Public Domain question regarding Zane Grey publication

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  • Hello!

    I have a faculty member who is asking me if a particular item is in the public domain. He writes:

    "What I'm looking at is a 1907 handwritten journal by Zane Grey archived by the Ohio Historical Society. Typed it would about 15 pages, I'd say. I intend to use it in a book-length publication"

    Zane Grey died in 1939, so if this is an unpublished manuscript (it sounds like it is), then 70 years beyond the death of the creator would indicate it's in the Public Domain.

    However, I have also run across this website:

    Zane Grey Inc. says on their website:

    "Zane Grey, Inc. is a privately held corporation which owns the copyrights and distribution rights of all the Zane Grey writings. This includes a published output of 61 novels, 14 full-length outdoor books, several novel length baseball and boys stories, as well as several hundred shorter works. All of this is contained in more than 80 volumes."

    At first I was going to err on the side of caution -- that the publication is copyrighted and that the faculty member should seek permission from the Zane Grey Inc, but when considering the fact that this may be an unpublished manuscript, I'm now thinking that it became public domain in 2009.

    I'm curious to see what others think before I give the faculty member my answer. Thanks in advance for all your help!

    Liz Davis
  • Your reasoning is correct as far as the copyright, but the owning institution may have made some agreement with the family when the item was donated to them that would govern its publication. I confess I don't know enough about how archives handle their out-of-copyright items -- perhaps someone else can chime in?
  • I believe that's true as far as copyright. Whether or not its in an archives shouldn't make a difference as far as subsequent uses- the archives can restrict who can use the material by restricting access to their physical artifacts (not providing access, allowing access based on specific terms) based on donor agreements, however.

    That's not to say people won't resort to litigation, unfortunately.
  • Thank you for your responses - they are very helpful!

    Liz Davis
  • Hi everyone!

    I am curious about Zane Grey Inc. and its claims to hold the copyrights and distribution rights to all of Zane Grey's works. Everywhere else that I have researched online states that Zane Grey's works are all part of the public domain. I am anxious to know whether they are in fact public domain since I am working on adapting one of his works for a play at my University and we will be charging admission. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank You!

    Orlando D.
  • There is an important difference here beyween published and unpublished works.

    Grey's published works that were first published after 1922 are probably not in the public domain. Books published between 1923 and 1963 are still protected if they were published with a copyright notice and the copyright was renewed. With a profitable writer like Grey, these conditions were likely met. So his published works would still be protected by copyright, even though his unpublished works rose into the public domain 70 years after his death.

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