9.696 copyright?

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Fri, 5 Apr 1996 18:10:18 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 696.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Ian Lancashire <ian@epas.utoronto.ca> (40)
Subject: copyright

Would readers of Humanist have information about some copyright issues?

These appear to affect current practices at Web sites, where
individuals place copies that thye have made of authors' works for other
people to copy.

A revision to the British copyright act that came into effect in
January of this year evidently reset the period of time during which an
author's works are protected. The old period was 50 years from the date of
the author's death. The new period is 70 years from the date of the
author's death. I have been told that this change applies
retrospectively to authors whose works fell out of copyright between
about 1926 and 1946.

Major British authors such as Hardy (d. 1928), Joyce (d. 1941),
Wells (d. 1946), Woolf (d. 1941), and Yeats (d. 1939) are affected.
Permission from these authors' estates would appear to be necessary
now should their works be copied. Their works have "fallen back into

Does anyone know if this information substantially incorrect?

Judging by the availability of many of these authors' works
electronically from reputable UK and US sites, I wonder if I have my
facts right.

This would not affect US authors' works. As I understand the situation,
they remain protected 70 years from the date of first publication.
Thus any book by a US author published before 1926 would appear to be
out of copyright, even were the author still to be living.

How long do editors retain copyright over their edited versions of
out-of-copyright texts? This question has different answers,
depending on how much judgment the editor had to use in creating the

Where copyright law mentions this at all (and some countries do not
treat the subject), the period would seem to vary between 25 years
(the protection afforded presses for printed page layouts of
out-of-copyright works with no editor) to the full protection afforded
to authors -- in the British case, this would be death plus 70 years.
For example, any Middle English text edited by J. R. R. Tolkien (d.
1973) might well be copyrighted for nearly 50 more years.

My information comes from informed sources, as they say, including the
rights manager of a major British publisher and two Canadian copyright
lawyers. None of my sources distinguished between print and
electronic copying in terms of copyright protection.

Ian Lancashire
English / CCH -- Toronto