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Q: Story Rights and Useage ( Answered,   4 Comments )
Subject: Story Rights and Useage
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: memorymaker-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 30 Aug 2006 09:01 PDT
Expires: 29 Sep 2006 09:01 PDT
Question ID: 760811
Is the story Charlotte's Web now in the public domain?
Subject: Re: Story Rights and Useage
Answered By: kriswrite-ga on 30 Aug 2006 10:23 PDT
Hello Memorymaker~

According to official U.S. Copyright Recrods, author E.B. White
renewed her copyright for Charlotte's Web in May of 1980. You can
check the record yourself by going to the U.S. Copyright Office ( ) and searching under the
title "charlotte's web." (No caps.) The entry looks like this:

Registration Number:    RE-60-681  
Title:    Charlotte's web. By E. B. White, illustrator: acGarth Williams.  
Claimant:    E. B. White & Garth Williams (A)  
Effective Registration Date:    19May80  
Original Registration Date:    15Oct52;  
Original Registration Number:    A71632.  
Original Class:    A 

As you can see by looking at this handy website by University of North
Carolina ( ), a copyright
renewal made in 1980 is not in the public domain.

Best wishes,

search at U.S. Copyright Office

Clarification of Answer by kriswrite-ga on 30 Aug 2006 10:41 PDT
My colleague Pinkfreud has pointed out to me that E.B. White was not
female, but male. So I should have said that "E.B. White renewed HIS
copright..." Sorry for the confusion! :)

Subject: Re: Story Rights and Useage
From: pinkfreud-ga on 30 Aug 2006 09:40 PDT
According to my copy of "Charlotte's Web," the text copyright was
renewed in 1980 by E.B. White.
Subject: Re: Story Rights and Useage
From: elids-ga on 30 Aug 2006 11:23 PDT
huh! I didn't know that copyright rights could be renewed. Can patents
also be renewed (past the 20 year period)?  Wouldn't that be against
the spirit of the law? Not sure how it is phrased for copyrights but
with patents it is said that in order for to give an incentive for
inventors to bring their ideas forth for the benefit of all,
government grants them exclusivity (a monopoly) on that invention for
a predetermined period of time. What is the rationale to allow
copyright rights (that already exceed 70 years as supposed to the 17
for inventions -if you discount the time the patent office is
examining it-)to be renewed?
Subject: Re: Story Rights and Useage
From: tr1234-ga on 31 Aug 2006 15:15 PDT
With regard to elids' comment about copyright renewals:

Intellectual property and copyright law is complicated, but the basic
gist of the answers you seek would be these:

*Current* U.S. copyright law does not include a provision for
renewals. Copyrights on works created now last as long as they last
without need for renewal.  However, for a good while, copyright law
included provisions for formal renewal: under these arrangmenets,
copyright would last for an initial term, and then the copyright
holder (or his/her/its successor) could renew the the copyright for
the remaining period allowed by law. (If this renewal was not made,
the work would fall into the public domain.)

When Charlotte's Web was initially published in 1952, the copyright
law in place at the time allowed for a 28-year initial term after
which time a renewal could be filed. Which, demonstrably, was done in

There are more complexities and nuances to copyright renewal and
extention, but that's the basic gist. The important thing to realize
is that although U.S. copyright law once did involve renewal/extention
procedures, such procedures no longer apply to works created today.

As for the question as for why copyright protection lasts a really
long time when patent protection lasts for a comparatively short time,
the underlying principle (which, admittedly, is highly arguable) is
something like this:

* Patents involve technology and inventions; copyrights involve
intellectual properties.
* Technological advances are generally more likely to contribute to
the overall betterment of society than are intellectual properties.
* Therefore, patented technological advances should fall into the
public domain fairly quickly where anyone can freely use them--or
build on them--whereas there is not the same sort of
immediacy-to-societal-betterment involved with copyrighted
intellectual properties.

As I said, that logic is endlessly arguable. But if you're asking what
the rationale is for copyrights to last a long time while patents are
comparatively brief, there's one right there.
Subject: Re: Story Rights and Useage
From: elids-ga on 05 Sep 2006 08:43 PDT
Hi Tr, 

Thank you, that was a pretty good explanation. I still don't think
it's right, I see them both as being 'intellectual' property, and they
should both be treated in the same way, but, like you said "is highly
arguable" ;-)

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