I’m always on the lookout for something i can slap between a couple of covers and push out the door while avoiding piracy,, in the hopes someone somewhere will buy a copy and send me a few shekels.. and trust me there is no money in creating NEW editions of old books. There seems to be money in REPRODUCING Old editions of old books, but only if you cut corners and hire guys in India to slap together PDFs and do a LOT of them. At least that’s what it looks like on the ground.
I stumbled upon this last title I produced by accident. it has nothing to do with the Merrimack Valley, and practically nothing to do with the colonies at all. A friend of mine was flogging a copy of Frank Shay’s My Pious Companions, a book of drinking songs..that happens to be out of print and from what i can tell in public domain…so while i was researching THAT, I found that he wrote a number of things that had their copyrights renewed by whom I can only guess is his heir…but not My Pious Companions and not More My Pious Companions… both published in the 20s…oddly his novel PIRATE WENCH 1934 about Mary Read the pirate was never renewed…. i managed to find a 1936 UK copy for a moderate amount.
When I find titles that haven’t had their copyrights renewed…my first instinct is …i must have researched that wrong, let me go back to the beginning and start over..i mean if it was in public domain, there would be a thousand print on demand titles right?… but nope after researching those three titles for a few weeks, I am confident enough to produce new editions. Who knows if anyone will BUY one, but i may as well do it, i want to have a nice fluffy backlist, it makes my front list look more legitimate. Backlist means old titles you don’t spend advertising money on, Frontlist, are new or best selling titles, you actually market and spend money on. Besides what else have I got to do with my time?
Nearly every book published IN the US before 1923 is in public domain… i haven’t found anything that isn’t but it’s a safe bet to say NEARLY. Material produced AFTER 1964 has its copyright renewed automatically on a schedule by law…this is the thing that the CONGRESS keeps pushing out the deadline on, so that nothing ever reaches public domain again. MATERIAL published BETWEEN those two dates goes by a set of rules, they HAD to have their copyrights renewed ON SCHEDULE after 28 years. So a book published in 1934 HAD to have its copyright renewed in 1962. According to the Stanford Copyright Renewal Database, it ain’t there. HOWEVER, I did see a low grade paperback published in 1950..i am not exactly sure how that counts towards copyright renewal, i am looking for clarification…but even if it did, the title would have to be renewed 28 years after that in 1978, but neither of those things happened as far as i can tell.
The period from 1923-1963 is of special interest for US copyrights, as works published after January 1, 1964 had their copyrights automatically renewed by statute, and works published before 1923 have generally fallen into the public domain. Between those dates, a renewal registration was required to prevent the expiration of copyright, however determining whether a work’s registration has been renewed is a challenge. Renewals received by the Copyright Office after 1977 are searchable in an online database, but renewals received between 1950 and 1977 were announced and distributed only in a semi-annual print publication. The Copyright Office does not have a machine-searchable source for this renewal information, and the only public access is through the card catalog in their DC offices. In order to make these renewal records more accessible, Stanford has created this searchable database.
Now if you want to research copyrights renewed AFTER 1977, the US GOV has made those available online.. United States Copyright Office. and if you REALLY want to lose your mind you can read the entire US Copyright Act – which i try to do from time to time, each time absorbing just a little more.. Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code Circular 92
Once you go through all that, there’s a good chance you are in the clear. Run of the mill titles should pop up where they are supposed to, either on the list or not on the list. I have done the research and figure i can go ahead. I think this may be WHY more of these mid range titles aren’t being reprinted…there is LABOR involved..its one thing to pay someone in the third world to clean up a PDF for a paperback reprint, its quite another to pay someone to do all the research needed for a title practically no one will buy. But Like I said I have nothing better to do.
That 1724 image of READ will be the cover art for my edition of PIRATE WENCH…which will be Mary Read: Pirate Wench as the UK edition was titled… I just think it’s HYSTERICAL to include that dowdy image with the word WENCH. The above engraving is the frontispiece of A general history of the pyrates, : from their first rise and settlement in the Island of Providence, to the present time. With the remarkable actions and adventures of the two female pyrates Mary Read and Anne Bonny … To which is added. A short abstract of the statute and civil law, in relation to pyracy… (1724) by Captain Charles Johnson Captain Charles Johnson is generally considered a pseudonym, the real identity of the author was thought by some scholars to be Daniel Defoe, although this has since been much disputed.
Using OLD art, also in public domain keeps me out of trouble as well. In the US artworks where the author has been dead for over 90 years is pretty safe…even if you see a copyright claimed by the museum that owns the original, indeed they own the photographic image, but not the image of the art. did that make sense? Because if every museum owned the images in its own collection, we’d never see the Mona Lisa on anything ever. By checking the death date on my artists I only looking at art by the long dead, I never have that moment where I even have the debate about using unsourced material.