Lovecraft Copyright

Hmmm… I was all set to post up the H.P. Lovecraft ebooks tonight that were sent to me, but when double-checking the publication dates online I found this:

Please note that Lovecraft’s fiction is still considered to be under copyright by Arkham House, and any texts presently available on the web without their consent are in violation of that copyright.

Found this on The H.P. Lovecraft Archive. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so I’m holding off on posting the Lovecraft ebooks for now.

15 Replies to “Lovecraft Copyright”

  1. All books published before 1923 are officially within the public domain, which means that their copyrights have expired-this is the rule that Project Gutenberg, a site dedicated to publishing free books on the web, most frequently uses. That means that quite a few of Lovecraft’s works can be posted, since they are in the public domain. As long as you make sure that the work in question was originally published before 1923, then you can post the work without any litigation rammed up your butt.

  2. But August Derleth owned the copyrights to all of Lovecraft’s works. Although he died in 1996 all the books I own with any Lovecraft stories in them cite Derleth as the copyright holder.

  3. Canada and Australia’s copyright expiry times are still life of the author plus 50 years. As a result, works ranging from Peter Pan to the stories of H. P. Lovecraft are public domain in both places.

    The copyright status of Lovecraft’s work is debatable, as no copyright renewals, which were necessary under the laws of that time, have been found.

    Also, two competing parties have independently claimed copyright ownership on his work.

    So screw Derleth. And screw Arkham House.

  4. damn right. Copyright expires 50 years after the authors death. How can someone (derlth) cruise along and suddenly claim copyright?! It’s a crock. Let’s see it stand in a court. All of Lovecraft’s stuff is in the public domain and I challenge anyone to dispute that. Otherwise you’d have tweakers publishing every dead author againa nd suddenly claiming copyright. I wonder if i can make an ebook and suddenly sue the producers of Hamlet. It’s a joke how these people simply say they have copyright.

  5. The only way to copyright something and have it copywriten for your life is to send a full, unchanged manuscript to your self registerd mail where it has to be signed for by YOU. The it is copywriten until the sigining of your death certificat.

  6. What about his letters – anyone know about the copyright situation with them? E.g. the 5 vols published by Arkham House.

  7. Here is the situation as I know it.

    Arkham House and August Derelth never owned the copyrights to the stories. They did have some type of contract or agreement with the Lovecraft estate to publish his stories post humously.

    When Lovecraft died in 1937, Lovecraft’s estate became the owner of the copyrights to his stories. At that time US copyrights lasted 28 years I believe (from the time of publication) and had to be renewed.

    The Lovecraft estate NEVER renewed and the copyright lapsed (this is more popularly but inaccurately called falling into the public domain).

    You will notice that Hollywood started doing Lovecraft film adaptations around 1965 (about 28 years after Lovecraft’s death). Some of these studios threw money at Arkham House (although Arkham House didn’t own the copyrights to the individual stories) because they are conservative and backers like to have pieces of paper saying they were granted the rights.

    So the short answer is, all the original stories (and the ideas in them) published in the old pulp magazines are fair game.

    What is not fair game and is clearly copyrighted are all the corrected and re-edited stories S.T. Joshi did for Arkham House. S.T. actually went back to the original handwritten manuscripts and had to do scholarly research and use his own insight on Lovecraft’s own writing style in order to repair the damage done by previous editors including August Derleth. This consisted of new work and thus these re-edited stories are copyrighted by Arkham House and the copyrights are current.

    Regarding his letters… that may even be muddier.

    Hope that helps some.

  8. For the record, in the modern day, in a Berne Convention country, any ‘work’ (essentially, anything long and original enough to be copyrightable) you produce is automatically copyrighted to you for the duration of your life plus (at least) fifty years. Countries may extend this duration at their discretion. IIRC, it’s 75 years in the USA and EU.

    In a BC country, you don’t need to do any faffing with copyright notices, posting things to yourself, etc. (although this may* help you prove ownership in court).

    If Lovecraft were to write his letters now, they’d be copyrighted just like any other work; if current USA law applied back then, they’d be fair game in 2012.

    * I don’t imagine it’s too difficult to fake a postmark.

  9. that only applies to works published after 1978… otherwise the old law applies, which says copyright must be renewed after 28 years, and can apply for a maximum of 95 years

  10. Review S.T. Joshi’s "H.P. Lovecraft: A Life", pages 640 and 641. Joshi makes the case that Arkham House never had the full copyright to Lovecraft’s stories and that the copyright passed to the heirs. If Arkham House had anything, it had the copyright to six stories published before 1926 in "Weird Tales". However, neither Arkham House nor Lovecraft’s heirs ever renewed the copyrights, so the stories passed into the public domain.

  11. The Comment by Jerome Byrne at 2004-11-29 03:40:39, above, is completely wrong. He has no idea of what he speaks.

  12. Dear IP Lawyer, or anyone who truly knows the legal status of HPL works.

    I want to make a short film of his stories, and if they are truly ‘public domain’ (pre-1923), would be enticed to finance and direct a feature. Thus far discussion has related to print or web publishing. Would expiry extend to filmic media? Would love to ADAPT his stories–if the situation is muddy in this area, I would love to know whether I can get away with ‘inspired by HP Lovecraft credit’. Thanks for any advice.


    Prohibition Filmmaker – Los Angeles

  13. I`m interested in translating and publishing HPL`s compiled works in Serbia, translated on serbian language.
    What do you think, should I ask someone for copyright or not?

    Anyway, someone said that Arkham publishing Inc. has edited HPL`s original handwritings and published it. Is it possible to find somewhere in e-form original writings, or I must take these, but made before 1923.?

    Please, if somebody can reply me on my e-mail, thank you.


  14. I’m no copyright lawyer, but I do deal with it extensively in my job as a librarian/archivist. From everything I’ve been able to find, copyright protection over HPL’s stories as published during his lifetime lapsed and were not renewed.

    In addition to the points of copyright law and renewal that have been mentioned, there is also ample precedent for people reprinting and adapting Lovecraft’s work WITHOUT BEING SUED. One reason Disney is so rabid about crushing anyone who dares come close to infringing their rights is because failure to do so can be a slippery slope.

    If someone made a blockbuster hit movie out of a Lovecraft story, Arkham House would be hard pressed to win the case because they haven’t gone after the small-time film makers who do so. There’s even a Lovecraft film festival, so it’s not like these things are secret.

    On top of all this, there’s Lovecraft’s own explicit statements that others should expand the universe and mythos he created.

    Again, I’m no lawyer, but I imagine it would be pretty tough to win a lawsuit over HPL’s copyrights.

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