Cockrill booklets

Travis, myself and Marty Nee have been chatting about the 15 Liberia booklets that Philip Cockrill produced in the late 1970's and early 1980's

These are a useful - and sometimes - unique resource for collectors.
However, there were produced in very limited numbers (I think 200 copies only for some of them) and are becoming increasingly difficult - and expensive - to get hold of (even with Henry Chlanda's recent very generation donations).
Some of us will already have our own personal copies. However, future collectors will almost certainly have difficulty.

The booklets are now out of print as far as we're aware and therefore the legal copyright reverts to the author (Cockrill) and since his death in 2003 to his heirs

The 3 of us have chatted about the options available to LPS and - ideally - we'd like to have digital copies available through LPS as a resource for the future. However, we can't do this legally without permission from the current copyright owner (whoever that is) but we'd appreciate other views - i.e yours!.

The options appear to be (in increasing difficulty and effort):

a) LPS does nothing and individuals do what they can to obtain copies for themselves
b) LPS waits the required 70 years after Cockrills death when legal copyright lapses. However, this takes us up to the year 2074!
c) LPS obtains a physical copy of the 15 booklets and under the copyright principle of "fair use" LPS members can request a copy of selected pages. This would normally be up to 10% of a short book (up to 200 pages long)
This would require Travis/LPS to act as librarian and photocopier.
d) try to trace the copyright owner and request formal legal permission to digitise the booklets for LPS use
There's no guarantee that we could trace who this is
e) trace the copyright owner and with their permission update/revise the Cockrill booklets and make them available through LPS
This would need at least one volunteer to do the editing work

Thoughts and comments?


  • These were copywrited in the UK. So it would take a UK guy to track down all the details of what we can and can't do.

    To me, the thing is, that it is better to re-write these books. So much has changed since 1985, which I think is the last date of publication, which is over 30 years ago.

    I helped re-write booklet 5 of revenues, with the Revenue Society of GB. [It could have been much better IMHO].

    So much more new detailed information, for example on cancel dates, etc is now known. Cockrill basically just wrote these books based on his collection.

    So, I would rather tackle each book separately/individually and update them. but 90% would be Cockrill's original research.
  • Bryant

    I told Travis that I'd try to track down copyright ownership

    However, no success
    I found Cockrill's will (and his wife's) but no mention of the booklets
    Tracked down his lawyer (or rather the company that took over his lawyer's business). They acted as Trustees for Cockrill's estate but again had no record of the copyright

    I agree about updating the booklets but this is a lot of work and I don't see many volunteers rushing forward :|
  • Thanks Mik. This is good information to know.

    It makes sense that they were self-published without a copyright. There is no copywrite notice in any of the books, or a date of publication.

    I think I have a couple references that they were done between 1978 and 85, from memory. He also wrote books on Ethiopia and shipping.
  • Bryant

    If only it were that simple!

    not sure of copyright law in the US but in the UK (where these were published) the situation is clear (I'm in the process of sorting out copyright on some academic works I've had published over the years so I speak from experience).

    The author (and/or publisher) automatically have copyright on their work whether they state this explicitly or not. Just because they don't have a copyright symbol doesn't mean that Cockrill wasn't the copyright owner.
    In the UK copyright is "heritable" - meaning that it's inherited by someone on the death of the author - or remains part of the author's legal Estate - and remains legal for 70 years after the author's death

    Reproduction of this material - including posting on a website - without permission is technically a criminal offence hence the need to get permission if you're going to do anything with them (like update them)
    Unfortunately Cockrill's will - which is incredibly complicated for some reason -
    doesn't specify who inherits this copyright and my feeble efforts haven't found this out either

    The chance of the legal copyright owner finding out and objecting to LPS's use of these booklets is incredibly small but is there

    PS The copyright to "Peter Pan" was left to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London on the death of the author, J.M. Barrie. They must have earned a small fortune with all the films, plays etc

  • I am no lawyer, but I concur with Mik's points on UK copyright. There are exceptions for fair use, including inclusion in learned journals whose purpose is not to make profit, and a fact cannot be subject to copyright (but adopting the choice and scope of information can), but anything beyond inclusions that are a small proportion of the new publication could be problematic (so imagining something where "90% would be Cockrill's original research" got my attention).

    I note Mik's point also about (seeming) absence of volunteers. If we can find a way to progress, I would happily volunteer, and although I am the one who does not know anything, I am sure there would be proof-reading, cross-checking and the like to share.
  • I am no lawyer either, but IMHO it is possible that it's perfectly legal to reuse Cockrill's works in the United States. In the US only US laws apply, not UK laws, and according to US law a copyright notice was required in publications prior to 1989. In other words, in the US Cockrill's booklets published before that date and without copyright notice could be in the public domain. But it would take someone in the US to find out if I am right or not.

    This question reminded me of what happened to Project Gutenberg a few years ago. The project has digitized many German books which are still protected in Germany but are not protected any more under US law, like works of Thomas and Heinrich Mann. No problem under US law. This only became a problem because they made them online available worldwide, including Germany. The German copyright holders found out about that and sued them - in Germany, of course - and in 2018 the court ruled that Gutenberg is not allowed to make these works available IN GERMANY. BTW, it is not clear at all if the German court even had jurisdiction over the matter, but to avoid further trouble, Gutenberg simply decided to geo-block Germany, and they have been doing so ever since. Now Germany has no access to the project at all, while Mann's novels are still legally accessible in the rest of the world. Thanks a lot, S. Fischer! (the publishing house that sued Gutenberg)
  • Is there a lawyer in the LPS!

    you may be right about the US situation

    However, the UK Government has published information about copyright in the US for UK businesses (but remember this is the same UK government that thought Brexit was a great idea!)

    Their information:

    "The USA is a signatory to the Berne Convention on copyright. Under this, each member state recognises the copyright of authors from other member states in the same way as the copyright of its own nationals.

    In the USA, work created on or after 1 January 1978 is protected for:
    the life of the author plus 70 years if the owner is a person
    Registration of copyright is not a legal requirement in the USA
    With unregistered (copyright), you automatically have legal rights over your creation.

    So - not being a lawyer - I'd still assume that Cockrill's heirs have copyright in the US also
  • The copyright notice only stopped being a requirement in 1989, the year the USA signed the Bern treaty. That's why I said "prior to 1989". The booklets we are talking about were all published before that year, weren't they?
  • I believe the last booklet was published in 1985.

    Possibly we can approach the estate for limited-use access of the booklets. We don't want to re-sell them.
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