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Old 03-22-2010, 08:05 PM   #1
Hatgirl
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Archive.org copyright question

I am puzzled by a scanned book I found on archive.org, Startling Stories Vol7 No1 (Jan 1942). According to The Internet Archive description: "Copyright was issued in 1941, but no renewal was recorded, this work is Public Domain under Rule 6 of the Copyright Statutes of the United States."

BUT, the issue contains "Christmas on Ganymede" by Isaac Asimov. That has been republished numerous times. So what's the deal? Has The Internet Archive made a mistake? Is the scan out of copyright but the etext in copyright? Is "Christmas on Ganymede" only legal-ish if it's part of that group of stories?

Copyright law is so confusing...
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Old 03-23-2010, 10:15 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Hatgirl View Post
BUT, the issue contains "Christmas on Ganymede" by Isaac Asimov. That has been republished numerous times.
The fact that it has been republished numerous times has nothing to do with whether or not it is copyrighted. Shakespeare's works have been republished at least as much as "Christmas on Ganymede", yet they are not copyrighted.
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Old 03-23-2010, 10:47 AM   #3
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Indeed, the fact that it's copyright free is very likely the reason that it's reprinted so often, because anybody (in the USA) can publish it without paying any royalties.

It is, of course, still under copyright protection in most countries of the world.
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Old 03-23-2010, 10:52 AM   #4
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This gets subtle and complex. In the period involved, a writer sold a story to a magazine. The Magazine copyrighted it, not the writer (it has to do with the legal method of copyright in the US prior to 1978. To go into the detail would take a page in and of itself.)

However often the magazine edited the work. So the copyright applied to the particular edited version of the works. The author may later publish an unedited (or edited differently) version of the work. Since it was a different version, it would have a separate copyright.

It still gets more murky. There was a 1 year window to renew the copyright under the pre 1978 law. Could a third party (i.e. the author) renew the copyright? I don't know. Any particular case would have to be adjudicated with a trial, most parties won't bother. For a final answer as a copyright lawyer.

These are my reading of the US copyright law. IANAL, and this is not legal advice....

To read it yourself see my sticky US Copyright Law...

Here is an example of how confusing it can get. At the same time, (give or take a few issues), Robert A. Heinlein published a story in the same magazine. He would never allow it to be reprinted, as he felt it was terrible. Project Gutenberg considers it to still be under copyright. But Startling Stories went broke and there was no renewal of copyright by the assigns of the magazine for any issues. Question? How did Heinlein (and his estate trust) maintain copyright control? Beats the <bleep> out of me....

Last edited by Ralph Sir Edward; 03-23-2010 at 10:59 AM.
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Old 03-23-2010, 01:16 PM   #5
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Did a little further research. All the research to be done is manual, in a large set of card catalogs. Yep, little bits of paper. See the copyright office linky about it here....

http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ23.pdf


So, using the Heinlein example...You would have to go to Washington, DC, go to the card catalog during business hours, and look up the publisher of Startling Stories, find the card for the year published, and write down all the info. Also you would check to make certain that there was no entries for the individual authors for the stories entered.

So far, so good. Now you skip forward 28 years in the card catalog, and do the same look-up. If you don't find an entry for either the publisher or the author, then it's probably P.D, at least for that variant of the story.

Why both the publisher and author? Because if the author convinced the publisher to revert the rights back to the author, it would then be the author holding the copyright to be renewed.

This is all theory to me, I've never done this....
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Old 03-23-2010, 03:43 PM   #6
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Yes, I know republished doesn't necessarily mean that the copyright is renewed. I meant that it wasn't an obscure, half-forgotten short story, so you'd think the copyright wouldn't have been allowed to lapse.

It's all weird and confusing. But I guess can make myself a nice clean ePub with a clean conscience
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Old 03-23-2010, 05:14 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Hatgirl View Post
Yes, I know republished doesn't necessarily mean that the copyright is renewed. I meant that it wasn't an obscure, half-forgotten short story, so you'd think the copyright wouldn't have been allowed to lapse.

It's all weird and confusing. But I guess can make myself a nice clean ePub with a clean conscience
All of science fiction was pretty much obscure, niche-market stories. Even today, science fiction is considered not-really-literature in a lot of places.

And prolific authors who didn't keep extensive records of what they published where, were likely to not update the copyright; the copyright office didn't send out "your copyright is about to expire!" notices. Besides, how much income would Asimov expect to make, in 1968, on a story he published in 1941?
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Old 03-23-2010, 07:58 PM   #8
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And prolific authors who didn't keep extensive records of what they published where, were likely to not update the copyright; the copyright office didn't send out "your copyright is about to expire!" notices. Besides, how much income would Asimov expect to make, in 1968, on a story he published in 1941?
Ah, but Asimov had a borderline-OCD record system and in the 60s became aware that he could make real money from reprints of his short stories. He even wrote a sort-of-autobiography about his history with the pulps, interspersed with the short stories themselves. If you have any interest in Asimov, the Golden Age of Science-Fiction or pulps, I really recommend The Early Asimov. It's a great read.
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