Ken Armstrong wrote:
> Granted that seeing the letters for research purposes is not the same as
> publication, how does that translate to Miller's having a perfect right
> to see them? Does that mean that anyone who presents him- or herself as
> an Eliot researcher has a right to see them? Just wondering what the
> criteria are.
Since you're talking about Miller here I suppose that you are also talking about the Houghton Library at Harvard. I don't know what contitutes a "perfect" right and I don't know what Houghton's access rules were at the time but I suppose that valid researchers would normally be allowed access. I even got to look at the Verdenal letters when just showing up (though after publication of "Letters".) Apparently Miller wrote to Houghton first and they contacted Valerie Eliot before giving Miller permission. Valerie told them to withhold the letters (from Miller at least) until she published them in "Letters" (without an acknowlegement of the Verdenal family's copyright or permission.) There is a note by an archivist with the Verdenal letters discussing this and that the letters came from Eliot's sister-in-law. Now remember, Valerie was never in possession of the letters (and probably beside the point but they were written before she was born), Eliot did not own the copyright to the words and Miller was a valid researcher ( https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/45504.James_E_Miller_Jr_ ). Likely Houghton was worried that granting access to the letters might cause Valerie to not supply more Eliot material and possibly to withdraw some. So I've been a bit cynical about Eliot archivists. CR's post about what the Princeton archivists are going to do is encouraging but I'll believe it when reports on the letters start coming out.
Tom Gray wrote:
> Does Miller have a right to see them or is it that copyright does not apply
> to someone reading an existing copy. Someone could refuse or permit a
> person to read a copy of a book that they own without asking permission
> from the copyright holder
Copyright legally prevents an unauthorized copy to be made to the public. A copyrighted work can still be viewed by anyone who has access to it unless there was a stipulation against that in order to get the copy in the first place. I think this was tried long ago in the US to prevent libraries from giving access to copyrighted material but I'm pretty sure that a provision was created in the law so this could not happen. I agree with your second point.
Carrol Cox wrote:
> (Obviously we are amateur attorneys here, but...). I would guess that
> any document in a library can be made available to anyone in the library,
> unless the library had formed a specific legal agreement with the donors
> of the documents in question.