Is a 1902 book protected by copyright...?
December 31, 2009 4:05 AM   Subscribe

UK Copyright law and a 1902 book..

Put simply, is a book that was published in 1902 still covered by copyright law?

* The book has no copyright notice, but it looks like it wasn't a requirement until 1911.

* I have no idea if the author is still alive.

* The 1988 Patent & Copyright Act says copyright runs for 70 years after the author's death, but I can't see if this was applied retroactively or not.

* The book, the author, the publisher and myself can all be considered to be in the UK.

Does anyone know the answer? I know that YANMCAPL... :)
posted by twine42 to Law & Government (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't know the general rules (and couldn't make a huge amount of sense of Wiki's take on it), but this UK-based database might be able to help you with a specific book?
posted by tzb at 4:25 AM on December 31, 2009

Response by poster: Bloody hell TZB, who ever compiled that site needs a (new) hobby! Bloody useful site though, thank you!

The author in question (Charles George HARPER) died in 1943, so (if the 1988 act was retrospective) the 70 years will be up on Jan 1st 2014.

So... can anyone tell me if the 1988 act is the relevant one...?
posted by twine42 at 5:08 AM on December 31, 2009


In my interpretation, a work (originally) published before 1923 in the United States is in the public domain. Life of author only applies to works published after 1923 at this time (this can change of course).

Here is another extremely useful copyright site via Cornell.
posted by cinemafiend at 5:19 AM on December 31, 2009

Damn - should have finished breakfast before posting...
posted by cinemafiend at 5:20 AM on December 31, 2009

Best answer: IANAL

Wikipedia (normal health warnings apply) suggests The Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations 1995 applies (available here) and that it is retroactive.
posted by saintsguy at 5:39 AM on December 31, 2009

The text of the updated act is here. As it does not specifically call out prior acts or time periods as in the US act I would assume that it is retroactive.
posted by caddis at 6:24 AM on December 31, 2009

Response by poster: From further down saintsguy's link...

"Under the Copyright Act of 1842 the copyright period lasted for the lifetime of the author plus 7 years, or for 42 years from first publication if that was longer.

"The Copyright Act of 1911 provided a longer copyright period, namely the life of the author plus 50 years, for works that were first published after 1 July 1912; thus the date of first publication became irrelevant, provided it was after July 1912. This was retained as the period of copyright under the Copyright Act of 1956 and under the 1988 Act."

Assuming later acts were extensions to this act, and that this 1911 one apparently covers works after 1912, it would appear that the copyright expired 7 years after Harper died.

Since the book is being offered as an ebook in multiple locations on the Internet I won't lose huge amounts of sleep if I'm wrong... :)

Cheers all.
posted by twine42 at 8:36 AM on December 31, 2009

Re: #2, if a sixteen year old individual successfully published a book in 1902, they would now be 124 years old... I think that would be a new world record. I doubt you have to worry about the author still being alive.
posted by thewalrus at 4:40 AM on January 1, 2010

Response by poster: Damn you walrus, I didn't think anyone had noticed that...
posted by twine42 at 5:17 AM on January 1, 2010

It's the author's heirs you have to worry about.
posted by caddis at 7:01 AM on January 1, 2010

« Older 80s Sci-fi/Fantasy Film   |   My boyfriend act as if we're merely casually... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.