The weirdness of manuscript copyright law (UK version)
July 8, 2014 2:41 PM Subscribe
In the case of unpublished historical manuscripts in copyright till 2039 in the UK, where the original author is long dead and there is no designated copyright holder, how does copyright work once you get down a generation or two and have multiple heirs of seemingly equal standing? (eg. several grandchildren or multiple great nieces and nephews) Must everyone be consulted and agree, or if a will never mentioned the manuscript but left everything to a given child or even a non-family member, do only their heirs count and not the other grandkids etc?
posted by Flitcraft to Law & Government (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm running into problems with UK archives which insist on having a letter of permission from the copyright holder before any historical publication of extracts from an unpublished manuscript, but then they don't know who the copyright holder is or don't seem to hold up to date contacts. I can do the genealogy and work out who some of the living relatives are, but then how to tell which is the copyright holder or are they all copyright holders? Where there are wills they don't mention copyright and there is often no one obvious living heir but several relatives of the same degree. In one case the author willed nothing to family but all to friends and the copyright was not mentioned and the executor is long dead - do the family still have copyright?
These are manuscripts written by 'Joe Bloggs' type people from 100 years ago, not famous published authors whose works are worth a lot of money but they've been caught up in the copyright web. When the library or archive fails to turn up a copyright holder, how does one proceed? I'm eventually running all this past a lawyer but I'm trying to get my own head round it at the moment.
How does manuscript copyright work when nobody cared about it enough to specify what should happen to it and all the immediate heirs are dead?
Thanks to anyone who can shed light on this or point me to some help on it!