Book copyright from the 1940s

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GrandDuke
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Book copyright from the 1940s

Post by GrandDuke » Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:06 pm

My grandmother wrote a book that was published by Stanley Paul in 1940. It was printed just the once, and sold in very small numbers, and very few copies exist out there. She died in the late 1960s and my mother, and then I, inherited the content of her estate, and I am acting as the executor of my mum's estate since she died in 2013.

I understand Stanley Paul has been acquired several times over the years and ownership of that publishers now rests with Penguin Random House (PRH).

I have no record of any contract / licencing agreement between my grandmother and Stanley Paul from the 1940s, so I don't know whether the copyright rests with PRH or me. Would Stanley Paul and all the owners since have retained detailed records of author's contracts or licence agreements?

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AndyJ
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Re: Book copyright from the 1940s

Post by AndyJ » Tue Sep 18, 2018 12:50 pm

Hi GrandDuke

I would like to think that Penguin Random House have retained the old records for all the companies they have acquired over the years, but equally I would be unsurprised to find out that they hadn't!

And even if a copy of the publishing contract survives, it might probably reveal that there was a reversionary clause in it which meant that any assignment of copyright by your grandmother would have ceased to apply at a given point, say after 50 years, or perhaps on her death.

I certainly think there is a strong presumption that you are now the owner of the copyright, which still has another 20 plus years to run.

It would be worth checking with PRH, and although it's a long shot, you could also check with the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), to see if your grandmother was registered with them. The ALCS website is down at the moment, but you can contact them at Barnard's Inn, 86 Fetter Lane, London, England, EC4A 1EN or by phone on 020 7264 5700. It seems unlikely, given that so few copies of your grandmother's book were sold, that there will be any royalties due to her estate, but nonetheless there may be a slim chance that the publishing contract was registered with ALCS.
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

GrandDuke
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Re: Book copyright from the 1940s

Post by GrandDuke » Tue Sep 18, 2018 1:58 pm

That's very helpful Andy J - thanks

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