Answered By: Alyssa Mitchell Last Updated: Jul 07, 2020 Views: 9302
According to current U.S. copyright law, items published before 1923 are in the public domain. Specifically for Agatha Christie's works, this means that only 2 of her novels are in the public domain. They are The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) and The Secret Adversary (1922). The rest of her novels will enter the public domain between the years 2019 and 2073. This is based on current copyright law that states that the copyright term on a work will expire 95 years after publication date.
- But Christie was not American, she was British. As the United States recognizes copyright of works by foreign authors (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uruguay_Round_Agreements_Act#Copyright_restorations ), British copyright law would apply, both in Britain and the US, doesn't it? But in Christie's case, perhaps the following note (9) on the Cornell website would put that argument away: "Works that were simultaneously published abroad and in the US are treated as if they are American publications." It seems (according to the British Library Catalogue) that the mentioned books were published by a publisher, John Lane, who was based both in London and New York, although that does not necessarily mean that the books were actually published in both countries simultaneously. For example, is a separate edition with American spelling needed for this?
- @Bram van Reemst - The information you have from Cornell is correct. As long as the book was registered or published in the United States, the author's country of origin does not play a part in determining the copyright length. Once it has been registered in the U.S. or published by an American branch of an international publisher, the U.S. copyright law is applied to the title as it is essentially viewed as an American publication at that point. So for Agatha Christie, even though she is a British author, since her books were published both in the U.K. and the U.S., a few of her books are in the U.S. public domain already since the copyright term has expired in the U.S. while in the U.K. the copyright term will not expire until 2047. I hope that helps!