How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask montysimmons Your Own Question
montysimmons
montysimmons, Patent Prosecutor
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 328
Experience:  Electrical Engineer, South Carolina Attorney, Member of US Patent Bar
9204196
Type Your Intellectual Property Law Question Here...
montysimmons is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I am interested in acquiring the copyright of an out-of-print

Customer Question

I am interested in acquiring the copyright of an out-of-print book. The current copyright holder seems to be defunct - I have sent correspondence to the only address I could find for them without response and the phone number listed is disconnected. The original copyright holder was MacMillian in 1925. Buccaneer Books appears to have acquired it in 1991 and printed it again (this info from search on Amazon). The book is Silver Pennies by Blanche Jennings Thompson.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  montysimmons replied 1 year ago.
The copyright may have expired.IF a book is published in the US between 1923 and 1963 it had to be published with NOTICE - otherwise, the book is in the public domain.IF it was published with notice in 1925, the copyright had to be renewed. The US copyright office did a study and found that fewer than 15% of the registered copyrights were renewed. For books, the number drops to 7%.Odds are very good the book is in the public domain. Give me the title of the book and I can do a search.I see the title now. Silver Pennies by Blanche Jennings Thompson
Expert:  montysimmons replied 1 year ago.
Attached is the original copyright registration. Will look for the renewal now.
Expert:  montysimmons replied 1 year ago.
OK, I found the original registration and I found the 1953 renewal (I guess that book is one of the 7%). For books published in the US between 1923 through 1963, with notice, and with renewal, the term is 95 years after the publication date.The publication date was June 2, 1925. So the copyright should expire June 2, 2020. 4 more years. An orphan work is a copyright protected work for which rightsholders are positively indeterminate or uncontactable. Sometimes the names of the originators or rightsholders are known, yet it is impossible to contact them because additional details cannot be found. It can take a lot of effort and time to find the owner of an orphan work. The link below should help you in your search.http://www.copylaw.com/new_articles/permission.html If you have more questions, please keep asking until you are satisfied.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Much thanks for the quick response and advice. A few questions:Copyright holder was Blanche Jennings Thompson who is deceased. Does copyright just go to any rightful heir after or could it have been stipulated in her will?What rights does MacMillian have as original publisher?Does illustrator have rights?What rights does Buccaneer Books have who published the reprint? Or did they just reprint hoping it would not be contested?What are the consequences if I republish before 2020?How do I rightfully acquire copyright from heir or upon expiration?Thank you!!
Expert:  montysimmons replied 1 year ago.
YOU ASKCopyright holder was Blanche Jennings Thompson who is deceased. Does copyright just go to any rightful heir after or could it have been stipulated in her will?ANSWERYes, copyrights are like any other property and typically survive the death of the Author. Thus, copyright ownership can be transferred via a will, or via intestate succession if there is no will.Copyright rights can be completely sold/transferred or the author can simply sale/transfer/give a license to use the material protected by copyright.Copyright term today last 70 years after the death of the author so it is very common for copyright rights to pass to heirs. The the term of copyright registered by Blanche in 1925 is governed by law in effect in 1925 and will terminate in 2020 (whether or not she were alive).YOU ASKWhat rights does MacMillian have as original publisher? ANSWERDifficult to know. It can be any of the rights identified above. They can own a license or they could have purchased the copyright itself. Just depends on what kind of deal the parties agreed to. YOU ASKDoes illustrator have rights? ANSWERAbsolutely. In the beginning at least. Although the work could have been a work for hire so the copyright rights technically passed to the party that paid for the work as it was created.Alternatively, the illustrator could have retained his rights, sold them, or simply granted a license and still owns them. Again, people can pretty much enter into whatever legal arrangement they can think of with regard to copyright rights. YOU ASKWhat rights does Buccaneer Books have who published the reprint? Or did they just reprint hoping it would not be contested? ANSWER Same answer as above. They may have purchased the entire copyright or just a license. Or, like you guessed, they could have just published and hoped for the best (seems unlikely but possible). YOU ASKWhat are the consequences if I republish before 2020?ANSWERSince the copyright is registered, the copyright owner can ask for Statutory Damages and Attorney fees. The attorney fees alone will be painful. Statutory Damages are no less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just (for each violation - each book would be a violation).https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/504 YOU ASKHow do I rightfully acquire copyright from heir or upon expiration?ANSWERThat is the hard part. Finding the owner of Orphan Works can be very difficult. It is a bit of a problem with regard to copyrights.The link I supplied previously should be helpful. I personally do not have the time to do the search which may take hours or weeks or more - just never know.Wikipedia has a good article on Orphan Works.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphan_works_in_the_United_States When the copyright expires in 2020 the copyright dies and the work enters the public domain and will be free to use by all. Notably, if you use the work and improve upon the work in a material way, you can register YOUR copyright in the improvement. (Improvements only, of course). If you wish I can ask around to see if there is a service that performs such searches.If I have not answered your questions please keep asking until you are satisfied.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
All info is excellent counsel. Thank you. The plan is actually to improve the work. It is anthology of poems (which I'm assuming cleared all previous copyright compliance rules) that is illustrated. Thinking of republishing with new modern illustrations by my niece. Not sure if that would be considered an improvement? I certainly think so! I suppose the easiest thing of all is to set our timeframe to publish in 2020!!! Second choice would be to try to obtain license after determining copyright holder. But not sure I want to incur the expense of determining who that is. I guess a few inquiries could be useful to start. Let me ponder for a day or two about further questions before we close this out. I'm very grateful for your advice.
Expert:  montysimmons replied 1 year ago.
You are welcome.Yes, if your niece adds new illustrations, she would be wise to register same. The copyright springs into existence the moment the work is created. So she does nothing to OWN a copyright. But she needs to register the copyright with the copyright office so that (1) she has proof when she created the illustrations, and (2) she can ask for statutory damages and attorney fees, and (3) the copyright has to be registered to sue anyway - so way not register it right away. Only cost $65 if you file yourself and, while not easy, it is not that difficult and I suspect you can do it after a few hours of reading the relevant guides.good luck

Related Intellectual Property Law Questions