I am writing Lovecraftian horror short fiction. I know I can use Lovecraft's material written 1923 and prior. However, I would love to use parts of the genealogy he noted in some of his letters. These letters, and others, were published in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selected_Letters_of_H._P._Lovecraft_IV_(1932%E2%80%931934) in 1976. The letters themselves were written from 1932-1934.

Are these letters considered in the public domain, as unpublished works (by the author) written 88 years ago? If not, when would they enter the public domain?

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    I checked my copy of a volume of the Selected Letters, and there was indeed a copyright notice. Dec 4, 2018 at 22:02

1 Answer 1


Publication after the author's death is still publication. As you can see in this excellent chart this work is copyrighted for 95 years after the publication date under US law. If it had never been published, it would be protected by copyright for 70 years after the death of Lovecraft, the author (a term which has now expired).

However, statements of genealogy would be facts, and as such are not protected by copyright. limited quotes to support those facts would be appropriate in a work of non-fiction, and would normally be permitted as fair use under US law. Such quotes would probably not be appropriate in fiction in any case. The exact wording of the genealogy would probably be protected, but not the relationships (who is the parent of whom, etc).

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    "However, statements of genealogy would be facts" Unless of course the letters were themselves acts of fiction (which is probably the case here) in which "statements of genealogy" related to prior fictional characters would also be fiction.
    – Ron Beyer
    Oct 5, 2018 at 18:55
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    True, @Ron Beyer, but there can be fictional facts, or rather facts about a fiction. For example, the statement that "In JRR Tolkien's Middle-Earth. Aragorn is a descendant of Earendil and thus a many-times great-nephew of Elrond" is a factual statement about a fictional genealogy, and not protected by JRRT's copyright. Oct 5, 2018 at 19:03

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