View Full Version : Are reprints public domain?


bobcdy
04-20-2010, 03:31 PM
I'm interested in creating ebooks of very early books on the history of geology. For example, there is a famous book, 'Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth' published in 1802. The book is very rare and far too expensive to use for scanning, but there are facsimile reprints (1956) from the Univ. of Illinois that are available in our library. Google books apparently has scanned many of these early books but invariably they are only available in snippet view and not for download.

Are such recent reprint editions considered as public domain for scanning - that is, as long as I don't include recently written material such as annotations and introductions or recent artwork in the ebook - are the facsimile reprint material considered as public domain or not?

What about if the reprint has slightly altered the text, for example, by changing the obsolete 'f' to 's' or other reading improvements but otherwise not changing the content.

I thought both facsimile and other reprints would still be public domain because of the age of the original, but the fact that Google Books does not have any such books available for full download leads me to question this conclusion.

Bob

Mike L
04-20-2010, 04:09 PM
Bob, I'm definitely not an expert in this area, but my understanding is this:

The book in question has minor changes (you mentioned changing obselete 'f' to 's'). This suggests the more recent edition has been re-typeset. In that case, whoever issued the new edition cannot claim copyright in the actual content of the book, but they do have copyright of the typesetting. If you scan that typesetting, you are infringing their copyright.

There are plenty of folk in this forum are knowledgeable on this subject, so if anyone contradicts the above, chances are that they are right and I am wrong.

Elfwreck
04-20-2010, 04:14 PM
The *content* of the reprint--the original text & artwork--is in the public domain. The *layout and formatting* are copyrighted, along with an additional material (annotations, new artwork, etc.)

The issue of how much copyright protects formatting hasn't come up in court. Plenty of publishers release new editions of public-domain materials with dire warnings about copyright infringement; so far, nobody's rounded up those materials, stripped out the new content, and resold them, which is what it'd take to trigger a definitive court case.

If you had a way to get the complete scans of the reprinted version, and OCR'd them, and removed the new material, it could be released as a public domain ebook.

bobcdy
04-20-2010, 04:55 PM
From these two replies, it seems that if the reprint is a facsimile reproduction of the original edition, then it is public domain. If the reprint is newly typeset, then probably the typesetting is copyrighted and so a scan of that type of reprint would not be permitted.

Thanks for the rapid and informative replies!
Bob

Nate the great
04-20-2010, 04:57 PM
From these two replies, it seems that if the reprint is a facsimile reproduction of the original edition, then it is public domain. If the reprint is newly typeset, then probably the typesetting is copyrighted and so a scan of that type of reprint would not be permitted.

Thanks for the rapid and informative replies!
Bob

The scan might be copyrighted, but if you OCRed the scan the resulting text file would not be under copyright.

bgalbrecht
04-20-2010, 10:14 PM
According to the US Copyright Office (assuming you're in the US), the 1956 book's introduction and biographical notes are in copyright, but the rest of the book is fair game.

http://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?Search_Arg=Illustrations+of+the+Hutt onian+Theory+of+the+Earth&Search_Code=TALL&PID=drK-g4NjJaFqV3a7jH7LF-bHgsAgelU&SEQ=20100420211022&CNT=25&HIST=1

bobcdy
04-21-2010, 12:50 AM
Thanks for all the response; they have answered my questions very well I think. Also, bgalbrecht thanks for checking on the book I mentioned!
Bob

Mike L
04-21-2010, 08:39 AM
Bob,

I'm glad you found the answers here useful.

It occurs to me that, if you're in any doubt about the legality of what you are planning, you could always ask the Univ. of Illinois for their permission to convert their 1956 edition into an ebook. If it's out of print, and if they have no plans to publish it as an ebook themselves, they might just give you the OK. Just a thought.

In any case, good luck with this project.

HarryT
04-21-2010, 08:48 AM
From these two replies, it seems that if the reprint is a facsimile reproduction of the original edition, then it is public domain. If the reprint is newly typeset, then probably the typesetting is copyrighted and so a scan of that type of reprint would not be permitted.

Thanks for the rapid and informative replies!
Bob

The typesetting would only be subject to a "typographical copyright", which has a fixed term of 25 years. It will, therefore, be long expired for a 1956 publication.

murraypaul
04-21-2010, 09:02 AM
The scan might be copyrighted, but if you OCRed the scan the resulting text file would not be under copyright.

They might claim a copyright on the scan (as Google do), but that doesn't mean they have one. A direct photographic reproduction of a two dimensional work is generally not considered to attract copyright under US law, as is does not contain any originality. (Corel vs Bridgeman)

bgalbrecht
04-21-2010, 11:20 AM
Bob,

I'm glad you found the answers here useful.

It occurs to me that, if you're in any doubt about the legality of what you are planning, you could always ask the Univ. of Illinois for their permission to convert their 1956 edition into an ebook. If it's out of print, and if they have no plans to publish it as an ebook themselves, they might just give you the OK. Just a thought.

In any case, good luck with this project.

IANAL, but I think you'd need to contact George Willard White (or his heirs), since he's the copyright claimant on the copyright renewal on the new material. The original material is public domain, so if you knew for sure that your conversion to ebook only contained the contents of the original book, there's no need to contact the reprint's publisher. Obviously, this is easier to do with the facsimile reprint, but if you have access to the original work, you'd know what's new and what's original.

bgalbrecht
04-21-2010, 07:30 PM
The typesetting would only be subject to a "typographical copyright", which has a fixed term of 25 years. It will, therefore, be long expired for a 1956 publication.

Typographical copyrights are UK or EU law, and is not applicable in the US.

wodin
04-21-2010, 08:14 PM
Wouldn't typographical content, thus any possible copyright be destroyed in the OCR process?

bobcdy
04-22-2010, 01:52 AM
I also emailed about this situation with someone from Project Gutenberg, and she agreed with the conclusions reached here by the various responders - a facsimile would have no copyrights except for newer material.

For reprints with new typesetting, again she agreed that the original contents have no copyrights, but she cautioned about potential problems with subtle changes such as correcting original issue typos and changes in layout, etc. She agreed that ocr and elimination of page numbers will remove most of these potential copyright problems except perhaps with any typo corrections.

Thanks again for all the help with my question!
Bob

HarryT
04-22-2010, 03:58 AM
Typographical copyrights are UK or EU law, and is not applicable in the US.

True, but the original poster has not stated that he is in the USA.

Shaggy
04-22-2010, 02:26 PM
True, but the original poster has not stated that he is in the USA.

The Univ. of Illinois is in the USA, at least last time I checked.

HarryT
04-23-2010, 11:11 AM
The Univ. of Illinois is in the USA, at least last time I checked.

They though are simply the publisher. What matters for copyright purposes is the location of the end user, not that of the publisher.