Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thoughts on Re-Publishing for Web Dissemination.

This was written largely for members of the Regenerx Listgroup, which I believe to be the world's largest radio listgroup wholly dedicated to the use of the Regenerative Circuit for wireless reception. But some of the below comments may come in handy for other endeavours which involve the use of long out of print literature or published artwork (or music.)


Ok, here's my novel-length thoughts on re-publishing articles and other parts of literature in whole or in part for web dissemination in a non-profit atmosphere. The Law calls it Re-Distribution, and cares not whether it is for profit or no. Get that straight off. The Judge will not care if you made or did not make any money. Rights of Copy deals with copy and dissemination, or distribution. Those civil issues enter into the settlement phase, IIRC. I've not had to go through this phase, so no first hand knowledge there.

When I started this group back in 2004, my intention was to seek permission for us to republish by re-posting old regenerative-based articles for our references from a number of publications, including the ARRL. Apparently some list-groups (I'll not mention who) either believe they have obtained - or have indeed secured - permission to re-publish and re-post to their respective groups articles from out of the 1920s, 1930s, etc. QSTs and Handbooks.

I attempted to secure such from the League: I was turned down flat, and rather unceremoniously. Since their description of us equates to every other radio newsgroup I've had party to, I wonder just who really has bonafide permission.

Anyway, I let it drop, no problem. And no insult taken, certainly. We were a small group at the time, about 20 members. I can't say I would have responded differently, in fact, had the shoe been on the other foot. I just concluded "We'll get by."

I got an entirely different response, however, from the editor of CQ as I asked permission to reprint articles from Ham Radio Horizons, a former HR publication absorbed by CQ. And here is where I got my first dose of the publishing world and copyrights.

His response went something like this: We (CQ) ourselves are not entirely clear what we can republish from our own [merged] archives. Many of the articles printed over the years, especially from those defunct publications such as HRH, had "One-Time" publishing rights, meaning that once the article was published, the rights of copy revert back to the author. Such is the case with anything ever published by Bill Orr. His Heirs and Assigns [or whomever currently holds rights of copy] perpetuate the W6SAI Industry, and keep close and jealous guard over everything Bill wrote as far back as the E&E handbooks of the late 1930s! These copyrights are renewable, **and are renewed**. Therefore you may find an Orr article from 1946. Leave it alone. Under discussion, specifically, was the use of those very insightful articles Bill wrote for Ham Radio Horizons, and later Ham Radio Report, "Those Old Radio Days", I believe they were entitled.

The Ed. perused our list and my personal site, and contacted me later saying that in his opinion, we are a non profit educational group, and I have a non profit education-drive website. Thus, if I wish to publish by posting an article from said archives, to contact him first, let them go over the story and the' legaleeze' - who possesses rights of copy - and wait for the green flag. And, of course, I honour that.

He also parted a few kind compliments, which I have kept with me.

An interesting article written by Nagel appeared in HRH sometime back in the mid 1970s, called "Those Great Old Radio Mags" or something like that. In this article, the author notes that many of those high profile authors wrote on the sly for other magazines. Same goes for the artists and artwork. This further confuses the landscape. Case in point: I believe ARRL owns rights of copy for all Phil Gildersleeve cartoons, which are absolute classics. (They or Gil's heirs and assigns own the copyrights. Somebody does.) Now, do they only own those printed in League Publications? Ahh, good question, for you see Gil also illustrated "Scratchi" for "Radio" magazine, a major and often antagonistic competitor to QST back in the day! (Vid "Scratchi". Radio, March 1937.)

Can I get my posterior parked in the dock over re-printing the 1929 article on the Bearcat Model B-3? (Vid QST, August, 1929) Yup. Not only can I, but if I persist, I SHALL.

Thus, when it comes to the world of publication, mergers, who purchased what company, etc., walk very carefully when it comes to republishing. Now, can you get in a jam over reprinting a SWC article on the Doerle? Will Fredrick Collins come after you for posting from his Handbook from 1933? Maybe not, but I'll bet Crowell Publications, NY, NY. will! As Regards Short Wave Craft, Hugo Gernsback has been out of business for years, and I don't know if anybody picked up the (c) on these articles or allowed them to lapse into Public Domain.

Best advice I can give in these cases is to follow all crediting protocol, make sure you give author, dates, when published, and the purpose of your publication. Cover yourself so if the day comes you face a judge, you can say that using accepted U&C (Usual and Customary Procedure) you, to the best of your resources and understanding, thought the article to be PD. I doubt malicious intent would be levied, more than likely a simple cessation of publication would be requested and complied with. I wish I could guarantee that. But I can't.

Do not copy a previously republished article. If someone has already done that, and it's seen print, you can bet there's a (c) somewhere. Unless you know that it's definately Public Domain, and it should say so somewhere on the reprint.

As a printer and publisher myself (G. Johanson, Letterpress) I deal with this issue fairly often. I reprint old designs and philatelic art from the 1930s and prior for custom stationery. I locate my own designs from original 19th and early 20th century publications, or base designs from them.

It's an eggwalk! Would you believe a 90-year old Red Cross Christmas Seal may still have copyright protection?? Whoo, yeah boy! I even had to investigate Emily Bissel's 1907 design for our 100th anniversary reprint of the first American Red Cross Christmas Seal (1907 - 2007) The Delaware Valley chapter of the American Red Cross chose not to - or neglected to - renew their rights of copy. Slipped into PD. Yay!! Heh, but my re-design of the original for the centenial IS under (c). Not that anyone is losing sleep over it.

Oh, reprints are available for collectors, btw.

Even some of those classic old QSL card designs have a (c) hovering over them! (Most, fortunately, do not or can be sufficiently modified so as to retain their vintageness and still look very 1920-ish.)

The above is not intended to scare anyone out of trying to preserve those great articles by sharing them - which I consider a worthy endeavour, but to caution that much of what you read
about copyrights can be over generalised and over simplified. Proceed, but with wisdom and caution.

And remember, under law, anything posted to any website, blog or list group is considered publication.

-gary // wd4nka
Listowner, Regenrx.

G. Johanson, Letterpress.

1 comment:

  1. As the owner of Gernsback Publications Inc., at the time we closed our doors I kept all rights to previous publications and have been releasing some of them, as quickly as I can, on Amazon.

    Some are printed softcover books that Amazon prints on-demand. Others are versions that I have made abailable as e-books for the Kindle or PC, or both.

    I am moving along as quickly as possible, but it takes time to scan, edit and reprint. I have been averaging about one new release each week. If there is something of particular interest, let me know and I will see if I can locate it. Response may take a week, but I will respond. Write to me at

    Several items are already available. Search Amzzon for Gernsback to find them. Additionally here is some more info.