Many academic journals provide access to old articles via a digital copy of it (normally a pdf). Sometimes this is through a Third Party (like JSTOR, a database). Many of these articles are already in the public domain, as the author died more than 70 years ago (for the case of works published in the US and UK). The format in which the work was published lost copyright too, as the publication is older than 25 years.

I know that I could go to my local university, get a copy of one of this old journals, scan it and distribute it, without infringing any copyright.

However, if the publisher (directly, or indirectly through a third party) offers a digital copy of the original document, does this count as a new publication? (which means it has 25 years of copyright)

Notice that "digital copy" normally means a high-quality scan, and not a retyping of the original document. Also notice that many times these articles do not come with a "new" publication date. The date of publication remains that of the original article. Thus, it is not clear to me when the new publication date would be, if this is the case.


1 Answer 1


For a direct digital scan, no as there is no creativity involved which is a fundamental requirement to create a copyright work.

If there is some (even a very small some) editorial or layout input so that it is not just a copy, yes. However, the copyright only exists in that part of the derivative work that is original - anyone can still copy the original text.

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