Copyrights and Copy-wrongs

MyDearestLove KindleThis week, we’ve seen two more Emilie Loring titles come out on Kindle. The first is My Dearest Love, one of my favorites of the books published after Emilie Loring’s death. Its nostalgic, New York cover reminds me of Beth Gilbert and Chris Bradford’s momentous day together.

This was her day, their day. She was not going to be sensible and that was all there was to it.  My Dearest Love

Published in 1954, My Dearest Love was based on Emilie Loring’s 1917 serial novel, “An Elusive Legacy.” You can read more about it here.

We can’t know what Emilie would have thought about e-books and the e-reader experience, but we do know that she intended her works to continue to benefit her family. Emilie Loring’s will authorized her sons to “enter into any contracts with publishers or others with respect to any of my writings” and to alter or amend any existing contracts. Furthermore,

“I also authorize my Executors to apply for or do anything else necessary or desirable in their judgment to obtain the extension, or to preserve or conserve the value of any copyright standing in my name.”

Emilie’s first stories were covered by the 1909 Copyright Act. The original term of copyright was twenty-eight years and could be renewed for another term, giving a total of fifty-six years of copyright protection.

Copyright law went through several changes, and before I go any further, I need to make it clear to all that I am presenting my understanding, alone. I have not consulted with any of the involved parties, only several references available freely on the internet. Two of the most useful are at the following links:

Cornell University’s “Copyright Information Center”

Stanford’s Copyright Renewal Database 

copyright symbol copyToday, anything published in the United States before January 1, 1924 is in the public domain. Of Emilie Loring’s books, this includes only The Trail of Conflict (1923).  Here Comes the Sun (1924) will enter the public domain next year, 2020, because it was published after January 1st.

Books published after January 1, 1964 are protected for 95 years without a requirement to renew. This includes the last nine ghostwritten books. See the full list of books here.

Books published between these times are a little trickier.

Books published between 1924 and 1963 remain under copyright for 95 years past publication,

if they had a copyright notice (All of hers did.)

and if they were renewed.

Stanford’s Copyright Renewal Database shows renewals for all but three of Emilie Loring books published during this period. Of her original books, only Give Me One Summer (1936) is in question. Of the ghostwritten books, With This Ring (1955), and Follow Your Heart (1963) may or may not have been renewed.


Copyright protection
Is it still under copyright?

Therefore, most of Emilie Loring’s books will enter the public domain 95 years past their publication year.

What does this mean for Emilie Loring readers?

If you read her books in paper form, nothing. But if you read them as e-books, there is more to consider.

The Trail of Conflict is available for free through Project Gutenberg and available for purchase on Amazon. Because it is in the public domain, you may download or purchase it with a clear conscience.

The Loring family holds the rights to the Emilie Loring works still protected by copyright. By arrangement with Endeavour Media, they have already published seven titles for Kindle and have contracted for twelve more. When you see these, go for it. Her descendants will earn the royalties, as Emilie intended.

But what about titles that appear as e-books from other entities? It’s possible to purchase them, but is it right to purchase them?

This week, Swift Water was also listed for sale on Amazon, but by a Canadian company.  If you Look inside! you will find this notice:Canadian copyright notice

That’s a little irksome for me. It took a fair while for me to research this blog post. How is the casual reader supposed to discern the copyright protection status of books in their countries? Wouldn’t it have been useful to list the countries in which sale is legal? Plus, the “look inside” command takes you to the first page of the story; you have to scroll up, toward the title page, to discover this cautionary notice. How many will see it?

We’re all so eager to have Emilie Loring titles available as e-books, it’s a shame to have to put on the brakes, but as far as I can tell, Swift Water is still under copyright protection in the United States, where I live. I’m not going to buy this e-book. I’ll wait for an authorized version that will benefit Emilie Loring’s descendants, as she intended.

Copyright is simple in concept but tricky in the details. For example, Happy Landings will be protected for seventy years past my (hopefully long-deferred) death, but if I publish it under a pseudonym, it will be protected ninety-five years past its publication date. The mind whirls.

I’ll update this post as I learn more. Meanwhile, Beth and Chris are about to go on that yellow-diamond-buying expedition, and I want to read again about muffling the telephone bells!

Happy Landings, everyone!


2 thoughts on “Copyrights and Copy-wrongs

  1. Very interesting. I would think that, in these modern times, a book’s copyright protection could be maintained in perpetuity through wills to descendants, etc., much like any other property that is inherited. (I think that Hollywood stars and their families are similarly concerned about protecting perpetually rights to their image and likeness with the advent of holograms of dead actors in movies, ie, Carrie Fischer in the latest Star Wars.) I share your surprise that books published under a pseudonym are granted longer protection than works publicly acknowledged by an author. That does seem counter-intuitive.

    Very interesting stuff…

    I have yet to read My Dearest Love. I am down to 7 books left. I expect to finish by June, which would mean I will have completed my tour of the Emilie Loring canon in one year…! We shall see!!!


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