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Copyright status of a US book series

 
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Evioine
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 2:16 am    Post subject: Copyright status of a US book series Reply with quote

Hi, I've been downloading books recently from the Guthenburg Project, a US database of books that are in the public domain there, and other similiar sites.
One set of books I was considering downloading from the site were part of the Barsoom series written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. 5 of these books, published in the us from 1917-22, are now in the public domain, and I assumed that, using the rule of the shorter term, these books were now in the public domain here. However, I came across the following on wikipedia:

Quote:
The American copyright of the five earliest novels has expired in the United States, and they appear on a number of free e-text sites. However, because they were separately copyrighted in Great Britain, these works remain protected under the Berne Copyright Convention in the UK and throughout much of the world.


This statement wasn't supported by any reference, so for all I know it could be made up, but I wanted to check if, given that the author was american living in america, it is possible for it to still be copywritten here?
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CopyrightAid
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Evioine and welcome.

The current duration of copyright for literary work in the UK is the life of the author plus a further 70 years, before 1995 this was life of the author plus 50 years.

For UK rules the following link is to a handy flow-chart that should solve this for you http://www.museumscopyright.org.uk/private.pdf.


You may also find the earlier topic at http://www.copyrightaid.co.uk/forum/topic46.htm helpful in this matter
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Evioine
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2007 12:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, thanks for the response. I had a look at the past thread, its very helpful. In it, the following is quoted:

Quote:
Section 12:6
Where the country of origin of the work is not an EEA state and the author of the work is not a national of an EEA state, the duration of copyright is that to which the work is entitled in the country of origin, provided that does not exceed the period which would apply under subsections (2) to (5).


This the reason I assumed the books to be out of copyright. The works in question were first published in America more than 30 days before they were published here (I checked the uk and us first edition publication dates on bookseller sites), the author was an american and the copyright has definately run out in the US and as you say in the past thread:

Quote:
So.... In this case, the US is not a EEA state, therefore if copyright protection has expired in the country of origin (US) it has also expired here in the UK.


This all supports the case that it is public domain here, as I thought, it was just that when I saw that strange unsupported/referenced statement online, I wanted to doublecheck to be sure.

("However, because they were separately copyrighted in Great Britain, these works remain protected under the Berne Copyright Convention in the UK and throughout much of the world.")
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2007 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Certainly the phase "However, because they were separately copyrighted in Great Britain..." is a little strange - in the UK there is no such word as 'copyrighted' - the author does not have their work 'copyrighted' , their work is 'subject to copyright' as copyright is the automatic right of the author. The idea of 'copyrighting' work is an Americanism (before the Berne Convention work had to be registered in the US to be protected in the US - this has not been the case for a long time).

Certainly there may be some greyness if under UK law the 'country of origin' of the book was treated as the UK which may be what the author was hinting at, (the previous flow chart actually gives a result that the work is still covered). It sounds like you've done your research on that one though, and this seems unlikely from your description.

Here's how the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act defines 'country of origin':
Quote:
Section 15A: Meaning of country of origin

15A.-(1) For the purposes of the provisions of this Part relating to the duration of copyright the country of origin of a work shall be determined as follows.

(2) If the work is first published in a Berne Convention country and is not simultaneously published elsewhere, the country of origin is that country.

(3) If the work is first published simultaneously in two or more countries only one of which is a Berne Convention country, the country of origin is that country.

(4) If the work is first published simultaneously in two or more countries of which two or more are Berne Convention countries, then--
(a) if any of those countries is an EEA state, the country of origin is that country; and
(b) if none of those countries is an EEA state, the country of origin is the Berne Convention country which grants the shorter or shortest period of copyright protection.

(5) If the work is unpublished or is first published in a country which is not a Berne Convention country (and is not simultaneously published in a Berne Convention country), the country of origin is--
(a) if the work is a film and the maker of the film has his headquarters in, or is domiciled or resident in a Berne Convention country, that country;
(b) if the work is--
(i) a work of architecture constructed in a Berne Convention country, or
(ii) an artistic work incorporated in a building or other structure situated in a Berne Convention country,
that country;
(c) in any other case, the country of which the author of the work is a national.

(6) In this section--
(a) a "Berne Convention country" means a country which is a party to any Act of the International Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works signed at Berne on 9th September 1886; and
(b) references to simultaneous publication are to publication within 30 days of first publication.

So from your statement "The works in question were first published in America more than 30 days before they were published here ..." my understanding would be that the country of origin is America.

Please bear in mind that I only have access to current legislation and this is just a forum - not legal advice.
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Evioine
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2007 4:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks again. I was planning any commercial use or anything, i just wanted to doublecheck with someone before downloading to read them
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