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So a guy wrote a book in 2021 and made loose leaf prints of it and I have one of the loose leaf prints. The book at that time didn't have any copyright attached to it and people were freely photocopying the book and the author was fine with that. However in 2023 he got the book published and now it is copyrighted. Obviously photocopying the published version from 2023 is illegal, but is it legal to continue making photocopies of the original 2021 version? Although I don't have the 2023 version it is probably almost exactly the same as the original with minor changes such as fixing grammar errors.

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    In what country? Under US law, copyright is automatically assigned to the author of any creative work, so the statement that "The book at that time didn't have any copyright attached to it" is incorrect as a matter of US law. Unless the author explicitly provided a license allowing said photocopying, it's still a copyright violation.
    – Ryan M
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 20:48
  • What do you mean by "and the author was fine with [photocopying the 2021 version]." Did he specifically give permission for everyone to make copies, or only for some people to do so? Under what conditions did he allow you to make copies? E.g. did he say "sure, go ahead and makes copies of it for your own personal use." Most likely, the permission he gave to make copies of the 2021 version doesn't apply to the new 2023 version, though, since the publishing house probably has some/all rights in that version.
    – Brandin
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 8:17
  • On the other hand, if "the author was fine with [people making photocopies]" simply means "well, he knows that we photocopied it, but he never told us to stop doing that, and he never tried to DMCA us or sue us, etc." then that wouldn't count as permission; as copyright holder it's your prerogative whether or not to use your rights in a legal sense.
    – Brandin
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 8:24
  • He didn't give explicit permission that we could, but he knew about it and didn't say to not do it. So what Brandin said.
    – Vexcess
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 15:22

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The author holds all the exclusive rights of copyright in the 2021 work, subject to licencing, assignment, or fair use or fair dealing.

The dominant copyright paradigm in the world is the regime established by the Berne Convention and agreed to by 181 of 195 countries in the world.

One of the terms of the Berne Convention is that "enjoyment and the exercise of these rights shall not be subject to any formality" (art. 5(2)). This is known as the principle of "automatic protection."

This principle is reflected in domestic legislation implementing the commitments of the Berne Convention. For example, see Canada's Copyright Act, s. 5. It specifies that copyright subsists "in every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work... if ... in the case of any work, whether published or unpublished, including a cinematographic work, the author was, at the date of the making of the work, a citizen or subject of, or a person ordinarily resident in, a treaty country."

Thus, it is it probably false that "[t]he book at that time didn't have any copyright attached to it." The author holds all the exclusive rights of copyright in the 2021 work, subject to licencing, assignment, or fair use or fair dealing.

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  • "[the 2021 version] didn't have any copyright attached to it", probably OP simply means that the 2021 version didn't contain a copyright notice anywhere in the printed text. But I believe such a notice is not required by the Berne Convention.
    – Brandin
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 8:27
  • @Brandin in fact, the Berne convention requires that law gives the protection without a notice.
    – Trish
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 9:05

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