Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is German Autobiography in Public Domain?

Hermann Stehr
[NOTE: CORRECTED and REVISED: JULY 1, 2012]
Dear Rich: I'm trying to ascertain the US copyright status of Hermann Stehr's autobiography Mein Leben. It was published in Germany in 1934 with a copyright notice, but as far as I can tell never published or renewed in the US. The author died in 1940 and so is now out of copyright in Germany, but was not out of copyright in Germany in 1996. Based on this information, would it still be under copyright in the US? Mein Leben is not in the public domain in the U.S. We initially posted incorrect information (and we were fortunate to have Peter Hirtle review it and explain our error). According to Peter:
"The work would have entered the public domain 28 years after publication because of failure to renew that copyright in the U.S. Its copyright would have been restored under 104A on 1 Jan. 1996. On that date, it received "the remainder of the term of copyright that the work would have otherwise been granted in the United States if the work never entered the public domain in the United States." That was 75 years (since extended to 95 years). See my chart on the public domain in the U.S. Assuming that copyright in the work was never administered by the Alien Property Custodian and its restored copyright would not be owned by a government, this work is still protected by copyright in the U.S."