Tolkien Collector's Guide
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Jan 5
2021/1/5 18:09:17 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

onthetrail wrote:

Khamûl wrote:

This is also briefly, and interestingly, touched upon in Tolkien's Lost Chaucer where Bowers talks about Tolkien's style of editing. Point is, Tolkien's critical editions of these medieval manuscripts are most certainly works that were published and copyrighted in the 20th century. The editorial hand in these is legally seen as allowing copyright to be established, and that copyright to be held by those editors (&/or publishers). This, despite the works themselves being ancient and clearly not in copyright. Don't think Christopher is doing anything different with HoME.

But Christopher by his own admission was presenting texts with minor corrections. He was not translating texts bringing them into a modern form or editing them like Joshi was with Lovecraft. They are very different exercises.

I also feel we are (all of us) getting into the realm of guesswork here. None of us have a proper understanding of the laws, a cursory chat with my friend suggested we ask Tolkien Estate lawyers for clarification over it. They would know best.

Joshi was, in some instances, making single word choices on variant readings. The texts as stories are essentially the same. And in all instances he was trying to reestablish the texts as Lovecraft intended them. Even with this minimal touch these versions of the texts are absolutely Joshi's. Not so different I don't think. UK copyright law states that a work is copyrightable if it "exhibits a degree of skill, labour or judgement". I think editing falls firmly within that category. Plus, why would The Estate etc have gone to all the lengths they have done in respect to copyrights if these were likely to fail? I think the proof of what The Estate thinks is in those copyright notices which clearly state, for example, Christopher being the holder.
Jan 5
2021/1/5 19:35:36 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
An editor (especially of manuscripts) does far more than just adding or removing words and punctuation. An editor of manuscripts interprets what is written and establishes a text from it. That text is the editor's original work. Even if the manuscript contents go into the public domain, the editor's edition remains copyrighted.
Jan 5
2021/1/5 20:16:55 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

onthetrail wrote:

Aelfwine wrote:

onthetrail wrote:

Christopher by his own admission was presenting texts with minor corrections.

Have you read HoMe? That doesn't match what Christopher actually did at all. That's almost never how editing Tolkien's manuscripts works.

Yes. Christopher Tolkien says in the foreword to Lost Tales that "the texts are given in a form very close to that of the original manuscripts. Only the most minor and obvious slips have been silently corrected". I take that to mean his editorial presence is minimal. Certainly in regard of those volumes.

And in my option, this statement (which I was also working from) would be extremely pertinent in court.

That said, who is really going to care about republishing parts of HoME, anyway. If there is money to be made, it is out of TH and LoTR (which would be a no-brainer from a copyright perspective, assuming an early version of the text was used). HoME was barely economic even for the original publishers...

What will be more interesting from my perspective will be Philologists and works such as that, which - in NZ at least - are waiting for Tolkien's due date, as the components by other authors are already in the public domain.

But again, I suspect it is all moot in the short to medium term anyway. Actual lawyers (rather than armchair ones like everyone here including myself) can figure it all out if and when, and I'm sure they will.
Jan 5
2021/1/5 20:23:07 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Aelfwine wrote:

An editor (especially of manuscripts) does far more than just adding or removing words and punctuation. An editor of manuscripts interprets what is written and establishes a text from it. That text is the editor's original work. Even if the manuscript contents go into the public domain, the editor's edition remains copyrighted.

Worth saying you could extend this to making basically any original manuscript text the copyright of the editor, as basically pretty much any book is finally edited by someone other than the author, albeit usually uncredited, except for occasionally in the acknowledgements. It really isn't as clear-cut as you make out, I don't think. Or at least there isn't a single rule that can be applied to all texts, as if every editor gained copyright of the material they edited (in all jurisdictions), we would have a whole different set of dates to deal with. And at present, we definitely don't (and plenty of material has gone out of copyright to test this). Again, purely logical speculation and armchair lawyering, obviously.
Jan 5
2021/1/5 20:45:43 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
That might be true Stu but those editors (I think you're referring to) would typically be in-house editors in paid employment of the publisher. I think simple agreements are in place to avoid those editors being identified as the creators of the work over the author (if this is what's agreed upon). For example, Kay is thanked for his contribution & help with The Silmarillion. I don't think there is any question of his legal right to the copyright of some part of the text he wrote/assembled though. You can, after all, sell copyright. It doesn't exclusively have to reside with the creator. In the case of Christopher Tolkien I think he's clearly and unambigously identified as the editor of his father's writings. I honestly don't think the copyright of those pothumous works are in dispute.
Jan 5
2021/1/5 20:47:07 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Stu wrote:

Worth saying you could extend this to making basically any original manuscript text the copyright of the editor

Nothing I said implies that "the original manuscript text" becomes "the copyright of the editor", which it certainly does not. It's the edition of the text that is the copyright of the editor. A manuscript text and its edition(s) are two entirely distinct products of art, and thus of copyright ownership.
Jan 5
2021/1/5 20:52:44 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
Exactly so, Khamul. That's why I've always had to sign over the copyright of my own editions of Tolkien's works, in return for permission to publish. For my journal Vinyar Tengwar the Tolkien Estate then grants me the right to republish the editions I made (but do not own) for back-issues. This isn't a theoretical matter for me.
Jan 5
2021/1/5 20:58:51 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Aelfwine wrote:

Stu wrote:

Worth saying you could extend this to making basically any original manuscript text the copyright of the editor

Nothing I said implies that "the original manuscript text" becomes "the copyright of the editor", which it certainly does not. It's the edition of the text that is the copyright of the editor. A manuscript text and its edition(s) are two entirely distinct products of art, and thus of copyright ownership.

So if Christopher Tolkien transcribes a manuscript page, corrects a few spelling errors or tidies continuity that version of the text becomes his? And if we had the original manuscript, transcribed it minus the slight changes we would be withing the confines of the PD manuscript?
Jan 5
2021/1/5 21:17:52 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Khamûl wrote:

That might be true Stu I honestly don't think the copyright of those pothumous works are in dispute.

I'm not suggesting the copyright of the works is in doubt, just that the copyright of some individual components that make up (some of) those works is in doubt. Christopher, by his own words claims to have only made very minimal changes to the text in HoME, which is totally at odds with Aelfwine's claim. I understand why people on both sides want this to be clear cut, but I do not believe it is.
Jan 5
2021/1/5 21:37:37 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Aelfwine wrote:

Exactly so, Khamul. That's why I've always had to sign over the copyright of my own editions of Tolkien's works, in return for permission to publish. For my journal Vinyar Tengwar the Tolkien Estate then grants me the right to republish the editions I made (but do not own) for back-issues. This isn't a theoretical matter for me.

I don't mean to pry into matters that don't concern me, I am just trying to understand the finer points of this discussion so if you do not wish to answer the following I understand.

You talk about signing over your editions in return for permission to publish them. Does this include your commentary or does that still remain your own copyrighted work?
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