Need help with copyrights, laws, agents and I don't know. FACTUAL

I found an old type-written story in the trash. It’s a true story and amazing. It really should be heard or read and could even be a movie. The person who wrote it is long dead. I know his name and title and even searched the obits looking for family to find nothing.

What does one do to sell a story one found in the trash? I’ve even been looking for an open mike or something to read it to *somebody / anybody. *

On the other hand I don’t want to just put it out there because I think it has serious potential.

What can I do?

(Yes I’m a shameless dumpster diver and history buff–just to get that out of the way.)

Unpublished, unregistered works are under copyright for the life of the author plus 70 years. Assuming this was unpublished and unregistered, unless the author died before 1942, it’s still under copyright.

ETA: Also assuming you’re in the US.

PDF LINK: If it was published without a copyright notice prior to March 1, 1989, it is public domain in this country and (likely) others.

Not that it’s directly relevant here, but it’s an interesting little fact that puts Night of the Living Dead into the public domain, among a lot of other works.

Thank you.

Are ‘copyrights’ of this type inheritable?

My guess is that it was written on the edge of the beginning of WW2. The author died about 12 years ago.

So I’m conflicted: I want to share this story that I believe I’m the only one aware of but somebody could change a detail or two and claim it and sell it or make a movie from it.

If I tore off the cover page it would be “anonymous” but I would never ever ever do such a thing.

I’d like to hear more. If nothing else it would be New Yorker material or the Moth (sp) Radio Hour. I think the town where this occurred would enjoy it too.

I’m all eyes.

Yes, like any other property they can be inherited.

What you have is an ‘orphan work’, or a work that’s been (presumptively) abandoned by its owner; this doesn’t give you any rights to it, but you might want to Google the phrase to get more information about the situation the work is in.

Yes, but the problem is likely to be that this kind of asset would not be mentioned in the person’s will. So, as a non-lawyer, I would guess that it would go either to the person(s) inheriting the whole estate (if the will left everything to a particular person or group of people), or to the person(s) inheriting the residue of the estate (i.e., what’s left over after specific bequests). If you know who the writer was, you probably have a good idea of who the heirs are – usually it will be a spouse, the children, or the nearest relatives. Talk to them about the copyright.

I think the physical copy is legally yours if you took it from the trash. Presumably this is the only copy, I think this puts you in a good position to buy the rights. The current copyright holder can’t sell the story to someone else if they don’t have a copy.

Well, yeah, I got it. I looked for heirs but couldn’t find any. If I could I’d offer them a percentage of this thing they either don’t care about or know it exists.

There must be a lawyer for this sort of thing not that I can could ever afford one.

And I’m just dying to share this story. I was just searching “open mikes” in NYC. This isn’t the kind of stuff they want.


Really it is GOOD. If you know any agents or anybody send them to this thread.

Basic story line which isn’t enough to demonstrate the poignancy and beauty of this story: NYC Jewish lawyer goes on road trip into middle America and gets into a bad car wreck. Sounds lame putting it that way.