Can I get the publishing rights to my grandfather's book?
July 16, 2008 10:04 PM   Subscribe

My grandfather wrote a successful buck in the early '40s. He passed away about ten years ago, and just recently I've gotten the urge to see if it would be possible to release the book to Project Gutenberg and also maybe do a Librivox recording. How does one go about finding out about who owns copyrights in this kind of situation?
posted by TheManChild2000 to Law & Government (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
First question is if your grandfather owned the copyright to his book. (It might be owned by the publisher) That should be indicated in the copyright notice on the book. The second question would be if your grandfather owned the rights, who they did the pass to on this death. The copyright would be part of his estate so you would need to find out what his will said. Assuming it wasn't mentioned specifically, I think it would go to who shared in the residual of his estate. So, if your grandmother is still alive, it might belong to her or it might divided among your father and his siblings. (This is a best guess - IANAL and I haven't worked with copyrights in many years)
posted by metahawk at 11:44 PM on July 16, 2008

Assuming your grandfather owned the copyright, where did he live when he wrote it? That makes all the difference.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:36 AM on July 17, 2008

If the book was published in the 1940s, it may now be in the public domain if the copyright holder never renewed the copyright. Check this list.
posted by enn at 3:02 AM on July 17, 2008

metahawk said everything i was going to say. i would add that it's possible the book was published by a publisher that no longer exists because of mergers and so forth.

your best bet is to start with a copy of the book, look up who the publisher was, and go from there.

many publishers, when they put books out of print, give copyright back to the author. this may have happened in your case.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:51 AM on July 17, 2008

You can begin the "was copyright renewed" search at two places: The Stanford Copyright Renewal database, and the Copyright Office itself. Or, if you are a glutton for large-data-set database goodness, you could download the whole thing and roll it yourself.
posted by griffey at 9:15 AM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

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