Asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property for California

Q: Copyright status of the book The Eppleton Hall by Scott Newhall, 1971, copyrighted Howell-North books now defunct

This book was published once, about the voyage of the tugboat Eppleton Hall. This boat is in the collection of San Francisco Maritime NHP, and we have very few copies. The price of the book went way up after a YouTube video about the boat was posted. We'd like to make an electronic copy for our staff and volunteers, this information is very hard to get, but I don't know if the copyright was ever renewed, and Howell-North Books, who held the copyright according to the book, went out of business in 1981.

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: To determine the copyright status of the book "The Eppleton Hall" by Scott Newhall, published in 1971 by Howell-North Books, we need to consider the following factors:

1. Copyright term: Under the Copyright Act of 1976, which took effect on January 1, 1978, the copyright term for works created on or after that date is the author's life plus 70 years. However, for works published before 1978, the term is 95 years from the date of publication.

2. Renewal requirement: For works published before 1964, the copyright owner had to file a renewal with the U.S. Copyright Office during the 28th year after publication to maintain copyright protection. If the renewal was not filed, the work entered the public domain.

3. Defunct publisher: The fact that Howell-North Books went out of business in 1981 does not automatically mean the copyright has expired. The rights may have been transferred to another entity or reverted to the author or their heirs.

Given that "The Eppleton Hall" was published in 1971, the copyright would have initially been valid for 28 years, until 1999. If the copyright was properly renewed in 1999, it would be protected for an additional 67 years, until 2066.

To confirm whether the copyright was renewed, you can search the U.S. Copyright Office's records or consult with a copyright attorney. If the renewal was not filed, the book would be in the public domain, and you could freely make electronic copies for your staff and volunteers.

If the copyright was renewed, you may still be able to make limited copies under the fair use doctrine, which allows for certain uses of copyrighted material without permission for purposes such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. However, determining fair use can be complex and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Fritz-Howard Raymond Clapp
Fritz-Howard Raymond Clapp pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Beverly Hills, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: The public copyright catalog shows assignment in 1979 of the copyright in 122 titles including Eppleton Hall, from Howell-North Books to Leisure Dynamics of California, Inc. California records show that Leisure Dynamics' authority to do business was suspended in 1979 for failure to pay state taxes.

While the copyrights are valid and unexpired, it is doubtful that they would be enforced by the defunct owner.

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