New Bram Stoker Stories Published: Family Still Denies He Is Immortal
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New Bram Stoker Stories Published: Family Still Denies He Is Immortal

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Trade News | December 20, 2012 | Comments ()


Bram Stoker was far more famous in the afterlife than during his life, and he spent most of his career working not as a writer but as the manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London. He worked with famous actor Henry Irving, going so far as to name his son after the man. It's a strange sort of irony that the man who in life was a content second fiddle has become immortal while the object of his idolization is forgotten by any but historians of Victorian entertainment.

In any case, a new volume of Bram Stoker's writings is being released, a sort of anthology that includes: "for the first time since their publication over a century ago, are twelve previously unknown published works of fiction, poetry, and journalistic writing by Bram Stoker (1847-1912), three works by Stoker never before reprinted, twelve obscure period writings about Stoker, and the exceptionally rare 1913 estate sale catalogue of Stoker's personal library".

I'm a bit confused about how these are being explicitly advertised as lost stories, while the fine print says that they were published over a century ago. I'm not sure if they're just being overzealous in their description, or if there's a deeper and more interesting story, for instance, if these stories were originally published in a small run and essentially all copies had been lost until today.

But either way, if you haven't read them, they're new to you. This Huffington Post article has an excerpt from one of the stories, including the fantastic line: "All babies are malignant; the natural wickedness of man".

Here's the Project Gutenberg link to Stoker's public domain work. One question I have is where copyright law lands on this. If works are found and then published posthumously, long after they would have been in the public domain (i.e. the life of author plus x number of years rule), then are those works implicitly in the public domain? As I understand it, copyright is established the moment the work is written, without the need for assertion. So this sentence is copyrighted right now. And so is this one. So just because the works weren't seen for a century, does that mean the copyright clock starts now or then? Or is it intertwined with the preparation of the text as well? I'll defer to anyone who actually knows what they're talking about on this manner. Or whoever fakes it the best.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Genevieve Burgess

    Did someone say copyright?!?

    *cracks knuckles*

    So, under US copyright law, all of these works were officially public domain by 1968 at the latest. “A Baby Passenger” specifically dates from 1899, at which point the US offered a maximum of 42 years of copyright protection in the form of a 28 year initial term and a 14 year extension. Any stories that date from after 1909 would have a maximum of 56 years of protection through a 28 year term and an option to renew for another 28 years.

    Under British copyright law, the stories published prior to 1911 would receive a period of protection that was 42 years from publication or the lifetime of the author plus seven years, whichever was longer. Therefore, our example of “A Baby Passenger” fell into public domain in 1941. Any works published after 1911 were granted protection for life of the author plus 50 years. Since Bram Stoker died in 1912, this means those works fell into public domain in 1962.

    The journals would be where one could get into trouble, because I’m assuming that Stoker’s journals had been previously unpublished. If that’s the case, then British law grants them protection until 2039. In the US, unpublished works are covered for the life of the author plus 70 years, which means the journal entries would be public domain in the US but NOT in the UK.

    The compilation itself, though, will be granted copyright protection as a new work. So you can’t run a few copies off the office xerox machine and sell them out of your trunk. Well, not legally, anyway.

    Wasn't that fun?

  • Fantastic, thank you. I have other collections like this and had always wondered. Of course if Stoker is actually immortal, his copyrights will never expire, which is another mundane example of the legal challenges that the Great Revelation will entail.

  • BWeaves

    From (US Copyright Office)

    How long does a copyright last?

    The term of copyright for a particular work depends on several
    factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so,
    the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created
    after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of
    the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work,
    a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures
    for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication
    or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever
    expires first. For works first published prior to 1978, the term
    will vary depending on several factors. To determine the length
    of copyright protection for a particular work, consult chapter
    3 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the United States
    Code). More information on the term of copyright can be found
    in Circular 15a, Duration of Copyright,
    Circular 1, Copyright Basics.

    So yeah, I got nothing.

  • NynjaSquirrel

    As I understand it, in the UK there's a 50yr copyright that kicks in from the end of the year of its initial publication, perfect for protecting estate works like these.

  • pissant

    As I understand it, copyright is established the moment the work is written, without the need for assertion.

    As I understand it, that nifty little idea*, like copyright, wasn't always so. In fact, I believe that only came about in 1989. So...they were probably just copyrighted...but it has been 75 or however many years since the author's death...I think I'm just gonna torrent them.

    Won't somebody please think of Stoker's great-great-great grandchildren?!

    * - which makes anyone who forwards (or even replies, I believe) to an email a copyright infringer

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