I wrote a math book and published it with a publishing company in Germany. It went out of print after 12 years. The company still holds the rights and does not allow anybody to print or publish it. I talked to them, but they don't see any possibility to make available to the public anymore.

I do not have financial interest in the book - I just want it to be available to gifted students whom it was written for. Do I have any chance to make it available, against the will of the publishing company?

2 Answers 2


The answer will depend on the license you entered into with the publisher. Assuming that he has an exclusive license, there is no way you can publish the same work again against the will of the publisher or his successor. His right under the license will come to an end 70 years after the author or last co-author has passed away.

What you can do is to create a new work that is so distinct that it does not infringe the right of the licensee, the publisher. If the new is original enough, you will have a new copyright.

  • I wonder whether I could be be sued for damages if I e.g. put the PDF of the book on a website. Actually, there are no damages because they don't sell the book anymore, but legally, this might be different... Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 19:10
  • German copyright law allows determination of damages on the basis of a fictitious license under s.97(2) UrhG. The victim, the copyright owner or his licensee, can claim as damages the royalties they would have received, if they had entered into a license contract with infringer. By offering the work to a world-wide audience that would be costly. Commented Mar 30, 2017 at 20:23

You can find any second hand books and distribute them to whoever you please.

You can also approach the publisher and offer to buy back the copyright- they may not have any intention of republishing it but they may not be averse to getting cash for what would otherwise be a worthless asset.

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