I made an important error in my Stanford talk on the unpublished public domain.
I mistated the law in terms of what law governs the term of copyright and when a work passes into the unpublished public domain.
US Copyright law governs, not the law of the author's nationality (whichis the point of attachment to the Berne convention -- this is where I made my error - in haste)
So what this means is that ALL unpublished works if used and published within the US (the elements of copyright are done in the US) follow US COPYRIGHT law -- life + 70.
This is very simple. In a later post, I will discuss what happens for scholars not in the US and how to determine what the term is.
For now, the relevant parts of the law are:
1. Section 104(a) of the 1976 Copyright Act
2. Section 7(8) of the Berne Convention (I'll discuss this in a later post soon).
For those completely lost on what I am saying --
Anything unpublished whose author has been dead for 70 years or more, and that remained unpublished after 2003 is IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. You can use it as you wish.
Exciting! Exciting ! Exciting!
This applies to ALL MATERIALS WORLDWIDE if the work created with the new public domain works is published in the United States. (a play based on the unpublished work, a translation, etc.)
Sometimes getting the law wrong, while personally mortifying, is good in the end -- my initial misstep was much more complicated and not as good for scholarship.
Thank you to Tony Reese, Peter Hirtle,and Paul Goldstein for helping me to sort this out.
I hope this hasn't caused any problem to anyone. Sorry again for the serious error.