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Lumberjack
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 7:45 am    Post subject: Digital Reprints Reply with quote

I recently purchased a book from Amazon that is a digital reproduction of a book published in the late 19th century. The author was born in 1826, so as far as he is concerned, it is completely out of copyright! It was produced by The British Library, and contains no mention whatsoever of copyright in it - it is just a digital copy! Is this in the Public Domain, or does the British Library have some claim, genuine, or otherwise, on the copyright of this digital copy? Am I free to use parts of it myself (by no means the whole lot - one or two pages at the most) with due credit to the long-dead author?
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Lumberjack,
I think you are aware of my general view on digital reproductions of this sort where there has been no skill or personal involvement on the part of the person (or more likely the machine) responsible for making the copy. Such a process should not renew copyright in a public domain work. However, not all institutions like libraries and photo agencies agree! But I think it is significant that there is no copyright notice on the book.

I assume that the parts which you want to use will also be reproduced digitally, that is to say you do not intend to just re-type any text etc which of course would be perfectly acceptable since all you would be copying is the author's original literary work which is now in the public domain.

You might be able to rely on the quotation exception since you only wish to copy a couple of pages.

Assuming that your use will be commercial in nature, it would be worth contacting the British Library for clarification. If they refuse permission for you to quote from their new version, ask if you can have access to the original and make your own digital reproduction of the parts you need. However in my experience they tend to be one of the more forward thinking institutions where copyright is concerned and so I suspect that you will not be refused permission, even if copyright is claiimed.

As for crediting the original author, that is up to you. There is no legal requirement to do so once a work is in the public domain (unlike in France where the droit de paternité (in French) is perpetual).
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Lumberjack
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 11:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for reply. No, I would not copy it digitally, but re-type the required sections, so presumably that would be OK anyway! I would credit the original writer even though he is long gone. As we were in the same profession, it would be used really to compare what things were like in his day to what they were like in mine, and it is better to use authentic material when writing of the past, rather than just making it up. I do have quite a number of original old books where I know that the authors died long before 1945, so I suppose it would be even safer to use extracts from them in the same context. I just wondered if the same applied to books that have recently been digitally copied, feeling that the copier has no more right than me (or anyone else) to use public domain works of great age. They all concern a profession in which there is very little interest these days, (Merchant Navy) it is unlikely that many people would have even known about them. My main purpose in writing is that I like doing it. Finacial gain is an added bonus, but as I am a "vanity publisher," and long-retired from my sea profession, I pay for the books to be printed, and have to recoup quite a large amount before coming into profit. Typical book runs are about 100 copies, and have all so far all made a profit (although I will never get rich by it Laughing )
I do put a considerable amount of time and effort into writing them, and using parts of old books are more like adding salt and pepper to a meal rather than a "freeloading" method of writing.
Also, I feel that is what all historians are doing when they list the Bibliograpy in the back!
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AndyJ
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Lumberjack,
The use to which you are putting these old publications is exactly the sort of payback which is supposed to occur after a copyright work enters the public domain: not straight forward copying and reprinting, but bringing the work back to life as part of a newer work, which together enrich society. So you are to be applauded because what you are doing is in the best scholarly tradition of re-examining and reinterpreting the past.
I speak as someone who has a number of merchant seamen amongst their ancestors, wheh I wish you good luck with your ventures.
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