unauthorized publication of old diaries and copyright?

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  • My first post, so I'll start out with a hard question. :-)

    Previously unpublished works, created before 1978 and published between 1978 and 2002, supposedly acquired copyrighted status until at least 2047 under US law.

    Question: what if the publication was unauthorized? And the authorized owner of the rights to the work did not publish before 2003?

    Does unauthorized publication before the 2003 cut-off confer copyright protection to the real owner? Or would it now be in the public domain if the author died more than 70 years ago?

    I'm thinking in terms of diaries and such, created circa 1900 -- and whether or not they would be in the public domain or not -- if they had been published without authorization between 1978 and 2002.

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