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Agghhhhhh Copyright!

Updated: Jun 1, 2019

Ok, so lets talk about Copyright. I am no expert but we need to remember, this is a law. The most important advice I will give you is if you are in doubt, contact the publisher, owner or seller to be sure.

First, Copyright law is different from country to country and it’s a good idea to research the law of the country of the work’s origin. The Berne Convention is a set of standards that around 180 countries are party to, ensuring a reasonable and consistent approach or at least as much as possible. There is a lot to be said here but I want this post to be easy-ish to understand. Still, you can research the Berne Convention in more detail and I will provide a link below.

The biggest issue I think is the difference between the UK and US copyright law, when we are talking about crafting and Public Domain anyways. We are talking here only about literary and artwork.   These rules are different for other types of works.

 A few simple facts:

Copyright is the law that protects work that is created.The owner of the Copyright is the company or individual that creates the work.Public Domain is when the work is not protected or when the Copyright term has expired.

UK Copyright – Public Domain

UK Copyright law, or the term that the work is protected, for literary and artwork is relatively straightforward. The work is protected for the life of the author/creator, plus 70 years. You calculate from the end of the year that they died and work would become Public Domain from the 1 January 70 years later. If a publication has several contributors, you need to use the date of the final death.

If the author of the work is unknown the work becomes Public Domain 70 years after the date the work was created. Now, you cannot say the author is unknown, just because you haven’t found it on the Internet! I hope this is making sense so far.

If a work was published in the UK, the author/creator would have to have died before 1947 for it to be in the Public Domain, no matter when it was published and this may well be before 1922. This date relates to US works/publications and not the UK.

US Copyright – Public Domain

This is a little more complicated and I really do recommend that you check before using work that has been created/protected by US law.

The US amended Copyright protection to the life of the author plus 70 years in 1978. For work published before 1978, the general term was 95 years, (28 years plus 65 years if an extension was registered) so work created in 1922 and before is now, probably, in the Public Domain although there are exceptions so please do your research.

Well this all got a little serious! Here are the links for you to really take notice of, Don’t trust my understanding please! I hope this will just make it easier for you to understand the complicated stuff.

(Disclaimer:  I am not a legal expert and this is my take on copyright.  Ignorance, is not acceptable when it comes to breaking the law!  PLEASE ensure you find out what you need to if you are using, selling, distributing, blogging etc, the work of others.  Thanks )

Berne Convention  In case you want a really good read!

These are official sites.  You can also find the FULL documents online.

Thanks for reading, or falling asleep :-D

Tracie x

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Great article. I've read quite bit on U.S. law. But I'm too lazy to dig any further to get my mind around the renewal process and whether a descendant or executor of an estate of a dead author can renew a copyright. But it's above my pay grade, and I won't worry with using what I do and purchasing from people I trust. Thanks so much!

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