30 June 2012
Old stuff is rarely 'out of copyright', unless you possess the original physical object/work whose copyright has expired (e.g. for literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works = 70 years from when the (last) author/owner died) then you are always working with a reproduction, and that reproduction has copyright. For more information about the duration of copyright see www.copyrightservice.co.uk.
However is possible to find genuinely public domain (CC 0) content because people have agreed to release the results of their creative expression under CC 0 or other public domain licence, or content that is licenced for 'personal use' such as the complete works of William Shakespeare from Project Gutenberg. Some sources include:
These sites are taking old books, magazines, etc. typically from library collections, and carefully researching their copyright status before making low-risk ones available. Some have been made available either because they were originally published under some kind of open licence/terms, or because they are considered 'orphaned' (the original copyright holders cannot be found, no longer legally exist or for some other reason the copyright holders are considered unlikely to sue). They add a licence that permits copying, annotating, deriving, etc. for personal use. Please check the licence details on each work before you wish to use them in teaching, and always attribute the source by providing a reference to where you obtained it from.
Book and magazine texts may have been digitised by scanning/photographing each and every page (resulting in a book made of images) or OCR scanned and checked (resulting in a digital version of the text without the orginal layout).
It is important not to assume that if a particular book is from 1880, for example, that it is out of copyright. Sometimes publishers reprint the book in order to renew/extend the copyright (in the design, layout, etc.). This is also the principle underpinning why artistic works where the painter (or similar) has been deceased for >70 years. There was copyright in the original work, which has expired, however there is also copyright in the reproduction (e.g. a photograph of a work of art) which renews the copyright duration period to 70 years after the death of the photographer. For access to the works of old masters you could try the National Gallery who offer an academic discount licence, however you have to request permission for each and every use that you might want to make and they may charge a fee for processing your request. A recording of a music score has copyright in the original (which may be expired), performance rights of the current musician/s, and if it is recorded then copyright in the recording. Copyright duration is similar in the US as it is in the UK, but this is not universally true.
Be warned that some works appear to have been brought back into copyright by selling them on Amazon - for example the Washington Post (all rights reserved) reported that Project Gutenberg files have been stripped of their attribution to the project, and are sold for, for example, $4US, with the addition of a copyright statement. Please avoid these dervatives (they are legal but not entirely ethical). Also according to reviews some have not worked well on Kindle.
Related tags: #score, #UKOER, advice, copyright, digital rights, FAQ, licensing, literary works, Newcastle University, OER, oer phase 3, old masters, out of copyright, ownership, public domain, score, support, training, ukoer
Posted by: Megan Quentin-Baxter