Slightly Off Topic
The copyright law being discussed here is relatively recent. Its origins was in politicians licking the asds of Disney Corp, and was originally referred as the Mickey Mouse Law -- that is, the purpose was to give Disney a break by extending Disney's control over Mickey Mouse.
From: T. S. Eliot Discussion forum. [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of David Boyd
Sent: Saturday, February 17, 2018 8:38 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Unpublished letters (was: The Love Song of T.S. Eliot and Emily Hale)
There is surely though a distinction between literary executors' control over the 'publication' of copyright material and the letters being allowed to be seen for research etc purposes, which isn't in law 'publication'
Athough the copyright of Eliot's letters to Emily may indeed rest with the Eliot Estate, they were / are the property of the recipient and the recipient can allow anyone they like to see them.
So long as researchers merely report upon the contents and paraphrase the exact words used, they do not 'publish' them, even though they publish a book that reveals the contents of the letters this way
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On 17 February 2018 at 13:49, Rickard A. Parker <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
On Fri, 16 Feb 2018 21:30:41 -0500, Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>But we may learn more in 2020 when his letters to Emily are released.
Concerning the letters from Eliot to Emily Hale, the archivists possesses the paper and ink but someone else, presumably the Eliot estate, holds the copyright to the words. The archive may let the letters be read in 2020 but may not have a legal obligation to do so. Possibly the Eliot estate may make some deal for the archive to withhold examination of the letters until the estate publishes them. Or possibly the archive could keep them secret while preparing them for publication on its own once they become public domain. In the U.S. the copyright will expire at the end of 2035 or 2036.
Something similar occurred when James Miller wanted to publish Jean Verdenal's letters to Eliot. Although Harvard had the letters (that were donated by Eliot's sister-in-law and with copyright owned by the Verdenal estate) Valerie Eliot was able to prevent them from being read by Miller until the first volume of "The Letters of TSE" was published.
Here is a page on the archivists.org website about copyright and unpublished material: