Public domain vs. copyright

Allen Thrasher athr at
Mon Mar 3 14:14:59 UTC 1997

I believe that in the case of manuscripts of long-dead authors, the
copyright to a _manuscript_ belongs to the owner of the manuscript.  
E.g. if the BORI has the only MS of some work, you need its permission to
publish your transcription of the MS.  Question: if an institution or
other MS owner allows you to examine a MS as part of doing a critical
edition, involving several MSS, can it then decide it doesn't want you to
include its MS's readings in your publication?

Allen W. Thrasher

The opinions expressed do not represent those of my employer.

On Sat, 1 Mar 1997, Dominik Wujastyk wrote:

> On Fri, 28 Feb 1997 Sfauthor at wrote:
> > Therefore, all the texts discussed in Indology are in the public domain and
> > simply not copyrightable. 
> That goes for the *original*, i.e., manuscript of the work.  But copyright 
> inheres in the work of editing etc.  Copyright is a very practical matter:
> it is about rights to actually copy a physical object, including a
> computer file.  The particular computer files in question are copyrighted,
> and will remain so until 70 years after the death of the creator of the
> file.
> .. at least that is my present belief.  Copyright is a nightmare to
> understand, and frankly nobody has solved the many problems that arise
> when trying to apply the print-oriented Copyright laws to the internet. 
> The only person I know who contributed meaningfully and practically to
> this area is Ted Nelson, author of Literary Machines (I have a signed
> copy!) who solved all these problems in his Xanadu system.  Sadly, that
> initiative seems to have run into the sand.  There was an excellent
> writeup on it in Wired magazine about a year ago.
> Dominik

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