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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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Good morning, my question is regarding an apparently out

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Good morning,

my question is regarding an apparently out of copyright book written by my great great grandfather John Wilkins entitled The Autobiography of an English Gamekeeper and published in 1892. After a little research I have found that the book is held in digital format by the University of California in the US. I have also found that it has been published in 2007 and again in 2012 and is being sold on several websites including Amazon.

Is it possible for myself as a legitimate heir to obtain or renew the copyright for this book?

I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX can help me in this matter,

yours faithfully,

Mark Wilkins

Ben Jones : Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. When did your great great grandfather die?

he died on 14th October 1894 aged 74 years


Sorry, hello Ben, Mark here.

Ben Jones :

Hello Mark, at the time the author of the book died, the copyright law would have been the longer of 42 years from the date of initial publication of the work, or 7 years after the death of the author. This was later changed in 1911 to be 50 years after the death of the author. Further changes came along in 1995 when copyright was extended to be 70 years from the date of the author’s death. Interestingly it not applied retrospectively for all works still in copyright, but also revived any lapsed copyright of authors that had died in the last 70 years (so from 1925 onwards).


The author in this case died in 1894 and initially his copyright would have ended in 1934, that being 42 years after initial publication. In 1911 the copyright would have changed to ending in 1944, that being 50 years after the death of the author. Once it expired in 1944 that would have been it – the works would have entered into the public domain and the changes in 1995 would not have applied to them as the works would have already been out f copyright. It is not possible to renew a copyright – the duration of the copyright depends on the date of death of the author so eventually all works will enter the public domain and stop being protected by copyright, just as in this case.


ok Ben, thank you. So is it true to say that anyone can print, publish and sell any book which is out of copyright?

Ben Jones :

yes correct - it is in the public domain, it can be published and sold by anyone


Thank you for your help this morning Ben, much appreciated.

Ben Jones :

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