Copyrighting a revision of a PD item

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  • While sleuthing for an item for one of our ILL patrons, I stumbled upon this

    'Copyright, 1909 by W.J. Black. Revised 1977, Copyright, Fred Harvey, Inc.'

    I'm not certain what the term was before the 1976 @ Act, but I think it was 75 years, including renewals. If so, then the only part of this 1977 edition that might still be under copyright would be the revisions.

    I don't have the 2 versions in front of me, but according to the cataloging record, they both had 22 pages, and the same dimensions. The revision apparently wasn't appreciably longer (not even bumped up to 23 pages). And, 22 pages isn't much room to do any significant quantity of revising.

    I'm dubious about how much, if any, of this new edition would qualify for copyright protection.

    Was this just wishful thinking (Disney syndrome ...) on the part of the publisher of a tourist pamphlet?

  • Here's my take-
    The original 1909 piece was and is in the public domain. If there was enough change for the material to be copyrightable, then there would be copyright on the new and revised material, even though the original source was in the public domain. As you point out, though, there may not have been enough changes to actually be copyrightable. And, of course, the 1909 piece is out of copyright entirely so can still be used for purposes that would normally be affected by copyright.
  • Right. If there really is no revision, you have stumbled upon a copyright notice that is in error (accidently maybe - becaude this guy might not know that there is a distinction between publication and copyright).

    we could publish the same material and remove the copyright notice on our verso!

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