I'm writing a non technical book and would like to add a poem in one of my chapters to emphasize an idea. Any work published before 1924 should be safe to use, but since copyright law is just full of lots of gray areas, I was wondering about the following items.
- Can I use something like a poem from Anton Chekhov for example? He wrote his poems before any copyright laws, so logic would dictate it's safe to use (although law and logic don't always mix).
It's not actually a poem from Chekhov, but I'm using him as an example because of the fact he didn't write in English, which gets me to my second item.
- Can an English translation of Chekhov's poems be protected by copyright? My book is written in English so I'll use an English translation. I was unable to identify who translated the poem so can someone claim the rights to the translation? Since it's a translation, it's not actually a new creation, right?
- When large publishers print poem volumes, say some publishing company releases a book with all of Chekhov poems, how do they deal with the copyright? Can they just use the work? Do they now own some sort of rights on Chekhov's work? Does it differ if they publish the original work in Russian or if it's translated?