copyright (as in: "This Dover
edition, first published in 1988 … Copyright 1948 by the McGraw-Hill
Book Company");  but generally claims no copyright itself for works in
the public domain ("This Dover edition, first published in 1989, is an
unabridged repubication of the work first published in London ca.
1707").  They claim copyright for collections, as in their collections
of art and patterns, but often allow free reproduction without special
permission of a limited number of pages.  Just to prove there is
nothing fixed about this, I also have Dover's 1965 republication of an
1859 work, in which they do claim copyright.  Of course, copyright
laws may have been amended since; another Dover republication, dated
1975 and of a 1906 original, makes no copyright claim.

I think then, that you won't be able to establish copyright if you
reprinted the memoirs.  Any value to you probably lies not in the
copyright but in the rarity value of the edition.  I also think you
might seek the advice of a Dover editor, or perhaps of an independent
literary agent - and failing that, a copyright lawyer!

Hope this now answers the question, but again come back to me if it

All best wishes, r2l
probonopublico-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $2.50
What can I say?

I learned far more than my original question merited.

For going that extra mile and then some, I hereby annoint you 'The
Google Researcher of the Year'.

Mind you, this could be a poisoned chalice because it will create tons
of jealousy. A maliced chalice, pehaps?

So watch out!

Many thanks, again


Subject: Re: Copyright
From: politicalguru-ga on 11 Sep 2003 08:57 PDT
PB - 

Maybe, by being the "editor" of the version, adding also a
introductory and other notes about terms, events, etc. - mentioned by
the author?

An annotated version would be copyrighted by the editor/commentator.
Subject: Re: Copyright
From: read2live-ga on 11 Sep 2003 10:12 PDT

Surely copyright would apply only to those sections, preface,
annotations etc which the editor adds, and not to the original text.

From the British Library : Manscripts : Copyright page

"The copyright law for printed and facsimile editions of manuscripts

"If the published work is a straightforward facsimile edition using
photographic techniques then the photographs from which it is made are
protected until the year of the photographer's death plus 70 years. If
the photographer is anonymous then protection is until the year of
publication plus 70 years. If the work is simply a transcription of an
original manuscript then the typography is protected for 25 years from
year of publication. If a work is a re-issue of an old edition with a
new introduction then the introduction is in copyright in the usual
way (author's death plus 70 years) but the re-issued text does not
attract a new copyright."

I think the original lies in the public domain - under UK law, and
that's where pb's edition was published.

It will not help to produce an exact facsimile edition.  Even if pb
quotes extensively from the original and makes substantial annotation,
it would still be possible for someone else to extract those
quotations and republish, without breaching copyright.

If I read it right, it wouldn't help Bryan if he could find a US
edition of the memoirs; despite the provisions of the Sonny Bono
Copyright Term Extension Act, here too copyright in works by
individuals lasts only 70 years beyond the death of the author.

Per the Google Answers Disclaimer, I'm not a legal expert of any kind,
and I could be completely wrong.  But I think we're going to have look
elsewhere for a solution to pb's problem.

Best to you both,  r2l
Subject: Re: Copyright
From: probonopublico-ga on 11 Sep 2003 10:53 PDT
Hi r2l & PG

Many thanks for your insights.

So far as I know, the book was never published elsewhere.

Possibly my best bet is a family history: his children & one of his
grandchildren in particular are my main spheres of interest.

Come on r2l, post an answer QUICK!

Kindest regards

Subject: Re: Copyright
From: stressedmum-ga on 11 Sep 2003 23:38 PDT
Hi Honey

Have a look at this. 
It was one of those ads in the side bar of the search results and they
split their infinitives so one should be suspicious methinks. Might be
interesting but.

If you were to edit and annotate and publish your own edition, and
given that the original edition is rare and so they use your edition
as a reference, wouldn't you have copyright over that because they'd
used your work rather than the original?
Subject: Re: Copyright
From: read2live-ga on 12 Sep 2003 01:38 PDT
Many thanks, for the rating and tip, and the conversation.  I really
enjoyed this one.

I'm not sure about that chalice, though.  A maliced chalice indeed,
but if it's the chalice from the palace I won't worry too much.  That
got replaced by the flagon with the dragon - and yes, I know to avoid
the flagon.  It's the vessel with the pestle I'm after...
(Danny Kaye : The Court Jester.  Ouch, I'm showing my age.  Check
these lines out at <>)

Stressedmum may be right to be suspicious of the publicdomainriches
site.  If there's so much money in reprinting etc, why's Mr Silver
selling seats at $49, working year round with his apprenticeship
program?  It may not be as easy, nor as profitable, as he makes out. 
Handle with care.

Cheers, r2l

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy