Saturday, February 24, 2018

Letters Of The Dead...

Copyright lasts for the life of the author, plus seventy years (depending on the jurisdiction under which you live and die), and copyright is automatic as soon as a thought is expressed in some tangible medium.

That means, you own the copyright to the letters that you write, even if you don't register every letter (or any letter) with your country's copyright office.  Perhaps persons who live interesting and/or notorious lives should give some thought to bequeathing the rights to their letters.

British law, at least, assumes that, unless a writer's Will says otherwise, letters are a gift to the recipient, and the copyright is also a gift to the recipient.

Dominic Cole, legal blogger for Collyer Bristow LLP, discusses the unsealing of the Will of King Edward VIII (better known as the Duke of Windsor), and the great interest in whether or not he expressed any wishes with regard to copyright and his letters.

It's food for thought.  As is Dominic Cole's final thought concerning what's in your crypto-currency wallet, and can your executor access it.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry
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  1. I wonder whether the U.K. and the U.S. are different in that respect. As I understand it, under American copyright law, the physical letters belong to the recipient, but the right to publish them remains with the author or his/her estate.

    1. Funnily enough, Angela Hoy has a piece about this issue. A would-be author wanted to know if she could use real emails and texts sent by an ex in a fictionalized novel about a failed relationship. Hoy advised against.