Modernising an old book.

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
Post Reply
Phreedom
New Member
New  Member
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:54 am

Modernising an old book.

Post by Phreedom » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:02 am

Hi all, I was just wondering if there are any legal matters in modernizing an old book. What I mean is, I have a book that was written in the old english style and set in an era long ago.
What I want to do is, re-write the book in todays english and in today's modern setting. So the places, names and the jobs people have will be different - And of course the language they use.

With my re-written version the theme is the same - in the same way Avatar is the same as Disney's Pocahontas.

What I would like to know is, do I need to gain permission from the publisher/author before getting my version published.

Thanks in advance.

If you need more infomation from me, please ask :)

User avatar
AndyJ
Oracle
Oracle
Posts: 1942
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:43 am

Post by AndyJ » Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:59 pm

When you say 'old book' I assume that this is one that is still in copyright. Obviously if the original book is out of copyright - eg the author of it died more than 70 years ago - then you have no problems.
So as I say, assuming the book is in copyright, You need to proceed with caution. Ideas and themes can't be copyrighted, only the actual manner those ideas are expressed. (Football LeagueLtd v Littlewoods Pools Ltd 1959 Ch 637). So you can use the same basic theme/storyline as another literary work as long as you put it entirely in your own words. But merely bringing the old english text up to date would be more likely to constitute a translation, which is an adaption of an existing work and needs the permission of the copyright owner.
There is some case law on the subject, the most appropriate being Baigent and Leigh v Random House Group Ltd, 2007 EWCA Civ 247, in which it was held that the Dan Brown book The Da Vinci Code did not infringe the copyright of an earlier book, The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail although Brown's work of fiction closely followed the theme of the earlier book. One significant difference is that The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail was a work of non-fiction.
So long as you entirely re-write the story in your own words, and I suggest you do change the names of all the characters, your work should be sufficiently original and distinctive not to infringe the earlier author's copyright.
You don't mention how you intend to publish your book. If this is through a conventional publisher, they will probably seek professional advice before publishing your work in any case.

Phreedom
New Member
New  Member
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jul 20, 2010 8:54 am

Thank you

Post by Phreedom » Tue Jul 20, 2010 2:11 pm

Thank you AndyJ,

Yes I will just publish the conventional way. As for my book versus the old book - As far as I am aware it is still under copyright. When I say theme lets use this as an example ( I would post what I am actually doing here, but call me paranoid someone else will then do it before me)... ok the example them - Lets use Alice in Wonderland:

If I had a young boy fall down a goffer(spelling) hole and down there he fould a new world in which he met a praying mantis who speaks backwards and while down there he finds a machine that can change his size...

I assume you get the idea now... just think of Alice in Wonderland, keep the overall theme and change the actually world it is in.

I hope I am making some sort of sense.

But I guess at the end of the day, when i go to get it published, the publishers will know what to do.

Thank you again AndyJ

Post Reply