Portion of Book is Public Domain: What About the Rest?
Dear Rich: My dad published a book in 1959, but did not renew the copyright, so its now in the public domain. After going through his documents, I found that the published document was actually only part of a larger manuscript, and there is more material at the front and back. If I were to publish the full manuscript, could I copyright that, or would the copyright be only good for the previously unreleased material? You're correct that the unrenewed 1959 publication is in the public domain. Your copyright would only cover the new material. Like they say about Las Vegas, what happens in the public domain, stays in the public domain (with some technical exceptions of course). When registering the new work at the Copyright Office, you would need to declare the public domain materials when asked about "pre-existing works."