Monday, November 19, 2012

Wants to Reproduce 1890s Diary

Dear Rich: I have an unpublished diary from the late 1890s that is chock full of material of real interest to historians. It contains not a whiff of scandal or impropriety, but the owners of the copyright for this work (the diary writer's children) have no interest in publishing it themselves and will not grant permission for anyone else to publish it. If, for educational purposes, it were to be transformed into a free searchable online blog, with added photos and links to explanatory information, do you think that would pass the fair use test? We just started keeping a eDiary and we can't wait to write in today's entry that today we answered a question about somebody else's diary. Actually, we never realized how much work it is to document daily life.  And we have to say it's a little disappointing sometimes to re-read it and realize that our life is basically a series of meals interrupted by commentary. (Good meals, BTW).
Right, you had a question.  If the author of the diary died before 1942, then nobody owns copyright. The work is in the public domain. If the author died after 1941, the diary would still be under copyright and republication as you describe would most likely be an infringement, and not a fair use.

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