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Old August 19th, 2003, 01:43 PM   #1
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Tracking copyrights on writings by deceased authors

I know there are sites where you can find out who holds the copyrights on music... is there anything similar for authors? In particular, I'm wondering...

1. If I wanted to attempt to get rights to make a short film based on a story by a recently deceased author (within the past 25 years or so), is it likely that the rights have been passed on to his/her heirs? What's the best way to track them down?

2. What about the "classics" by authors who have long since passed away? Are their stories open territory? Could I, for instance, make a modern adaptation of a story by a 19th century author without worrying about copyrights? Or are there some popular classics that modern publishers still own rights to?
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Old August 19th, 2003, 02:14 PM   #2
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With 19th century authors you are safe unless there is a popular retelling of the story that you may infringe on if it is too similar (i.e. if your version of Cinderella looked too much like Disney's Cinderella).

However, with authors who died in just the past century there is a chance that their heirs have renewed their copyright. They can actually do this 75 years after the initial termination.

This link is highly technical regarding termination of copyright.
http://copylaw.com/new_articles/copyterm.html
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Old August 19th, 2003, 02:17 PM   #3
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The best way to track down such rights would be through the publishers.
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Old August 19th, 2003, 02:24 PM   #4
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http://www.copyright.gov/records/cohm.html

Search: Ernest Hemingway

Found:

ITEM 1. RE-865-550: The Nick Adams stories. By aErnest Hemingway. CLNA: acErnest Hemingway Foundation (PPW)

ITEM 2. TX-377-961: Hemingway's poems / by acNicholas Gerogiannis. CLNA: The acErnest Hemingway Foundation & Nicholas Gerogiannis

Try a search for Tolkein and see if you can figure out the mess that comes out.
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Old August 19th, 2003, 02:31 PM   #5
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In the United States, the following rules apply:

Anything copyrighted prior to 1923 is in the public domain. (Practically speaking, this includes anything published prior to 1923, since publication without copyright put the work straight into the public domain. But note this possible exception in some western states for some 1909-1922 foreign works that were not published in the US before 1923.) Due to a recent 20-year copyright extension enacted in the US, copyrights from 1923 or later that are still in force will stay in effect through 2018 or longer.

more in the link>>

http://digital.library.upenn.edu/books/okbooks.html
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Old August 20th, 2003, 04:14 AM   #6
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Thanks for the info...especially the links. I've got several projects in various stages right now, but all of them will take months if not longer to start shooting...that is, if they ever get that far. But I'm chomping at the bit to actually do something, so I've found this little two-page story that is wonderful (I'm keeping the name under my hat) that I'd love to start shooting right away (it would wind up being about a 5-minute film).

So what the heck? I'm going to attempt the impossible and see if a no budget indie filmmaker can actually get the rights to do this. Keep your fingers crossed.
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Old February 6th, 2004, 09:55 AM   #7
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Hi John, How did you make out on your copyright search? We're looking to adapt a short story as a short film. This thread has some great info on it. Do you have anything new to report? Thanks. :)
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