Q: Can a book published in the 1850s in England (copyright expired in 1900s) be copyrighted by a US publisher in 1970s?
A: New material is subject to copyright protection. A new book including the old book plus a new introduction may be published and the new introduction may be subject to copyright protection. The old book will not be subject to copyright protection. Depending on what you want to copy, what you want to do with the copy, and how troublesome a claim against you may be you may wish to consult an intellectual property attorney.
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