Q: How can we protect ancestral journals and letters?
We have several journals and letters from 1850-1920 written by family members (all deceased). We are in the process of retyping these and putting into PDF format for immediate family members. We would also like to make these available to more distant relatives and possibly parts to any local historical group that may be interested. How can we protect these to ensure no one makes any money from them? Can these be copyrighted by us if we are not the original authors? They have been handed down from generation to generation but there is nothing specific in a will to state who inherited these.
A: A will does not have to specifically bequest intellectual property rights for those rights to pass to heirs. If, for example, father gives everything he owns to son, his son inherits the intellectual property rights in his letters and journals. Son could apply for copyright protection from the U.S. Copyright office as the claimant, describing how he acquired the rights in the transfer statement.
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