Monday, April 23, 2012

Can We Publish Poems Given as Gift?

Dear Rich: We were given some poems 25 years ago from a family friend and would like to publish these in a small book and aim to sell the books to raise money for a local charity. Any problems with doing this? NB He has a living daughter. We would have gotten to this question sooner but it took our staff a little while to figure out that "NB" referred to nota bene ("note well"), not New Brunswick, newborn, no brainer, or not bad.
Right, you had a question. The copyright in the poems (and therefore the right to control reproduction) is owned by the estate of the family friend and it lasts for seventy years from the poet's death. Therefore, if you publish without permission, the estate (we'll assume it's the daughter) can halt your publication, or seek financial damages (or both). Is there any chance you can obtain permission for a limited publication for your purposes? Is the daughter aware of the existence of these poems? If not, she may be confused as to how to move forward. Let us know and we'll make that the subject of a separate blog entry.