Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Copyright Confusion

One of the rules of fiction is that it has to make sense; hence the saying "truth is stranger than fiction." If I were to turn my current research problem into a story, nobody would find it believable. So, here are the facts as I know them:

Reginald Pelham Bolton and his wife Kate had a daughter, Ivy, and a son, Guy. Both children grew up to be writers; Ivy wrote historical novels, and Guy wrote plays and musical comedies. Their personal lives, however, were very different.

Ivy entered the Community of St. Mary, an Episcopal Benedictine order, in 1911 and took life vows at the Motherhouse in Peekskill, New York, on August 18, 1914, taking the name Sister Mercedes. Her novels were published after that, so presumably they would be the property of the community, which was incorporated in New York State on June 17, 1865. She died at the Motherhouse on May 9, 1961.

Guy was born in England, moved to the United States as a child, and spent the rest of his life moving back and forth between England and America. He married four times and had children by three of his wives, but only one daughter survived him. He died in England in September 1979. Both the Social Security Death Index and the Death Index for England agree upon this.

Now the confusion arises. Ivy had a novel published April 21, 1952, which meant that its first term of copyright expired in 1980. There was a renewal filed with the US Copyright Office on December 15, 1980. The claimant was "Guy Bolton, 38 Green Street, London W1, England" claiming as "the next of kin of the deceased author Ivy Bolton there being no probated will." The renewal was charged to the account of Simon & Schuster, and the form was signed by someone there who certified that she was the duly authorized agent of Guy Bolton. (Guy had been dead for over a year.)

So now the questions begin:
  1. Did Ivy own the copyright in the first place, or did it belong to her Community?
  2. Do religious Sisters ever have probated wills?
  3. Does being a person's authorized agent survive the person's death?
  4. And, of course, is this a valid renewal?

Personally, I don't think it is, but I also think I'm going to need help with this one. So I called Kelley Anne Way, the wonderful copyright lawyer that the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust uses, and said, "Kelley, I've got something weird for you...."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Reading and Pronunciation

When I was a child, I thought that cemetery was pronounced cementery. The ones I saw certainly had stones and cement, and I never heard the word pronounced because my father called it "Marlborough Country" (like the cigarette commercials). When I pronounced the G in Long Island, my parents spent me to a speech therapist. They couldn't just tell me that the G was silent?

As I grew up and found friends who read as much as I did, I encountered other people with the same problem: using words we had never heard spoken. If you've never heard salmon or yacht, you're really going to be guessing.

The thing that brings this to mind now is that the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust has just released its first audio book: THE BRASS DRAGON. The narrator is Michael Spence, who has an excellent education; his Bachelor's degree is from Princeton, and he went on to get a PhD. But Marion read everything she could get her hands on from the time she was a child, and her vocabulary is extensive. When I was proofreading THE FALL OF ATLANTIS, I had to look up plangent to make certain it was an actual word and not a typo for something else.

Michael tripped up only once, when he put the accent on the wrong syllable of a word. Fortunately, I spent years listening to Marion talk, so I caught it in the review stage. Our next audio book project, however, is going to be a real challenge. We've just signed an agreement with him for SWORD OF ALDONES. Darkovan names and languages, here we come!

"When in doubt, pronounce it like Spanish or Italian, unless it looks like Gaelic...."
"Maybe we had better set up a conference call...."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Books, Bookshelves, Computers and other storage

I've been a bookworm since I learned to read. For me, most books fall into two categories: read once and donate to the library, or keep and re-read. There's a third category that one of my friends calls "life is too short" for books I don't finish, but that's a small category. (Ann Boleyn was a vampire? Really?)  Prior to the advent of self-publishing and free Kindle books, it was even smaller.

When I moved cross-country in 1979, I sent 49 boxes, 25 of which contained books. I still have most of them. Some are fragile paperbacks kept in a media cabinet away from sunlight, and some are hardcovers kept in a set of barrister's bookcases.

As eBooks became more readily available, I started to shift over to them. I got a Palm PDA to serve as an eReader and replaced it twice as the devices wore out. Then I got a Kindle, a third-generation Kindle when my first one wore out, and an iPod with the Kindle app, which is great for reading in bed (no more having to sneak a flashlight under the covers).

At the moment I'm reading Love on the Run, by Katharine Kerr, which just came out today. I'm also re-reading A Civil Campaign, by Lois McMaster Bujold (I'm going through the Vorkosigan books again) and I've just finished reading Elfhome, which came out at the beginning of July, for at least the fourth time. It's the third book in  a series by Wen Spencer, and I just discovered that she has two short stories set in the same world available for Kindle: Blue Sky, which I've read, and Wyvern, which I'm about to.

One advantage to eBooks is that they don't take up shelf space. They also don't have to be dusted, and they don't get damaged. As long as the company you bought them from stays in business, you can retrieve them years later; lately I've been logging into my account at Baen and clicking "Email book to my Kindle."