US Copyright on BB

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It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright code to the owner of copyright. These rights, however, are not unlimited in scope. Sections 107 through 120 http://www.loc.gov/copyright/circs/circ92.pdf of the 1976 Copyright Act establish limitations on these rights. In some cases, these limitations are specified exemptions from copyright liability.

NOTE: Before 1978, statutory copyright was generally secured by the act of publication with notice of copyright, assuming compliance with all other relevant statutory conditions. U.S. works in the public domain on January 1, 1978 ( for example, works published without satisfying all conditions for securing statutory copyright under the Copyright Act of 1909) remain in the public domain under the current act.

For information on International and US Copyright Law and Research see:  http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright

  2. BETWEEN JANUARY 1, 1920, AND DECEMBER 31, 1949,
    BUT NOT RENEWED:   Applies to 1st Edition
    If a work was first published or copyrighted between January 1, 1920, and December 31, 1949, it is important to determine whether the copyright was renewed during the last (28th) year of the first term of the copyright.
    This can be done by searching the Copyright Office records or catalogs, as explained above.
    If no renewal registration was made, copyright protection expired permanently on the 28th year date it was first secured.
    Under the Copyright Act of 1909 the ownership of a copyright could only be transferred in whole, and not in part. If the copyright owner assigned anything less than the entire copyright such transfer was only recognized as a license and not an assignment. The owner of the entire copyright was called the "copyright proprietor."
  3. Works Originally Created Before January 1, 1978,

  4. But Not Published or Registered by That Date
    Does not apply to AA literature in question
    Works that were created but not published or registered for copyright before January 1, 1978, have been automatically brought under the statute and are now given Federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these works will generally be computed in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-50 or 75/100-year terms will apply to them as well.
  5. Works Originally Created

  6. and Published or Registered Before January 1, 1978
    Manuscript, 2nd Edition
    Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on the date a work was published or on the date of registration if the work was registered in unpublished form. In either case, the copyright endured for a first term of 28 years from the date it was secured. During the last (28th) year of the first term, the copyright was eligible for renewal.
The Copyright Act defines publication as follows:
Publication is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale** or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.
For works first published on and after March 1, 1989, use of the copyright notice is optional, though highly recommended. Before March 1, 1989, the use of the notice was mandatory on all published works. Otherwise Copyright was permanently gone.
* * *

The copyright for the First Edition of "Alcoholics Anonymous" 
was registered April 1, 1939.

No renewal was made, thus it is public domain since end of 1967 However, this affects one story in the back of the book only (Lone Endeavor). All other chapters and stories were already public domain, because of publication without copyright notice 3 months earlier.

The 2nd Edition copyright was registered 1955.
Published: [N.Y., N.Y.] : Alcoholics Anonymous, [1946]- .
LC Call No.: HV5275 .A53
Author: [W., Bill]
Title: Alcoholics Anonymous; the story of how many
thousands of men and women have recovered from alcoholism.
Published: New York, Alcoholics Anonymous Pub., 1955.
LC Call No.: HV5275 .W15 1955

No renewal was made, thus it is public domain since end of 1983 


[Comment: ]
The underlined sentence "to act as though it were still in force" is shocking,
because it is a command to be dishonest.

Anyhow it was executed by AA General Service Offices in
Sweden and
Finland and
probably elsewhere.
Attorneys were paid with money from the 7th Tradition basket. This money is dedicated for 12th step work only. In Mexico --after an public controversy-- one AA member was sentenced by court to one year of prison under the accusation of "copyright infringement". These events were not caused by spiritual AA principles but by the desires paid AA leaders have for money, property and prestige. The plaintiffs produced evidence to the Mexican court, that the sole author of AA literature in dispute was the then General Manager of AAWS NY, Mr. Parks W. Without such lie under oath the defendant could not have been sentenced. It will be surprising for you to see in the files of the Mexican Copyright office, that he and nobody else wrote the whole big book and even the pamphlet "The Twelve Traditions - How they developed, by Bill W." See ../mex/index.htm for details.

The Original Manuscript (pre-publication, multilith draft) of the Big Book was published and sold for $3.50 in January 1939 and later without any copyright notice and without copyright registration. It was mandatory to have such notice on each and every copy of the book. Even a stamp "loan copy" could not legally replace the requested copyright notice. GSO archives NYC sell photocopies of this pre-publication for $12 since 1978. Non of them has a copyright notice on it.

An established Copyright lawyer in the U.S. wrote recently: In response to your question regarding publication of a work in the United States under the 1909 Copyright Act without notice, please be advised that this would inject the work into the public domain. Affixation of the notice to publicly distributed copies was a condition to copyright protection under the 1909 Copyright Act and also under the 1976 Copyright Act prior to march 1, 1989 when the amendments became effective to conform to the Berne Convention. As a general rule, and as AAWS lawyer Cynthia Clarke Weber agreed in a legal opinion submitted to the courts -- copyright protection was forfeited if the notice was not affixed.

Section 10 of the 1909 Copyright Act provided that "[a]ny person entitled thereto by this title may secure copyright for his work by publication thereof with the notice of copyright required by this title; and such notice SHALL be affixed to each copy thereof published or offered for sale in the United states by authority of the copyright proprietor, ..."

Thus our main book was public domain from the very start...


It is possible, that a work looses copyright protection in the U.S. after, say 28 years, i.e. if the copyright owner forgets to apply for renewal. Despite that such book may still protected in other countries. This depends on the laws of such country. But a book, which never acquired any copyright protection and was public domain from the very start cannot be protected anywhere worldwide. This is the case with the Big Book. By intention it was not copyrighted when first published and distributed (about 400 copies January 1939). There was no need for copyright, because copyright was used to protect profits from exclusive book sales. The purpose of the book was unselfish help and not profits. Our book "Pass it on"  on page 195 reports Ruth Hock said: "The motive, always, was to help the Fellowship, their original idea was to begin giving the books away as soon as possible."

For further information about the limitations of any of these rights, consult the copyright code or write to the Copyright Office.

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