1. Free Legal Help, Legal Forms and Lawyers. TheLaw.com has been providing free legal assistance online since 1995. Our most popular destinations for legal help are below. It only takes a minute to join our legal community!

    Dismiss Notice

Using Books from the Public Domain for Commercial Purposes Copyright

Discussion in 'Copyright, Trademark, Patent Law' started by vsili, Jul 30, 2020.

  1. vsili

    vsili Law Topic Starter New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Jurisdiction:
    Other
    Hi,
    I wish to use old books commercially, by taking phrases out of the books, rearranging them and selling them as online materials. Most of the books would be older than 100 years. As far as I know, these types of books are part of the Public Domain, which means that I can use them freely. But what happens if they have been translated to English, by a translator/publishing company, sooner than 100 years ago? What are my options and what should I do to avoid any copyright strikes?

    My company is in Germany, so do I have to look at the copyright laws of Germany or the laws of the country where the book was copyrighted?
     
  2. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,293
    Likes Received:
    1,152
    Trophy Points:
    113

    You will need to review the laws in your country. I would suggest speaking to an attorney in your country.
     
  3. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    971
    Likes Received:
    491
    Trophy Points:
    63

    You need to consider the copyright law of the country in which you use the work of others in making your product and each country in which you would sell/distribute it. I agree you want to start by consulting a German attorney familiar with copyright law.
     
  4. flyingron

    flyingron Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    625
    Likes Received:
    260
    Trophy Points:
    63

    A hundred years isn't sufficient in either Germany or the US. The duration in Germany is 70 years after the AUTHOR'S DEATH (or the longest surviving coauthor, if more than one) not publication. Any country that is a signatory of the Berne convention must provide protect for at least 50 years after the author's death. The only major country that is not a signatory of Berne right now is Taiwan.
     
  5. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,814
    Likes Received:
    902
    Trophy Points:
    113

    While that's true for works created after the Copyright Act of 1976 was enacted and for some works that were created when the Copyright Act of 1909 was in effect, there is nothing more than 100 years ago that is still protected by copyright in the U.S. Thus, for purposes of present discussion under U.S. law, 100 years is a sufficient benchmark.

    Post-1922 translations of pre-1922 works might be protected under U.S. copyright law. Other countries' laws will be different.
     
  6. flyingron

    flyingron Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    625
    Likes Received:
    260
    Trophy Points:
    63

    Under Berne (which Germany and the US are signatories), the translation gets its own copyright from the date it is created.
     
  7. welkin

    welkin Member

    Messages:
    128
    Likes Received:
    24
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Under US copyright law it really doesn't matter how long the book is out of copyright or is still under copyright according to what OP says they want to do. It falls under the fair use doctrine in making a transformative work.
     
  8. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,293
    Likes Received:
    1,152
    Trophy Points:
    113

    No, it is your opinion that it would be a transformative work. Without knowing more, I'm surprised that you would make such a firm statement. You do the OP a disservice by making such a statement without further explanation.

    In any case, "fair use" is a defense that can be raised in court and one that the court would have to decide on.
     
  9. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,814
    Likes Received:
    902
    Trophy Points:
    113

    That's about as wrong as could be.

    For starters, whether a use is or isn't "transformative" is only one criteria in determining whether a use is fair use. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994). Moreover, the only thing we know about the OP's intended use is that he/she wants "to use old books commercially, by taking phrases out of the books, rearranging them and selling them as online materials." That is not a sufficient description to allow for any sort of intelligent opinion about whether the use is or isn't "transformative."
     
    Zigner likes this.
  10. welkin

    welkin Member

    Messages:
    128
    Likes Received:
    24
    Trophy Points:
    18
    It would be a transformative work by the definitions contained in section 107 of the copyright act and the case law based on what OP said he wanted to do.

    It sounds like transformative to me. A compilation of quotes from different books put together into a single book.

    And what's your point about fair use being a defense to infringement? Of course it is. An author of a work still has to know what fair use is if they are going to use other copyrighted material. If they get sued for infringement, they better have their ducts in a row.


    I am well aware of the four elements of fair use.

    I have read many many copyright infringement law suit opinions over the years and I have a pretty good understand what fair use is.

    I gave you my opinion based on the information OP provided. That's all I gave.

    Taking excerpts from a book and compiling them with additional commentary is transformative.
    Which would be different then the purpose of the original work.
    Substantially less than the original copyrighted work.
    And would have no effect on the potential marked for the original work.

    But since OP is going to use works in the public domain, this is all mute.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020

Share This Page