I was in a rush the other day and I left out something important --
IANAL (I am not a lawyer).
That said, I know enough that I, so far, haven't heard from anyone
> ... but one point here is that Eliot's work is not out of copyright.
> It continues until long after the poet's death, not just the copyright
> date. Hence the fact that no one can read Eliot's letters to Emily
> Hale, though they are long past any copyright date or the poet's
> death. I thought it was 50 years, but I think the letters can not be
> seen until 2019 or 2020.
About Eliot's letters to Emily Hale. As his written works, Eliot
would have the copyright rights. They probably passed to
Mrs. Eliot. Hale had the property rights; the paper and ink belonged
to her. She could let others read the letters. Instead she had them
locked away until 50 years after the death of the survivor. Emily
Hale died in 1969 and so the letters will not be readable until 2019
or after. They will not likely be publishable in the U.S. though until
after 2035 (there is a chance that Mrs. Eliot might still be alive or
that her heirs behave like her.) The U.S. copyright protection for
unpublished works created before 1978 is the life of the author + 70
years. In the U.S. though expect to see books and articles in 2020
quoting from the letters using fair use exclusion provisions of the
copyright law. I know next to nothing about British law and so I'm
not certain if letters could be published in the UK 50 years after
> And even TWL--from 1922--is still not out of copyright. It's held by
> the estate, i.e., Valerie, and charges for even slight quotations are
> very high. It's ironic for a poet whose own work is a mass of lines
> from other texts.
> Rick, thanks again for great information. I had better stick with
> Victorian texts and earlier for my sampling. In this global age, you
> never know where a poem will be distributed.
Just the other day I visited (quasi-randomly) the wikipedia webpage
for the song "'O sole mio." There I learned that the song was written
in 1898. The composer died in 1917 and the lyricist died in 1920. So,
110 years after publication and 88 years after the death of the
surviving author (as it appeared listed on the sheet music) you might
reasonably expect that the song is in the public domain. But (quoting
The song is no longer in the public domain; in October 2002 a judge
in Turin declared that Alfredo Mazzucchi (1878-1972), previously
considered only as a music transcriber, was actually a legitimate
third author. Since copyright in countries bound by the Berne
Convention extends to 50 years after the death of the last surviving
author, the song is protected[,] at least in Italy[,] until 2022.
Note that the Berne Convention gives life + 50 years protection while
the U.S. gives life + 70 years. Thank you Sonny Bono. Chasity will be
well taken care of.
> Tracking down permissions is one of the long and tiresome tasks of
> editing. I knew the number of years once but no longer remember for
> I'm sure Rick can give us the details on dates----Rick?
Cornell University has a great website on copyright at
In particular look at this page. It has the dates: