View Full Version : Our quarterly is online & we didn't do it

02-10-2011, 06:12 AM
Since 1947 our office has printed a 28 page quarterly called Historical Wyoming, and still does.

This is cool for me since I get a story in every issue because I'm the Assistant Wyoming County (NY) Historian. Our office is a branch of county government, has been since 1946. Other people also submit articles once in a while. But I digress ....

There is a website that has out of copyright NY State newspapers online. In fact our office even sent him some microfilm to put historical newspaper images in PDF format online. To that extent it makes going through newspapers easier.

Today my boss was doing a search on said website and what should come up in the hit list? Forty years worth of Historical Wyoming, 1947-1987.

We are still in print, we even sell back issues.

Now I'm not sure how the copyright law effects different time periods. I'll have to pull out the early ones to see if it has a copyright info.

Since 1977, when the office started bulk mailing it carries that notice "Statement of Ownership, Management & Circulation Required by 39 U.S.C. 3685. Title of Publication: Historical Wyoming publication #104990. etc."

Since at least 1975 a copy of every issue has been sent to the Library of Congress. And you can see here (http://catalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&BBID=7464285&v3=1) they have some of our early issues as well.

In the front of every issue it says, "Historical Wyoming is published quarterly by the Office of the Wyoming County Historian."

We are going to email tomorrow and ask where he got them. To the best of my knowledge he takes it from microfilm, and we've never had it microfilmed.

The main question, is he infringing on the copyright or is it okay before a certain date?

Any thoughts, opinions, specs on law is greatly appreciated.

02-10-2011, 06:19 AM

Hey HS, Since I'm trained in NZ law (which can differ greatly from the laws in US states), I don't think I will weigh in on this one. But I'm buddying up to this thread because I'm a law geek and I like seeing how these things pan out!

02-10-2011, 06:23 AM
It looks illegal to me.


I'd check with someone who is, and works for the county.

I'd send a DMCA takedown notice.

Make sure you follow the procedures exactly.

PM me if you want samples. It's crucial to follow the proper procedure.

02-10-2011, 06:23 AM
Thanks Steam and Medi! My boss was trying to find something relevant online in copyright law, but, yeah, didn't work too well. I told her I would come here and ask. If anyone would know, AWers would have an answer.

02-10-2011, 05:46 PM
OK throwing this out there.....
Looking at copyright guide, we might not be protected up to 1964, but after we should. Still only we should have reprint rights, otherwise he would have to contact each individual author (be they alive or dead) to get reprint permission, wouldn't he?

02-10-2011, 06:18 PM
He'd have to contact the Office of the Wyoming County Historian to request permission to reprint the newsletters online.

02-10-2011, 06:34 PM
Does Wyoming County have a county attorney on staff or retainer? S/He or his staff can probably steer your office so you don't take any missteps yet protect your rights to the material.

It's entirely possible, too, that the website owner knows zip about copyright law and thought he or she was doing you a favor, so it might be best for your boss to approach in a way that doesn't reveal the wrath I'd be feeling in this situation.

Maryn, Monroe County (hi, neighbor!)

02-10-2011, 07:51 PM
You want the DMCA not just Title 17.

02-11-2011, 03:00 AM
I'll PM you Medievalist for those samples.

Yes, we were discussing it today to drop it in the hands of the county attorney.

Namatu, he did not contact our office first to ask permission.

We were quite surprised since we have been in phone contact with him before. Even sent him microfilm of local out of copyright newspapers to put online. So we are quite stunned by this.

02-11-2011, 04:05 AM
It's entirely possible, too, that the website owner knows zip about copyright law and thought he or she was doing you a favor, so it might be best for your boss to approach in a way that doesn't reveal the wrath I'd be feeling in this situation.

Yep. He'll probably be happy to take it off - and embarassed - once the mistake has been pointed out.

02-11-2011, 04:16 AM
One quick question, does you quarterly send microfilm to the local library that they keep in stock? Perhaps someone there agreed to this without realizing the wrong they were committing...

02-11-2011, 06:25 AM
Good thought Thoth. No, it has never been microfilmed by us. Now the local library has every issue, unless they sent it out to be microfilmed. They would have told us though so we could have made it a shared cost thing (as we do with having the issues bound) and gotten a copy for us too. If it was microfilmed by the library 99% of the time a master roll is sent to the NY State Archives. I don't see it listed.

I think my boss will approach this diplomatically, and not get a flippy, and just ask him to take after 1963 (or 1978) down. I looked at earlier issues and they didn't have a copyright mark. :(

02-11-2011, 08:49 PM
I found this quite interesting. There are several small, obscure, local publications I wish were online.

A thought: is it possible you could work a deal with him for a financial contribution to your office, in return for keeping them online?

I know when I have been doing family research I would love to be able to read old articles mentioning various family members. And I am the kind of person who would pay for an original hard copy rather than just print it from a .pdf. I think it is possible others would do the same. Especially if they are no longer in your area, have no idea the quarterly exists, and wouldn't know how to obtain a copy,


02-11-2011, 08:53 PM
I think my boss will approach this diplomatically, and not get a flippy, and just ask him to take after 1963 (or 1978) down. I looked at earlier issues and they didn't have a copyright mark. :(

You don't have to have the mark to be covered.

The fact that he didn't get permission is the part that would upset me.

Were I one of the writers I'd be more than a little annoyed.

02-12-2011, 03:46 AM
I thought it didn't have to be marked to be covered after 1978?

There are some confusing gray areas if its before 1964, or between 1964-1978 if you didn't do this or that its in the public domain before 1978 or some other such thing...

02-12-2011, 04:05 AM
I don't even think the guy could claim the orphan law on this one as it would be very clear who published the work...

All work in the quarterly should be protected, with or without the copyright mark.

02-12-2011, 04:16 AM
That's what I'm hoping too thoth. It has always clearly had that blurb with the title, where it is published and by who. They all have volume numbers. Tried to call the copyright office today from work, but was on hold too long.

02-13-2011, 07:16 PM
I think you should contact him and tell him it's copyright and you don't want it online or make a deal. He probably has mistaken it for public domain material. US government publications are all public domain and many people mistakenly believe that state and local publications are PD as well. If you not putting it online yourself I would suggest you make a deal with him. Having them all online with a nice banner ad and a text blurb about Wyoming county could help your circulation and bring more interest in your county. A couple months delay on putting up new material would protect your current circulation.

02-13-2011, 07:31 PM
We were bantering that at work Library4. It might generate some interest in subscriptions. If we let him keep the old issues up there (1947-1987) or some of them, he would need a blurb that we are still in print, and where to subscribe. Since everything else on his site is out of print newspapers (or papers now in public domain) we don't want people assuming we are out of print as well.

02-13-2011, 08:58 PM
DMCA takedown steps:






02-14-2011, 12:38 AM
Thank you Medievalist. I'll go to this page when I go to work so my boss can read it over. I still plan on talking to the copyright office as well.

02-24-2011, 09:11 AM
I emailed the copyright office since it is so hard to get through on the phone. I'll keep you posted.

02-25-2011, 04:33 AM
Got an answer back from the copyright office. Explained what I said in post #1 in this thread. Then asked the following questions. Their answers are in red:

1)Are any of our back issues copyright protected?

Works published from 1923-1963 with a copyright notice received an initial 28 years of protection and could be renewed for an additional 67 years for a total of 95 years. If not renewed, they are now in the public domain.

Works published from 1923-1963 without a copyright notice are in the public domain.

Works published from 1964-1977 with a copyright notice received 28 years for the first term; and an automatic extension of 67 years for second term for a total of 95 years.

When a work is in the public domain, there are no restrictions as to its use, with no restrictions as to copying, preparing derivative works or distributing copies and without regard for the other exclusive rights of the former copyright owner as enumerated in Section 106 of the copyright law.

Any changes made to a public domain work (the inclusion of a new forward, additional text, etc.) might be subject to copyright protection if the new work contains enough copyrightable subject matter to sustain a claim. In no way, however, should that new registration be construed as bringing the original work "out" of public domain; copyright protection would extend only to the changes made and not to the original work.

2)Can we now copyright any of our back issues?

Unpublished works can be registered at anytime.

3)How does one copyright a quarterly magazine? Every issue, by volume, by year?

You may register each single serial issue or as a group of serials. For additional information, see http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ62.pdf and http://www.copyright.gov/forms/formseg.pdf.


I needed clarification on some of the answers and sent the following back to them:

In your answer to question #1 you talk about works published from 1964-1977 WITH a copyright notice. What about works that were published and distributed (500+) without the notice? Are they in public domain or no?

In #2 when I asked if we can now copyright any of our back issues you answered UNPUBLISHED works can be registered anytime. What about works already published, our back issues? Any in the time frame from 1947 to now that we can go back and get copyright on that didn't carry the notice at time of printing and distribution?

Waiting for the answer...............

I'm thinking we're screwed for sure pre-1977, not sure about the ones from 1977-87 that are online.

Soccer Mom
02-25-2011, 04:52 AM
:popcorn: We're still following you History Sleuth. Keep us updated.

02-25-2011, 05:26 PM
Thanks Soccer Mom. I figure copyright issues might be helpful to others too, you know? Definitely going to change things with our quarterly and start figuring in official copyright cost into the yearly office budget.

02-25-2011, 05:51 PM
This is indeed interesting. My question is, are any of the works in the quarterlies copyrighted separately. They may still be covered by the author.

I was always under the impression that once created, all work is automatically copyrighted, published or unpublished, with or without a copyright notice. I don't understand why pre 1977 the copyright notice is important.

Also, does being in the public domain give some one the right to publish and make money off of the work, if the original copyright holder is still alive, or publishing?

02-25-2011, 08:02 PM
I'm thinking we're screwed for sure pre-1977, not sure about the ones from 1977-87 that are online.

Are you sure that the journal HAS copyright? Were writers paid? Did they sign a contract?

The writers may not have engaged in work for hire if there isn't a contract and/or payment--which might mean THEY own the rights, not the serial.


02-25-2011, 08:02 PM
Also, does being in the public domain give some one the right to publish and make money off of the work, if the original copyright holder is still alive, or publishing?


02-26-2011, 08:03 AM
90% of the articles over the last 60+ years would be considered work for hire because they were part of the job of historian, the county being the employer (b). Every now and then a local or a subscriber submits an article they would like published. There is no payment from our office though or contract. Those authors (a) can do what ever they want with it. Submit it elsewhere if they like. Its theirs. We have reproduction and distribution rights (c).


§ 201. Ownership of copyright1 (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap2.html#2-1)

(a) Initial Ownership. — Copyright in a work protected under this title vests initially in the author or authors of the work. The authors of a joint work are coowners of copyright in the work.

(b) Works Made for Hire. — In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright.

(c) Contributions to Collective Works. — Copyright in each separate contribution to a collective work is distinct from copyright in the collective work as a whole, and vests initially in the author of the contribution. In the absence of an express transfer of the copyright or of any rights under it, the owner of copyright in the collective work is presumed to have acquired only the privilege of reproducing and distributing the contribution as part of that particular collective work, any revision of that collective work, and any later collective work in the same series.


That much I get. It's the copyright law for works published before 1978 that are confusing.

§ 303. Duration of copyright: Works created but not published or copyrighted before January 1, 19785 (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap3.html#3-5)

(a) Copyright in a work created before January 1, 1978, but not theretofore in the public domain or copyrighted, subsists from January 1, 1978, and endures for the term provided by section 302. (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap3.html#302) In no case, however, shall the term of copyright in such a work expire before December 31, 2002; and, if the work is published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright shall not expire before December 31, 2047.

Ours was published prior to 1978 but not copyrighted. Some of these laws depend on if you originally did the copyright and renewed it.
Here is one of the links (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap3.html).

Then there is this PDF (http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf)on the copyright law it says:
"Copies of works published before March 1, 1989, must bear the notice or risk
loss of copyright protection. "

On the other hand the same PDF says:
"A work that was created (fixed in tangible form for the first time) on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death. In the case of “a joint work prepared by two or more authors who did not work for hire,” the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s
death. For works made for hire, and for anonymous and pseudonymous works (unless the author’s identity is revealed in Copyright Office records), the duration of copyright will be 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever is shorter."

We figure we can't do anything about pre 1978. What's confusing me now is 1978-1987 online. Can he or can't he?

02-26-2011, 08:16 AM
You don't necessarily always want a takedown notice.

Question: Do you really want the website owner to take down the old issues? Reprinting on a website can give them better distribution that they may ever have had as paper newsletters, plus a certain amount of immortality. The paper or microfilm copies may just molder away unread.

Suppose you actually don't care, and just want credit for yourself or your authors. You can issue a license to the site owner to reprint the old issues, and place whatever conditons on the license, ie, no changes, credit the author, no commercial use, etc.

Alternately, you can declare them to be in the public domain by placing a notice on the guy's website.

02-26-2011, 08:20 AM
I just noticed that you are a county employee, and the journal may be paid in part by public funds. It may be that the newsletters are not copyrightable. I know that Federal Government documents cannot be copyrighted. Don't know about state and county govts.

02-26-2011, 09:57 PM
I wouldn't say paper newsletters exactly, although they started out that way. ;)
Since 1976 they have been on 11x17 60lb paper, folder to make 28 8 1/2 x 11 pages, cream colored cover stock, stapled in the middle. Offset printing.

Interesting thought on the county aspect. Actually the county doesn't pay for it. It's paid for by subscription. Then we put some in local stores too (the stores keeping a percentage.)

I like your idea Bill of putting stipulations on the use. Right now his website is free, who knows if that would change.

He is getting a lot of stuff up there the majority being newspapers in the public domain. I think my boss may have him put a notice on the page so people know it's still in print and how to get a subscription. Otherwise people will think we are out of print like 90% of everything else on his website. Although some of the old copies of newspapers on his site are still in print like the Buffalo Evening News and the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

Since we have a rapport with the guy, we lent him some microfilm to digitize for the site of out of print local newspapers, we were shocked to see them up there with no mention to us. I think that bothers us more than anything really. And the question of where he got them all to begin with has us curious.

I'm sure we'll end up acquiescing to most of them being up there however, I need the after 1978 rules clarified. Even if our office allows it, as much of the issues were done by historians from our office, we do have some articles that were submitted by outside writers. Although we have a right to reprint, he may be infringing on the outside individual authors rights by reproducing them without their permission. We certainly won't be a party to that.

04-09-2011, 03:26 AM
On Feb 21st I emailed the copyright office again for clarification on their previous answer to me. Today I got a reply. This is it:

Works published before 1978 without a notice are not subject to Copyright protection. Works published between 1978 and 1989 with no Copyright notice must have been registered within 5 years following publication.

So I guess our old issues are up there and that's that. You never know we may get a few subscriptions out of it. I left a note for my boss letting her know and suggesting we contact the guy and ask if he would add a blurb that we're still in print and where to subscribe.