Friday, October 11, 2013
Can I Publish Unpublished Poem?
Rabbie Burns, one
of the great amateur poets.
- The poet's estate owns copyright. The poet's estate retains copyright ownership and will continue to own it for 70 years from the date of the poet's death.
- "Free to do whatever he wishes." The poet's statement that the recipient can "do whatever he wishes with the copy," doesn't really establish any clear rights. It's ambiguous whether the poet is referring to the physical copy or the legal right to reproduce (or modify).
- Implied license. If the poet intended to transfer any rights under copyright law, his statement might be an implied license. The recipient could not transfer those implied license rights to you (any more, for example, than the recipient could transfer his driver's license to you).
- Silence is not consent. The poet's failure to object to the recipient's plan for publication is not the same as "consent." If there ever was a lawsuit over the issue (and we hope you're not dealing with this poet), the failure to respond wouldn't be much of an infringement defense.