UK - Question regarding academic revised edition of a book.

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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UK - Question regarding academic revised edition of a book.

Post by calaterium »

Hello all,

and warm thanks for welcoming me to the forum.

I have been doing a lot of research regarding UK copyright law, and went over the act with a fine tooth comb (I think), but I still do not understand my situation.

What I want to do: A history book was published in 1965 from a then unpublished set of manuscripts left by a historian who died in 1951.
This book only acts as a partial guide to its subject matter, and is filled with historical errors and material without any known sources. It is my intention to produced a revised and expanded edition, because the mistakes need to be put right for History's sake, and many parts of the text need to be clarified and elaborated.

What I do know: I know that 70 years from the author's death (so 2021) would apply for any works they published. I am also aware that "If an unpublished work was published before the 1988 Act came into force, and the author had been dead for more than 50 years, the work remained in copyright for 50 years from the end of the year of publication." - so that would be 2015.

What I do not know:

1. This book was published in 1965 and the author is clearly named on the front, but the preface, written by his son (which I plan to omit) describes that following his father's death his mother and the local schoolmaster set about putting the book together so that his father's work would not be in vain, and that he (the son) put together the index, glossary, and prior to publication he writes "the final revision has been undertaken by myself" so as to finalise the work.
His son nor mother have not been shown to have contributed significantly to the work in a manner which suggests they are authors as there is nothing produced with "skill, labour and judgment" which can be distinguished from the father's work.

I do not know whether they are legally co-authors of the posthumous work. I do not think they are as the work is not a derivative of the author's work, or if it is this is not outlined in the text at all.

This leads me on to my next point which I seek clarity on:

2. The act states: "Right to object to derogatory treatment of work.

(1)The author of a copyright literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, and the director of a copyright film, has the right in the circumstances mentioned in this section not to have his work subjected to derogatory treatment.

(2)For the purposes of this section—

(a)“treatmentâ€￾ of a work means any addition to, deletion from or alteration to or adaptation of the work, other than—

(i)a translation of a literary or dramatic work, or

(ii)an arrangement or transcription of a musical work involving no more than a change of key or register; and

(b)the treatment of a work is derogatory if it amounts to distortion or mutilation of the work or is otherwise prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author or director;"

I wonder if the copyright has expired, does the author still have protection against derogatory treatment?
I ask this because I do not wish to produce a derogatory work whatsoever, but if I produce a revised expanded edition which corrects and explains numerous historical fallacies and errors, that seems to be just given the work in the first place was not produced with "sound judgement and skill" and of course many history books exist today as revised editions which correct original mistakes, so surely that is not derogatory?

3. In terms of indentification of the author, as I say the book has one author named on the cover and inside. The act states :
(7)The right of the author or director under this section is—

(a)in the case of commercial publication or the issue to the public of copies of a film or sound recording, to be identified in or on each copy or, if that is not appropriate, in some other manner likely to bring his identity to the notice of a person acquiring a copy,

(b)in the case of identification on a building, to be identified by appropriate means visible to persons entering or approaching the building, and

(c)in any other case, to be identified in a manner likely to bring his identity to the attention of a person seeing or hearing the performance, exhibition, showing [F3or communication to the public] in question;

and the identification must in each case be clear and reasonably prominent."

In relation to this book I wish to produce an expanded and corrected version of, the original book seems to have just one author named in a clear and prominent manner, and the people who put the book together after the author's death are not described as creating something substantial, original, or exerting their claim to authorship. In any case the work can be easily shown not to be a piece produced with skill or judgement, so I am not even sure if it voids any copyright it did have in the first place?

I realise none of your advice can be deemed legal advice, but any assistance or guidance on this matter will help me rationalise the situation better.

Kind regards for your time and help.
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi calaterium,

Despite you very detailed explanation - for which thank you - of the situation, I think you would be well advised to speak to a copyright lawyer who can give you personal advice of a type we can't here.

I am not clear what format you propose to use for your version. It seems you wish this new work to be an adaptation because you are drawing very heavily on the original work, and not just an annotated re-issue of the original. If the original work is still in copyright then you would need permission in either case, but the answer would help for the purpose of how resolve the issue of accreditation.

So let's look at the fundamental issue of whether copyright exists in the book published in 1965. The applicable law at the time was the 1956 Copyright Act which said in section 2(3)
... Provided that of before the death of the author none of the following acts had been done, that is to say:
  • (a) the publication of the work.
    (b) the performance of the work in public
    (c) the for sale to the public if records of the works
    (d) the broadcasting of the work,
the copyright shall continue to subsist until the end of the period of fifty years from the end of the calendar year which includes the earliest occasion on which one of those acts was done.
So as that applies to the work in question, under that regime the book would have remained in copyright until the end of 2015. The coming into force of the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act fortunately did not change this situation. Schedule 1 to the 1988 Act, sets out for what should happen to works already in copyright at the time. Specifically, paragraph 12 (2) of Schedule 1 says
(2) Copyright in the following descriptions of work continues to subsist until the date on which it would have expired under the 1956 Act—
  • (a) literary, dramatic or musical works in relation to which the period of 50 years mentioned in the proviso to section 2(3) of the 1956 Act (duration of copyright in works made available to the public after the death of the author) has begun to run;

    (b) engravings in relation to which the period of 50 years mentioned in the proviso to section 3(4) of the 1956 Act (duration of copyright in works published after the death of the author) has begun to run;

    (c) published photographs and photographs taken before 1st June 1957;

    (d) published sound recordings and sound recordings made before 1st June 1957;

    (e) published films and films falling within section 13(3)(a) of the 1956 Act (films registered under former enactments relating to registration of films).
So clearly the book falls within sub-paragraph (a). Thus copyright was still, at this point, on course to end in 2015. However in 1995 it was necessary to amend UK law in line with the EU Copyright Term Directive. The new Regulations applied to all works which were in copyright at the time, so included the book. In particular Regulations 15 and 16 had the effect of making all works by a known author, whether unpublished or not, subject to the more usual term of the lifetime of the author plus 70 years from the end of the year in which he/she died. Thus the book will remain in copyright until 1 January 2022. I agree with you that it is most unlikely that the son's editing will have made him a co-author of the book. In many ways this is now irrelevant for your immediate purposes.

All that having been said, there is nothing to stop you publishing a critical appraisal of the book, albeit you would be limited in the amount you could quote without permission. I'm not sure if this approach fits in with your intention. If you think you can make this format work, that would be the time to consult a solicitor over what would amount to fair dealing for the purposes of quotation, criticism or review.

I hope this clarifies things.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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