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The Know Your Rights Blog


I have just returned from a trip to London with my husband who was traveling there for a work assignment. As it was not my first time traveling there, it was a good time to explore some more offbeat museums and locations.

From visiting the Charles Dickens museum (situated in a house where he lived for a number of years), to the Tate Britain for a chance to look at some of William Blake's original etchings for "Songs of Innocence and Experience," London is truly a bibliophile's playground.

The British Library (which is an amazing place to visit on any day) even had a surprise to offer in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibit. Illuminated manuscripts from ages ago? Check. Domesday Book? Check. Original copy of Beowulf? Check.

But to find in a little side panel of the London Transport Museum a court dispute in 1836 which highlights potential infringement in a mechanical design*? Bonus!

Mechanical designs, architectural drawings, literary, or artistic compositions, can be copyrighted. In this particular case, the plaintiff and defendant were locked in a battle to use a particular trolley design and color scheme to attract customers along the same route in London. It seems the defendant felt that they could "borrow" the overall look of its chief competitor in order to trick customers into riding their transportation service instead.

Now, we don't have the information on how the court case turned out, but we'd hazard a guess that the defendant was likely made to change their design (or at the very least, the colors) so as to not cause brand confusion.

What do you think?

Panel from the London Transport Museum

*Arguably, this can also be seen as a trademark dispute, but the exhibition didn't really elaborate very much, and truthfully, I don't know enough about trademark law (and especially not in the UK) to make any assumptions. In reality, the case was likely just a dispute between two companies over a route and how much they could potentially copy one another.

#copyrighthistory #copyright #history #UK

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We're pleased to share that MJ has been appointed to the Board of Experts for the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE) as the copyright and permissions expert.

As an expert with the NAIWE, she will present one webinar on copyright and permissions as well as write an article for the NAIWE magazine.

You can review the full panel of experts here:

Congratulations to MJ!

  • MJ

For the first time in an incredibly long time, new titles are being added to the Public Domain in the United States!

copyright symbol

On January 1, 2019, the provisions set forth in the Copyright Extension Act of 1998 finally expires, allowing hundreds of works to enter the Public Domain. From here on out (barring another piece of legislation to the contrary), new works will enter the Public Domain on January 1 of each year, just as they do in other countries.

This year, it means that works published before 1924 (with some exceptions) are now open for use without gaining permission from the author, their agent, or estate. So, works like Robert Frost's collection of poems New Hampshire will be available for use, as will the film The Ten Commandments (the Cecil B. DeMille version, anyway).

While it's true that some works published in 1923 (and later) might already have been in the public domain if copyright was improperly registered or renewed, and conversely, a (very) few works may still remain under copyright, it remains important to conduct the proper research into the copyright status of a work prior to using it.

But for now, authors, artists, filmmakers, and really anyone is free to create their own editions, versions, translations, or adaptations of works from 1923 and before. Hooray for more creative endeavors!

#copyright #publicdomain #publicdomainday

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