Mark Twain's autobiography, to be officially published for the first time 100 years after his death is already looking like it's going to be a best seller. The book comes out on November 15th, but it's already near the top of the bestseller lists on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble thanks to pre-orders. If you weren't aware, Twain (real name Samuel Clemens), wrote this autobiography towards the end of his life, but demanded that it not be published until 100 years after his death (some of it, he demanded be withheld for 500 years). Allegedly, he did this so that he could say what he wanted without worrying about the people he spoke ill of ever finding out. And while it's sure to be a hit, the folks putting out the book are claiming a brand spanking new copyright on the work:
Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 Copyright© 2010, 2001 by the Mark Twain Foundation. All Rights Reserved. Transcription, reconstruction, and creation of the texts, introduction, notes, and appendixes Copyright© 2010 by The Regents of the University of California. The Mark Twain Foundation expressly reserves to itself, its successors and assigns, all dramatization rights in every medium, including without limitation, stage, radio, television, motion picture, and public reading rights, in and to the Autobiography of Mark Twain and all other texts by Mark Twain in copyright to the Mark Twain Foundation.I was thinking about this for a bit, and I'm pretty sure the Foundation is (mostly) wrong. According to the handy-dandy copyright term and public domain chart for the US, unpublished works from authors who died before 1940 are in the public domain. That would indicate that most of the work should be in the public domain. Separately, even if we look at the chart for published works, a work published in 2010 is supposed to be granted copyright for 70 years after the death of the author. We're 100 years after the death of the author -- so, again, it should be public domain
I still plan on reading it.