Numismatic and History Discussions > Books and References

BMC Cyrenaica by Robinson

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PtolemAE:
Most of the BMC Greek volumes are old enough to have been reprinted and/or put online as scans. The book by Robinson on coins of Cyrenaica was published later, in 1927, and searching online doesn't seem to turn it up in electronic form. Not sure if that volume is old enough to have been freely reprinted. Looking to find one for some research - maybe to borrow one or buy a copy if someone has a spare or unwanted one.
Thank you,
PtolemAE

Virgil H:
I believe books from 1927 will enter public domain in January, 2022 or 2023, in the United States, but the laws are confusing and I can't remember if it is 95 or 96 years. In Britain, it is 70 years after author's death. I assume this was published in the UK. Reprints totally complicate this and it looks like Robinson was reprinted in the 60s, plus BMC might be the author/publisher of record versus Robinson (or the re-printer). If it is the same Robinson, he died in 1976, so we may be looking at 2046. I am willing to bet that US online publishers ignore laws of other countries, which is why we see stuff that would not be allowed in the UK on US sites. This is a super complicated area, I have looked into it before as an artist who has had stuff ripped off online, if you can't find it online, there has to be a reason because plenty of things that legally should not be are online. A book like this should be pretty darn close to being legally available. I am surprised BMC hasn't made it available.

Regards,
Virgil

esnible:
The 1960s reprint by Forni was probably an unofficial Italian reprint, and does not affect copyright status.

Everything Virgil said is true.  We don't know if the BMC Greek volumes were "works for hire".  If so, the term is perhaps 95 years, and BMC Cyrenaica comes out of copyright in 2023.

The coins themselves were made 2000 years ago, and out of copyright.  Under the Bridgeman decision, the plates are probably derivative works of the coins and in public domain.

I have a copy of the Forni reprint if anyone wants to scan it.  It would be preferable to scan the plates of the original, but those are quite scarce!

There is also the question of "Moral rights".  I suspect E.S.G. Robinson's ghost would approve of this work continuing to be made available.  If the BM was still making money off reprints it might be different.

Virgil H:
Esnible,
Interesting points, I never really thought about the derivative works thing. Most photos I have seen of items in a museum have had copyrights attached unless specifically in the public domain (whether enforceable or not). Even most items in the public domain are only allowed if no money is made from them (which can be a super grey area). I always assumed that the photograph itself is what is copyrighted. This is a big issue for anyone who wants to publish pictures of art and other objects made long ago. Add to that the fact not everyone is allowed to take photos in a museum and the really good photos are usually made in arrangement with the museum because the displays are often very hard to get a decent photo from without removing them and setting up the photo or they are photographed when the museum is closed. The whole subject is full of unfair practices, while I guess trying to be fair. If I were Robinson, I would be fine with publishing the book. The entire topic is crazy if you look at it. That said, the original plates are totally different than a modern photo of the coins and should really be available by now.

Regards,
Virgil

esnible:
I've thought about this a lot.  Many years ago I was putting together a collection of BMC plates.  http://snible.org/coins/bmc/ .  My idea was to make a print-on-demand book with all of the plates, SNG style.  This was long before Google Books, when a set of BMC cost $2000 and there was no acsearch org coinarchives.

Unfortunately I was trying to do it in my spare time, and on the cheap, and I ran out of spare time!

426 Kyrene coins in the BM collection are online.  (There are probably Barke coins too, I didn't count them.). Here is a query to see them:
https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/search?place=Cyrene&material=metal&object=coin&image=true&view=grid&sort=object_name__asc&page=1

It would be interesting to recreate the BMC Cyrenaica plates with these modern pictures.  Or make a new arrangement to tell the story of the coinage.  Would it be legal?

For the argument that ordinary scans and photos of ancient coins and old paintings can't be copyrighted, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgeman_Art_Library_v._Corel_Corp .  It's a controversial argument.  I am sure the photographer is proud of the pictures and has skills.  It is unclear if the British Museum can use copyright law to gatekeep the public's reuse of ancient art.

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