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Old 01-28-2010, 01:24 AM   #1
rem736
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how can a publisher claim copyright over a public domain work?

hi all,

new to the forum here. i have a simple question. but the answer is problably very complicated. how is it that publishing companies, either in print or electronic form, can claim copyright to a book that is clearly already in the public domain? classic books that you buy in any university library (shakespeare, jane austen, etc.) clearly show that it is copyrighted by the publishing company selling the book. i even see that fictionwise and barnes and noble have such copyright claims on the classics in ebook form that they sell. looking to understand. thanks.

hue.
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Old 01-28-2010, 01:31 AM   #2
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They can't copyright the contents. They can copyright their own layout and forewords.

If something's in the PD in your country, you can simply download a PD version entirely legally, and you can use the text (without the publisher's overall layout) freely.
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Old 01-28-2010, 01:52 AM   #3
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thanks. i am not worried about my right to use the PD work. i'm just wondering how publishing companies do so when they are clearly PD.

though i don't plan to do it, it does mean that i can just take a PD work out of gutenberg, take out any reference to gutenberg, change the font and layout, slap a forward on it, and claim that i myself have copyrighted the work and sell it online. does that make sense to anyone?
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Old 01-28-2010, 01:54 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rem736 View Post
thanks. i am not worried about my right to use the PD work. i'm just wondering how publishing companies do so when they are clearly PD.

though i don't plan to do it, it does mean that i can just take a PD work out of gutenberg, take out any reference to gutenberg, change the font and layout, slap a forward on it, and claim that i myself have copyrighted the work and sell it online. does that make sense to anyone?
You can only lay claim to any different layout & artwork you attach to the PD work but not the content. At least that's how I understand it. But than again, I was wrong before (I think last in 1985 )
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Old 01-28-2010, 01:55 AM   #5
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Perfectly possible and legal - it's done on a regular basis.

It's just a matter of understanding exactly *what* elements are copyrighted to you, which is typically very little.
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Old 01-28-2010, 03:01 AM   #6
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Introduction, footnotes, appendices, etc. These are what are copyrighted and are also, of course, what often make the book worth buying. You'll learn a lot more about the text by buying, say, the "Penguin Classics" edition and reading the introduction and footnotes than you will be reading the public domain text in isolation.
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Old 01-28-2010, 07:44 AM   #7
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There's also the added little wrinkle that just because a book is in the public domain here it may not be in the public domain over there, depending on local laws (some countries have more expensive legislators than others, making infinite copyright extension in those countries take longer to pass.)
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