October 23, 2002
3:23 PM   Subscribe

What do Margaret Mitchell , Sir Arthur Conan Doyle , George Orwell & Adolf Hitler have in common - other than that they are authors? [Answer inside]
posted by dash_slot- (21 comments total)
You can download them here!

They are "in the public domain in many countries, particularly those outside the US and Europe. However, they remain copyrighted under United States law, where works copyrighted in 1923 or later can be protected for up to 95 years after publication." Do NOT download or read these books online if you or your system are in the United States or in another country where copyright protections can extend more than 50 years past an author's death. (Also, in many European countries, copyrights have recently been extended to last 70 years past the author's death.) [Via blogdex]

Any books you wish were out of copyright? Or - for the authors out there - how much of a threat to your livelihood would it be, if copyright reverted to its original 14 year limit?
posted by dash_slot- at 3:24 PM on October 23, 2002

As a hopeful author and ex-employee of the largest independent bookstore in Texas, I can say that out of print books are a huge business. That is to say, there's likely money to be made way more than 14 years after a book comes out.
However, it seems to me that the idea of writing anything is to get your ideas out there... freedom of information ahoy! I'd be thrilled backwards to have anything I wrote be read after my death...whether they paid for it or not. I say, quit yer bitchin'....most modern fiction has a shelf life of less than a year without reprints. If you're still being read 14 years after the first printing, count your freakin blessings.
posted by anyasar at 3:37 PM on October 23, 2002

i'm hoping Dos Passos will show up somewhere....and it's funny you posted this today--i downloaded Middlemarch by Eliot and Paris Sketches by Thackeray this afternoon...
posted by amberglow at 3:38 PM on October 23, 2002

Not for US use? It appears that Canada subscribes to the '50 years after the author's death' rule. maybe they won't recognise if I start using alternate spellings. That Orwell's got a subversive sense of humour, eh?

Also from the link:
  • "Russia also has a life+50 year term normally, but grants extra time for authors who were active in World War II, or who were repressed and then rehabilitated."
  • "...works of Iraqi origin do not have copyright protection in the US, and vice versa."

  • posted by eddydamascene at 3:57 PM on October 23, 2002

    thanks dash
    posted by matteo at 4:16 PM on October 23, 2002

    Wow... Godwin's Law was invoked before a single reply to the post came in...
    posted by laz-e-boy at 4:37 PM on October 23, 2002

    They're all sharing an apartment in New York City! Watch 'em this Fall, Saturdays at 9 on Fox!

    posted by planetkyoto at 6:03 PM on October 23, 2002

    posted by luckyclone at 7:48 PM on October 23, 2002

    Serious Question: Who can claim copyright for Adolf Hitler's books?
    posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 7:51 PM on October 23, 2002

    They all have one testicle?
    posted by Ayn Marx at 7:59 PM on October 23, 2002

    Ayn: - That'd come as a surprise to Margaret...

    S@L: From this (partial) translation, I would guess that the State of Bavaria, part of Federal Republic of Germany, owns the copyright in Europe. It also seems that they attempt to suppress circulation of 'Mein Kampf', tho' I cannot say I understand all of what is on the page.
    posted by dash_slot- at 8:21 PM on October 23, 2002

    Thanks dash_slot...
    posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:42 PM on October 23, 2002

    When I saw this I immediately thought of Cliff Claven from the sitcom Cheers where he was on Jeopardy. I forget the names, but it was a list of 4 famous people. The question was "what did they all have in common?" Cliff's answered with "name 4 people that never ate dinner at my Mom's house."
    posted by john at 9:01 PM on October 23, 2002

    "Archibald Leach, Bernard Schwartz, Lucille LeSueur". And the "question" was "What were the real names of Cary Grant, Tony Curtis and Joan Crawford".
    posted by Space Coyote at 9:18 PM on October 23, 2002

    They all have an L and an E in their last names.

    And they have never been in my kitchen.

    And they are not Mongolians.

    Well, you did ask.
    posted by ramakrishna at 9:32 PM on October 23, 2002

    The Hitler copyright questions were covered by the NYT in an article about his personal wealth generated largely by his photography. Though Adolf himself had no children, he did have relatives -- some of whom live on Long Island. The question of royalties is more complicated altogether:

    Mein Kampf has had a controversial publishing history in the 56 years since Hitler's death in Berlin near the end of the Second World War.

    It remains banned in Germany where it cannot be legally obtained even via the Internet or at auction.

    More recently, the state of Bavaria, which claims it owns world copyright to the title except for North America, the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth countries, has quashed efforts to have it published, in translation, in Turkey, Croatia and Sweden.

    From the mid-1940s through 1979 royalties from sales of the North American edition -- totalling about $140,000 (U.S.) -- were confiscated from Houghton Mifflin by the U.S. government's War Claims Fund. Houghton Mifflin regained full rights for the title in 1979 for about $35,000. A media-relations representative of Houghton Mifflin said yesterday her firm sells a total of about 15,000 copies of Mein Kampf in the United States and Canada each year.

    Last year Mifflin agreed to start donating its Mein Kampf royalties to three unidentified charities after reports that Mein Kampf's publisher in Great Britain, Random House, had, for almost 25 years, quietly donated an estimated $500,000 in royalties to a little-known London-based charity called the German Welfare Council.

    Last June the Welfare Council board voted not to have anything more to do with the royalties and is still attempting to determine how it should dispose of the $250,000 from Mein Kampf that it has in its possession.
    -- source, Globe and Mail via David Irving {holocaust revisionist website}. Apparently, Houghton-Mifflin in the US and Random House in the UK purchased the copyrights outright from the NSDAP during the war, when the Nazis were all too happy to make sure an "authorized" edition was available. The US DOJ seized the royalties from the war through 1979. Ironically, RH is now a subsidiary of Bertelsmann ....

    Though in any case please note that a translation is itself copyrightable.
    posted by dhartung at 10:07 PM on October 23, 2002

    Not to intentionally sound naive, but what is the difference between this site where you can read texts for free and a library where you can read texts for free? Is it that you can download these texts and potentially own them for free as well? Could you not not as easily but just as readily borrow a book from a library and scan the entire book? Or photocopy it?
    posted by zorrine at 10:25 PM on October 23, 2002

    I know, I know.

    They were all european!

    what prize do i get?
    posted by delmoi at 11:10 PM on October 23, 2002

    Umm, difference between library and scanning it in? Well, I have in this room somewhere will get almost anything I want and a private library which may already own it and will post it if I ask.

    But there are lots of places where the Internet would be quicker and cheaper. And no one is going to care if I scribble all over something I have downloaded.
    posted by alloneword at 1:12 AM on October 24, 2002

    whoops. I thought I had replaced the missing quote mark from the first link in the previw box. Obviously not.
    posted by alloneword at 1:14 AM on October 24, 2002

    Why not go straight to the source?
    posted by rory at 6:30 AM on October 24, 2002

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