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Alex J.
Alex J., Solicitor
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Experience:  Solicitors 2 years plus PQE
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I am the copyright holder (through inheritance) of a series

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Hello. I am the copyright holder (through inheritance) of a series of novels, written by a Greek author. His novels have been translated in English in the 1960's and circulated in both the UK and the US.
My question is this: I also happen to be an independent publisher, and I would like to publish, in the English language, in e-book form, one of these books, with a new translation.
Firstly, the American publisher wrote to me that they are no longer interested in this particular title. However, the UK publisher, whom I have not contacted yet, still sell this title on Amazon and other such sites, but not in digital form, only paperback.
The contract which my grandmother signed with the UK publisher in 1983, to which there is no expiration date, term 8 stipulated:
"To grant and hereby does grant to the Publishers the sole and exclusive right to deal with and negotiate for the sale of the following subsidiary and other rights: newspaper and magazine serialization, anthology, digest quotation and abridgment, microphotographic reproduction and picturezation, and reproduction by gramophone records or other mechanical means, whether by sight, sound or a combination thereof."
My question is: Can I publish this title in the English language, in a new translation, in E-book form? Does "mechanical means" covers e-books?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you for your question and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I will assist you. There are two elements here (i) The creation of a new copyright in an original translation of the works (ii) Whether electronic publishing is covered by this agreement. Undoubtedly you are the owner of the translation, and i would agree the wording above does not preclude electronic publication. That said this agreement would only be policed by the other publisher so to speak - if you did publish the new translation in any format, you have to expect that they will try and claim have infringed their rights. Have you approached them to ask for consent?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Alex, hi! Thank you for your reply!
As I understand from your reply, "mechanical means" may also be interpreted to include e-books, right? Regarding a potential communication of mine with the publisher, I wanted to get all this information first so that I know the tone of my letter to them: will I be kindly requesting their consent, or can afford an attitude, if you will, announcing to them that our contract does not stipulate e-book rights and that I may be proceeding with the e-publication in a new translation altogether.
Having said this, I am very aware that I may need representation in the matter. Should I begin to actively search for an intellectual property lawyer in the UK?
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. There is no statutory definition of "Mechinical Means" - so I would certainly expect that to be an argument that it would cover e publishing. If you want a good IP the best place to start searching is the Law Society - www.lawsociety.org.uk.

In the mean time I am happy to assist with any questions you have on copyright or the agreement? Kind regards AJ

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks again for your reply! I see. This, about the mechanical means stipulation, was actually the core of the whole issue. Now I see that I need to contact an IP lawyer immediately, so that they might come in contact with the publisher, requesting their consent on my behalf. Btw, would this be something you could do yourself?
I actually need to leave my office right now, but would it be possible to continue this at a later time? Thank you so much for everything, Niki
Expert:  Alex J. replied 1 year ago.

Hi, Thank you. This is really just a question and answer service and we cannot act directly. I can assist you with any questions you have. As a first approach you may want to try and save the expense of a lawyer by having a meeting to discuss whether they have any future epublishing plans? I look forward to hearing from you. Kind regards AJ

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