Copyright history

Discussion in 'Horological Books' started by Tom McIntyre, May 31, 2006.

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  1. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    #1 Tom McIntyre, May 31, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2017
    We seem to have questions arise fairly often about older works and copyright protection.

    I found this interesting discussion on another web site.

    Most of the works we seem to be concerned about in the U.S. seem to date prior to 1976. Here is a note about the 1909 revision to the U.S. Copyright Act.
    It seems that works copyrighted before 1976 were protected for 28 years with a possible renewal. After 1976 the protection is the life of the author plus 50 years.
     
  2. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    #2 Tom McIntyre, May 31, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2017
    We seem to have questions arise fairly often about older works and copyright protection.

    I found this interesting discussion on another web site.

    Most of the works we seem to be concerned about in the U.S. seem to date prior to 1976. Here is a note about the 1909 revision to the U.S. Copyright Act.
    It seems that works copyrighted before 1976 were protected for 28 years with a possible renewal. After 1976 the protection is the life of the author plus 50 years.
     
  3. Andy Dervan

    Andy Dervan Registered User
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    Hi Tom,

    Thank you for publishing the comments. I went to the copyright website and read through some of later lawsuits - very interesting.

    A number of people do not realize or appreciate the importance of copyright laws.

    Andy Dervan
     
  4. Mike Kearney

    Mike Kearney Guest

    Tom, thank you for weighing in on this. Your support, participation and consideration of our Internet venue over the years has been critical to shaping this message board.

    The last statement in your post leaves some room for interpretation. Maybe you were saying that works copyrighted before 1976 were not affected by the 1976 act.

    Let me just add another quote from that link, state my understanding, and give an example to see if we are in agreement or not.

    "The 1976 act preempted all previous copyright law and extended the term of protection to life of the author plus 50 years (works for hire were protected for 75 years)."

    The key is the word preempted, which means "to have precedence or predominance over". For example, (I maintain) a work copyrighted in 1963, would, after the passage of the 1976 act, have an increase in duration of protection to the life of the author plus 50 years. Had the author died in 1964, the copyright will be in effect until 2014.

    Is that your take as well?

    Regards,
    Mike
     
  5. Does this mean that the Chicago Watchmaking course is public domain today?
     
  6. Mike Kearney

    Mike Kearney Guest

    My take is that the course is still protected and is not public domain.

    Regards,
    Mike
     
  7. John F

    John F Registered User

    Sep 28, 2001
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    Guys, I would be very cautious about offering an interpretation in this forum about whether a particular work is or is not protected by copyright, or is or is not in the public domain. Some of the statements above are correct, some are generally correct (albeit with some important exceptions), and some are not accurate.

    Under the 1976 Copyright Act, the general rule (and like all rules, there are exceptions), for works published/copyrighted prior to Jan. 1 1978, is as follows:

    - The copyright term lasts for 28 years. During the last year of the term, the copyright is eligible for renewal.

    - The 1976 Copyright Act extended the length of the second (renewal) term from the traditional 28 years to 67 years. Under a subsequent (1998) amendment to the 1976 Act, it is possible for some pre-1978 material to get a further term of extension, to 95 years.

    - The term of some pre-1978 copyrights were automatically extended under a 1992 amendment to the 1976 Copyright Act, notably copyrights that were first secured between 1964 and 1977, but not those copyrighted before this date.

    - For a work copyrighted prior to Dec. 31, 1963, it must have been renewed prior to Jan. 1, 1978 (if copyrighted prior to 1950) or have been first copyrighted between 1950 and 1963*, to have gotten or be eligible for an extended term of copyright protection.

    - If it was not renewed, a copyright first secured prior to 1964 expired at the end of its 28 year term, and all copyright protection is lost permanently.

    - Neither the 1976 Copyright Act nor any of the subsequent amendments extending terms, etc., can restore the copyright to a work that fell into the public domain prior to the passage of those laws.

    - The "life of the author" plus some specified number of years (the number varies) applies to "new" copyrighted (post-1978) works. An exception exists for some pre-1978 works - if they were created prior to 1978, but not published until after that date, they get the benefit of the "new" (post-1978) copyright rules.

    Did the Chicago course get re-registered after to Jan. 1, 1978? Do any of the exceptions apply? Did it enter the public domain after 1991 (1963 + 28 years)? I dunno. Complicated? You bet.

    Just my 2 cents.

    *Edited to correct an ambiguity for pre- and post-1950 copyrights - as I said, this stuff is complicated!
     
  8. Mike Kearney

    Mike Kearney Guest

    John, thank you for adding to the discussion. As you suggested caution in interpreting copyright law, would you agree that it would be prudent to follow the advice that author Richard Watkins offered in another post? He said, "to ensure what I have done is legal and out of respect to possible copyright owners I have always sought permission to publish when it is likely that a valid copyright might exist."

    Regards,
    Mike
     
  9. John F

    John F Registered User

    Sep 28, 2001
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    Mike, I think I'm going to follow my own advice and not offer an opinion for how others should navigate the copyright laws. I'm not a copyright attorney, so I think it's best for me to lay out what facts I do know, and let others draw their own conclusion. I'm not trying to be coy or flip - I just know enough about copyrights to know what I don't know.

    Here's what I do know:

    With respect to seeking permission for re-publishing copyrighted works, if there is a valid copyright, then permission from the copyright owner is not only prudent but required. Everything hinges on that "if": If there's no valid copyright, then there's no need for permission.

    As for the Chicago course referred to in the other thread, since that is a work that was copyrighted before Jan. 1, 1964 (specifically, in 1963), if there is today a valid copyright for this work, then in the ordinary course of things a renewal registration would have to have been made in the last year of the original 28 year copyright term, or between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 1991 (1963 + 28 = 1991).

    There is not a record of a renewal registration of the Chicago School of Watchmaking work, or of a transfer of a copyright from Byron Sweazey, in the US Copyright Office's database of records of registrations and ownership documents filed since 1978.

    Those are the facts that I know. Based on that, it's reasonable to conclude that since the copyright was not renewed in its last year, this work has passed into the public domain. But this is also where I know what I don't know. Was this copyright affected by one of the goofball exceptions in the 1976 Act (ok, I admit it - "goofball" is an opinion, not a fact!), such as a copyright restored by the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, and therefore it has a total copyright term of 75 years and not 28 years? Uh, probably not, since that Act "restored" pre-1978 copyrights, whereas the Chicago course's copyright was still good in 1978. But I don't know for sure, and so that's where I'll stop. 'Nuff said by me!
     
  10. Jerry Treiman

    Jerry Treiman Registered User
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    To perhaps confuse this more (at least I am confused) my original printed copies of the Sweazey course lessons bear varying copyright dates. Most of the earliest lessons bear a 1933 copyright date and the later lessons bear dates of 1948, 1949 and 1950. Was the 1963 date mentioned above a renewal or a new copyright for a revised text or format? In such instances, might an earlier version be public domain while a later revision is not?
     
  11. John F

    John F Registered User

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    Jerry, I don't know how the rules worked prior to the 1976 Copyright Act overhaul. It's dangerous to assume, but multiple dates appearing on successive versions of the same work probably indicate that revised versions were published in the years indicated. One would need to do a side-by-side comparison of the differently dated versions to see if there are changes from one copyright date to the next to be sure of this. If there are differences, it's also probably logical to conclude that each successive version or work was intended to be independently copyrighted under the pre-1976 rules.

    It's a good question whether material appearing in a prior copyrighted version that is identical to material appearing in a later copyrighted version was considered to have been "renewed" under the pre-1976 laws: the general rule is that a work is copyrighted as a whole, and you "renew" the copyright for a work as a whole.

    It may not matter how it worked under the old (pre-1976) rules, however, since the 1976 Act did away with those and established different sets of rules for works that are copyrighted before 1950, between 1950 and and 1963, between 1964 and 1978, and after 1978. Whether an older (pre-1950) work is considered "renewed" by a copyright in the 1950 to 1963 period under the 1976 Act is a good question, and one I do not know the answer to. (Probably not, since a valid renewal can only be done as specified in the 1976 Act. But that's just a guess and, following my own rule, I am not going to offer an interpretation of whether those works are or are not protected by copyright.)

    This question about whether the pre-1963 copyrighted versions might be in the public domain even if the 1963 version is not also gets complicated under this system (like we need any more complications!), because the Chicago course copyrights fall into both the pre-1950 and the 1950-1963 periods. I don't know how this sorts out.

    What is clear is that for a 1963 copyrighted work to still enjoy copyright protection today, it would have to have been renewed in 1991, either by the original copyright owner or a transferee. A search of the Copyright Office's database for the owner or the name of the work will answer that question (with the caveat about the "goofball" exceptions).

    How's that for a non-answer answer:???:
     
  12. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    John, Thanks for a great analysis.

    As an irreverant irrelevance, my recollection from 1976 is that this was all about Disney trying to protect Fantasia and other related works. They spent a lot of money to lobby the new law through Congress.
     
  13. Mike Puente

    Mike Puente Registered User

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    I called the copyright department and asked about this same subject. they told me exactly what was listed here. Twenty eight years and renewable also the 67 year copywright. I have some books I was concerned about copying and it seems I am o.k. since these books are from 1909.
     
  14. Len Lataille

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    Go to Google and enter "Public Domain". In general ANY material produced before 1923 is in the public domain.
    I did not notice why this discussion started. Does someone want to copy this material for sale? If for personal use, I would not worry about the police knocking at your door. But be careful of any other use, even at no charge.
    As for "giving advice" on a board like this, I contend that this is not a Communist state and as far as I know writing of what we know is not a crime. It would be prudent of the reader, of course, to consider where he got such information and seek PAID legal advice if needed.
     
  15. Mike Kearney

    Mike Kearney Guest

    Hi Len. There was some discussion (in another forum on the MB) about whether the Chicago School of Watchmaking home study course (copyright 1963 by Thomas B. Sweazey and Byron Sweazey) was in the public domain or not.

    Tom thoughtfully opened a more general thread on the subject of copyrights in this forum. The original thread in the other forum has been deleted, or at least I can't find it right now.
    This thread used the Chicago School of Watchmaking course as an example of how complicated copyright law can be.

    I'm not sure if we all reached a conclusion or just got tired of discussing the specific situation. But everyone's comments are welcome.

    Regards,
    Mike
     

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