Journals in the public domain: copyright of t. of c.? Fair use? &etc.

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  • Can someone help with the following copyright question?

    There is a journal publisher that prior to 1940 purportedly had a policy of not assigning copyright to its publications. Unfortunately, I wanted to check a number of copies of journals by this publisher to determine whether there are indeed no copyright notices pre-1940, but our copies are in boxes.

    This webpage

    appears to suggest that this publisher's pre-1940 articles are in the public domain.

    (Note that from this webpage, it looks as if the provision about "Life of the author + 70 years" only applies to unpublished works.)

    Here are some questions.

    (1.) Presumably the fair use provisions would permit use of one page of articles, where the one page would figure in some way as a part of the award materials given in a non-profit context to an award recipient. This, despite whether the articles are or are not in the public domain. Is that correct?

    (2.) The publisher's ejournal backfile table of contents makes a claim to "copyright 2006". Does this latter copyright claim only obtain with respect to the table of contents and *not* the content (that is, journal articles) to which it points? Or is there copyright protection of the web version of works otherwise in the public domain?

    (3.) Say hypothetically that a professor wanted to scan pre-1940 articles from this publisher and put them in a course pack. Does the "copyright 2006" statement preclude the professor from printing out the articles from the publisher's ejournal website and using them? Would that professor have to scan or photocopy the articles from the original print volumes if he or she wanted to use them for this purpose?
  • The copyright 2006 on the webpage applies, most likely, to the webpage itself, not to any previously published content on there. Our webpage has been up for years, but the copyright date is 2006 because that is the last update. Copyright would not 'start over' just because the content format changed.

    Works published in 1940 are only under copyright if they were published with a copyright notice and the copyright has been renewed. It should be relatively easy to get a copy of the original copyright page from the journal and see if it was published with a notice or not. And the only way to be positive a copyright was renewed or not is to have a search done by the copyright office (or attempt to do one yourself). Why not just ask the publisher of the journal?

    If the journal was never published with a notice or copyright was not renewed, (less than 15% were) then the works are public domain and free to scan, copy, etc. If the copyright is still in effect, then he would need permission for a coursepack. Fair use does not apply to coursepacks. If the articles are freely available on the website, can't he just provide a link if they are under copyright?
  • I'll extend a little bit- fair use may apply to some uses in coursepacks, depending on the situation, but usually probably won't cover a complete article coursepacks used regularly.

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