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Old 08-03-2009, 12:00 AM   #1
pgd1
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Public Domain Authors

Can anyone point me to a resource/site that will list authors/works/films that are in the public domain?
I'm particularly interested in mystery/suspense books (and films).

For instance, are Sax Rohmer's books in the public domain?
How about Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe or even H. G. Wells?

Thanks for any help,

pg
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Old 08-03-2009, 12:05 AM   #2
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That's not a simple question. What country are you in? Do you know if your local copyright laws allow for death+50 years or death+70 years?
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Old 08-03-2009, 12:40 AM   #3
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Public Domain Authors

Thanks for the reply.

I'm in the US.


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Old 08-03-2009, 12:55 AM   #4
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As Nate says, it's a complicated question.

> are Sax Rohmer's books in the public domain?
Sax Rohmer (Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward) died 1 June 1959, so his books come out of copyright in Canada (a life+50 country) on 1 January 2010. They won't come out of copyright in England nor most of Europe (life+70 countries) until 1 January 2030. It looks like 20 or so of his books are already out of copyright in the USA, by virtue of the fact that they were published in 1923 or before.

> How about Arthur Conan Doyle
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle died 7 July 1930, so his books are out of copyright in Canada and most of the world. There are, however, a half-dozen or so books still in copyright in the USA.

> Edgar Allen Poe or even H. G. Wells
Edgar Allan Poe died October 7, 1849 and Herbert George Wells died 13 August 1946, making their books out of copyright in Canada, but still in copyright in England and most of Europe. Those books published before 1923 in the USA are no longer in copyright.

If you're in the USA, you can trust that books posted at Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org) are not under copyright in the USA. Books found in the library here at MobileRead are copyright free in the USA or Canada -- or the authors have released them under a copyright (such as a Creative Commons license) that allows them to be freely distributed.
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Old 08-03-2009, 02:56 PM   #5
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Public Domain Authors

Hi Elsi,
Thanks for the reply. I'm very new to this "Public Domain" topic and am not too clear on how it works.

So, if a work is out of copyright, is it public domain? Does it matter when the copyright ended?

When I was reading the topic on this board it sounded like it was 70 or 50 years after the death of an author when works become public domain. Does this apply to ALL of that authors works regardless of copyright, while individual books may become public domain earlier if they were published over 70 years or so (as in Sax Rohmer)?
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Old 08-03-2009, 03:05 PM   #6
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In the US, the simplest check is to see if the work is at Project Gutenberg. If so, this usually means that the work is in the public domain in the US (and they will otherwise tell you why they can publish it). Their Copyright FAQ is also a good introduction to US Copyright, it says:

Quote:
C.10. What books are in the public domain?

Any book published anywhere before 1923 is in the public domain in the U.S. This is the rule we use most.

U.S. Government publications are in the public domain. This is the rule under which we have published, for example, presidential inauguration speeches.

Books can be released into the public domain by the owners of their copyrights.

Some books published without a copyright notice in the U.S. prior to March 1st, 1989 are in the public domain.

Some books published before 1964, and whose copyright was not renewed, are in the public domain.

If you want to rely on anything except the 1923 rule, things can get complicated, and the rules do change with time. Please refer to our Public Domain and Copyright How-To for more detailed information.
If a book isn't at Project Gutenberg it might still be the public domain in the US, but finding out for sure would typically be more trouble than it is worth.
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Old 08-03-2009, 05:21 PM   #7
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I wrote a long answer, and then put it in the wiki:

http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/FAQ#...omain_stuff.3F

Public Domain varies depending on your country. You can do anything with a public domain work, it doesn't matter how long ago the copyright expired. As you're in the US, public domain works are anything published in 1922 and earlier. Some other items published between 1923 and 1963 inclusive may be in the public domain, but finding is tricky. No more books enter the public domain in the US until 1st January 2019 when all books published in 1923 become public domain.



Quote:
Originally Posted by pgd1 View Post
I'm very new to this "Public Domain" topic and am not too clear on how it works.

So, if a work is out of copyright, is it public domain? Does it matter when the copyright ended?
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Old 08-03-2009, 05:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdurrant View Post
I wrote a long answer, and then put it in the wiki:

http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/FAQ#...omain_stuff.3F

Public Domain varies depending on your country. You can do anything with a public domain work, it doesn't matter how long ago the copyright expired. As you're in the US, public domain works are anything published in 1922 and earlier. Some other items published between 1923 and 1963 inclusive may be in the public domain, but finding is tricky. No more books enter the public domain in the US until 1st January 2019 when all books published in 1923 become public domain.
Good idea to put it in the FAQ. There is also a version in the E-book uploads That has been there for a while.
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Old 08-03-2009, 06:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
You can do anything with a public domain work, it doesn't matter how long ago the copyright expired.
Ahhh, not quite true, depends on what you intend to do. Some public domain novels still are protected by trademark, which means the commercial use still needs a licence from the holder of rights.
And even an uncommercial use may (!) cause problems due to the trademark rights but this will differ in each individual case.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Some of the trademark rights to "Sherlock Holmes" belong to the "The Sherlock Holmes Memorabilia Company Limited" in England. Tough to find out which ones are active in the US and which ones not.

Best example right now is Robert E. Howard, creator of "Conan", among others. In public domain since 2007, but a lot of his popular characters and even the name of the author himelf are trademarked.
And the Conan property is one very much alive in media, games or merchandising. So these holders of rights may take any infringement (deliberate or accidential) more seriously.

No, I don't like this concept either, circumventing public domain by the use of trademarks.
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Old 08-03-2009, 07:54 PM   #10
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It is also true that the book may be in the public domain but the images in the book may not. They are separately copyrighted.

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Old 08-04-2009, 04:31 AM   #11
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I can see that this applies to re-use of the trademark in a new work. I can't see that it would apply to republishing, without amendment, an out-of-copyright work containing or titled with the trademark.

I wonder if there's any case law on this?

Quote:
Originally Posted by K-Thom View Post
Ahhh, not quite true, depends on what you intend to do. Some public domain novels still are protected by trademark, which means the commercial use still needs a licence from the holder of rights.

Last edited by pdurrant; 08-04-2009 at 04:32 AM. Reason: whoops - can/can't typo now fixed.
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:11 AM   #12
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I've been waiting for January 2007 to finally lay my hands on Howard's novels and translate them into German.
Just to find out that in January 2007 a Norwegian company (which held the copyright to his work until December 2006) registered every main character, most important book titles and the name of Robert E. Howard himself as a trademark.
At least those which weren't already trademarked or in use by the Conan Properties International.

So this is an actual business practise. Of course I think you'll have it much more easier to claim the trademark to a public domain work if you were the copyright holder of that work. Just an elegant way to lenghten your protectice rights for quite a while ...
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:17 AM   #13
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Yes, if you are in the United States be sure not to visit Project Gutenberg Australia and download text files they offer publicly and freely.

Doing so might (under perfect circumstances) result in the lawful imprisonment of YOU!

Under less than perfect circumstances you might be able to get away with PIRATING the works of long dead authors without losing your freedom and having your life ruined... but that's really just the failure of the justice system and/or law enforcement.

- Ahi
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