I wish to re-write an old novel, updating it. What are the copyright restrictions?
A young adult novel published 50 years ago made a HUGE impression on me. I strongly believe it has great validity today, and so could use numerous updates to make it more current for teens. What do I need to know regarding copyrights, if I were to re-write it to make it current? I would only change certain details, i.e., instead of pen pals, the main character would interact on FaceBook. Please help me out here - thanks!
if the novel is not yours originally I don't think you are allowed to publish it even if you make changes to it.
Copyright extends to 70 years after the death of the original author. To only make small changes would still place you in violation of copyright since the bulk of the book would remain the same. You could always contact the author (if possible) and ask for permission to do the re-write. I doubt they'll agree, but you never know unless you try.
Unless the book is public domain (which it wouldn't be if it's only 50 years old), you can't legally publish any of it under your name. You would be better off writing an original story that just uses similar themes. Over the course of editing and rewriting, it probably won't even resemble the source inspiration anyway.
The book could be in public domain, so check on that first. Do you need to use the same characters, local, etc. If not, and it is the plot that you are worried about, don't, Hamlet has been done dozens of times, and so has just about every plot line in existence. If you have enough originality, don't use the same characters or actual text from the original book, then you should be good. You may want to do a based upon, or a preface as an homage to the original author. Good Luck
How do I check to see if the book is in Public Domain?
Start by checking out the http://www.gutenberg.org/, when was the first copyright taken out, there is usually a 26 year window I believe, but also check out http://copyright.columbia.edu/copyright … copyright/
Here is a link about copyright laws and their duration, the law changed in 1978, so it depends when the book was written.
If it is an others work, you cannot re-write it without permission until (in most cases) the original author has been dead for 70 years. That is the new statute of limitations on a copyright held by a non-business entity.
If you can contact the original copyright owner, you may be able, for a fee, to update the book. I would not hold my breath on that though. Unless there are ample monetary rewards, I doubt that someone is going to allow modifications to their story. It is always worth a shot though!
Probably the best thing you can do is find out how to contact the writer and suggest your idea. Maybe it is something the original author would like to do themselves. You never know!
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