RE: Help with who owns copyright

From: Terry Carroll <carroll[_at_]>
Date: Wed, 25 Sep 1996 10:20:47 -0700 (PDT)

On Mon, 23 Sep 1996, Cumbow,Robert-SEA wrote:
> Copyright in a letter belongs to the AUTHOR of the letter, not the
> recipient; so, yes, the University should obtain permission from the
> people who originally wrote the letters. If the letters were written
> 1979 or later, they do not need a copyright notice to be protected by
> copyright. If they predate 1979, they still do not need a copyright
> notice unless they were previously published (which is very unlikely
> in the case of personal letters).

Minor correction and clarification: I think Bob means 1989; the critical date is March 1, 1989, the date of the enactment of the Berne Convention Implementation Act, the statute that made copyright notice on published works optional. When Bob refers to whether the letters "predate" 19[8]9, he's referring to the publication date.

Works published prior to 3/1/1989 lost copyright unless the copies distributed prior to 3/1/1989 were published with a copyright notice (subject to certain cure provisions for copies distributed in the period starting 1/1/1978 through 2/28/1989). Copies distributed on or after 3/1/1989 do not require the notice, regardless of whether the work was first published before or after that date.

Assuming that the letters have not been previously published, the presence or absence of the copyright notice on unpublished letters will have had no effect on the copyright. If the letters were previously published, and published prior to 3/1/1989, the absence of a copyright notice on those copies distributed prior to 3/1/1989 may have forefeited copyright.

Terrence J. Carroll 
Attorney at Law                                      ph: 415/843-5090
Cooley Godward Castro Huddleson & Tatum             fax: 415/857-0663
Five Palo Alto Square            email (office): carrolltj[_at_]
Palo Alto, CA 94306-2155         email (personal):    carroll[_at_]
Received on Wed Sep 25 1996 - 17:24:12 GMT

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