when copyright goes loony

One of my colleagues tried to get the university library to scan some 19th-century documents to put online as part of her electronic reserves.

We can’t do that. She was told. Someone may have bought the copyright.

No. No they may not have.

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4 thoughts on “when copyright goes loony

  1. Jack Lynch told me that it’s ok to put scans \of original editions of texts online, if they are in the public domain (say, an 1880 edition of Swift). It’s not ok to use the edition of the text that might still be in print (a current Penguin edition, etc), even if the *text* is technically in the public domain.
    Since editors change small details, including spelling and punctuation, a sleuth could in principle figure out which edition you were using (even if you use OCR to convert a text to HTML).
    Then again, maybe you already knew all that. It seemed like a fine point when I learned it.

  2. That’s my understanding of modern editions, too: the work of the editor can be copyrighted (e.g. modernizing spelling and regularizing punctuation).
    However, I believe the documents in question were originals.

  3. Groan. I can’t really comment since I wasn’t involved in this. But I can tell you that the legal counsel in our particular state univ. system is very conservative and it drives me nuts. Nuts. Nuts. And for those of us on the front lines, it makes it difficult to do what we’d like to do to serve our students and faculty.
    Sigh. I could tell you tales, but I’ll refrain.

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