If these are *historical* texts the only copyright issue is probably the
publisher's look-and-feel, page layout etc, so if you change that, you're safe.
In many, perhaps most countries, copyright of the text itself expires more or
less 70 years after the death of the author.
I had the same problem a few years ago in a University in Britain, and the
advice I received at the time was that
- Lack of case law means no one is quite sure of the legal situation;
- Unless you're making money out of someone's intellectual property or somehow
causing loss of income, no one is going to sue you.
However, don't forget that if you put this stuff on the Web, it's not just US
law you have to worry about!
Mark Davies wrote:
> I'm considering submitting a grant to put a 2,800,000 word corpus of
> historical Portuguese texts on the web (see
> http://mdavies.for.ilstu.edu/personal/portugues.htm for more info on the
> corpus itself).
> My question concerns getting copyrights for the texts. In talking with a
> person at the granting agency they indicated that it would probably be
> necessary to get written permission from the publishers of each of the 122
> texts on the corpus. I myself wonder if this is really necessary or
> feasible, however, because of a number of factors, e.g.:
> 1) Many of the publishers are very small overseas operations, and many of
> them have gone out of business in the 30-40 years since a given text was
> published, or have merged with another company.
> 2) Most of the 122 blocks of text are just short selections from the entire
> work (perhaps 30-40 pages from a 200-300 page book).
> 3) Most importantly, users of the corpus would never be able to access even
> one entire page of the work. All of the hits would be displayed in
> context, with about one or two lines of text both before and after the hit
> (see http://mdavies.for.ilstu.edu/corpus/ for an example of this from an
> equivalent corpus of historical Spanish texts that I have created). I was
> told by someone at another funding agency that since the format and display
> of the texts was greatly altered between the original form (the entire book
> or page) and my site (isolated hits in context), there were no copyright
> issues, and I wouldn't need to obtain permission from the publishers.
> Has anyone else run into similar problems, and can anyone suggest what the
> proper application of (U.S.) copyright law might be in this case?
> Thanks in advance,
> Mark Davies
> Mark Davies, Associate Professor, Spanish Linguistics
> Dept. of Foreign Languages, Illinois State University
> Normal, IL 61790-4300
> Voice:309/438-7975 email:firstname.lastname@example.org
> Fax:309/438-8038 http://mdavies.for.ilstu.edu/personal/
-- <from> <name>peter littlechild</name> <section>publishing tools and technology</section> <dept>user documentation</dept> <firm>s.w.i.f.t. sc</firm> </from>