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Old 12-01-2014, 05:39 AM   #1
AlexBell
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A complicated copyright question

This is a longish post, so please bear with me.

The background is that I'm working on Benigna Machiavelli by Charlotte Perkins Gilman for the MR library. The novella was published in her magazine Forerunner in 1914, and she died in 1935. The only source I've been able to find is pdf and text versions on Internet Archive. As well as many typos and inconsistencies in character names these sources omit chapter 3 completely. I have not been able to locate any other public domain online source for the text. I have found a commercial pdf version from Bandanna Books, but there is nothing on their site to enable me to contact them. There is an extensive foreword in their ebook which clearly states that they have modified the text to lessen the melodrama in the original. There are clear differences in style between the Bandanna Books version and the Internet Archive version, fewer typos, and fewer naming inconsistencies. And the Bandanna Books pdf states that it is under copyright.

I have no intention at all of using the original text in the foreword. But I'd like to take their chapter 3 to replace the missing chapter 3 in the Internet Archive version, and modify the style so that it matches the other eleven chapters.

Would this be acceptable for the MobileRead library? I intend to add an appendix 'Notes on the Text' to summarise the changes I have made.

A better solution of course would be to find a public domain version which is complete - and preferably has fewer typos. Can anyone point me to such a source? I'd be most grateful.
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Old 12-01-2014, 06:23 AM   #2
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Unfortunately you would likely be in breach of the Copyright in Chapter 3. It seems from your comments that they have made it quite clear that the work has been modified, which presumably includes modifications to Chapter 3. They would then have the copyright in that modified version of chapter 3.

The short answer is that you should not use it as the basis for your further modifications without obtaining permissio. Hopefully, someone reading this thread will be able to point you in the direction of the original text.
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Old 12-01-2014, 08:37 AM   #3
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Your best hope is to acquire an original copy of the Forerunner for the period in question, and scan it yourself.

I researched American Booksellers Exchange, and found a bound copy of 1914 Forerunner (Jan to Dec) for sale. It was only $990 USD (plus $5 dollars shipping)...
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Old 12-01-2014, 09:15 PM   #4
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Unfortunately, Alex, it's not complicated at all; it's entirely straightforward. If someone modifies a public domain text, those modifications are protected by copyright, and you can't copy the modified text without the copyright holder's permission.
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Old 12-02-2014, 03:25 AM   #5
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Thanks for all your responses. I thought that would be the answer, but if I don't ask I don't find out.
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Old 12-02-2014, 03:47 AM   #6
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Unfortunately, Alex, it's not complicated at all; it's entirely straightforward. If someone modifies a public domain text, those modifications are protected by copyright, and you can't copy the modified text without the copyright holder's permission.
Harry, I have my doubts if this is really this straightforward, in Germany, at least, it isn't. Some (minor) modifications to a public domain text don't give the modificator automatically a copyright in his own. The law requires real creative work to get it's protection.

I had a greater concern if you - Alex - could really be able to alter chapter III back to the "faulty" original. That sounds a difficult task! Hope you find an original somewhere.
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Old 12-02-2014, 04:32 AM   #7
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This Google Book looks like it contains the source:
http://books.google.se/books?id=Dto5...lume&q=benigna

WorldCat lists a few libraries in Australia which may have a copy:
http://www.worldcat.org/title/forerunner/oclc/1569743

And I'd say this is it:
http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?i...39015014168655
at least it contains chapter III (page 69, contents in page 338).
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Old 12-03-2014, 02:02 AM   #8
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Harry, I have my doubts if this is really this straightforward, in Germany, at least, it isn't. Some (minor) modifications to a public domain text don't give the modificator automatically a copyright in his own. The law requires real creative work to get it's protection.

I had a greater concern if you - Alex - could really be able to alter chapter III back to the "faulty" original. That sounds a difficult task! Hope you find an original somewhere.
Thanks, Billi. I wondered myself just how many changes Bandanna Press could make to the original and then say their version is copyright. It's a moot point for me anyway since so far as I can tell Bandanna Press has closed - though they still have the download link and accepted my money.

What I could do perhaps is to take the material from the pdf I have, and check that against the Hathi Trust file found by Jellby.

And thanks for the links, Jellby -though I haven't been able to download either source yet.
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Old 12-03-2014, 04:13 AM   #9
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Well, it's a bit complicated.

First of all, the text as such should be in the public domain, as the author is dead for more than 70 years. If the local laws prescribe more, then it's maybe yes, maybe no, depending on this parameter.

So, if you get a Chapter 3 from any source you're covered entirely.

The commercial books (or electronic books) are covered by copyright (actually ancillary rights, as the copyright lapsed), but this only to the extent of the modifications they made. If they only changed the format (from print to ePub), they can only protect the ePub, but not the text. In other words, if you "steal" the book completely.

And, under certain jurisdictions, like USA, there are also the provisions of "fair use". Here's where the complications start. Some other countries have such exceptions, other/most don't. I do not know very well the copyright laws of the US, but I think you may not qualify for the "fair use" because you fail two of the three (one is enough) conditions - you act in the same business, and -you take a big part.

Nevertheless, the modifications made by them are under copyright (real C) until 70 years after the death of the author. Lacking an original source for Chapter 3 they can claim everything and you can't prove they're bluffing.

Therefore, as long as you find an original Chapter 3, I believe you're ok with the law.
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Old 12-03-2014, 07:16 AM   #10
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And thanks for the links, Jellby -though I haven't been able to download either source yet.
It's not directly a download, but at the Hathi Trust site, the fifth button in the row on the left gives you the possibility to display plain text. This you might copy/paste to your pc if you wish.
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Old 12-03-2014, 10:34 AM   #11
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And thanks for the links, Jellby -though I haven't been able to download either source yet.
I used a screen scraper to grab the raw text of chapter 3.
Attached Files
File Type: epub benigna_iii.epub (18.7 KB, 7 views)
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Old 12-04-2014, 03:39 AM   #12
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Many thanks and Karma for your help.
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