Newspaper publisher had died, can I use stories I wrote while employed there in a book?

I’m the former sports editor of a newspaper.  I’m writing a book on events that transpired more than 40 years ago.  The publisher of the newspaper has since died.  Can I use stories in my book that I and my sports staff wrote if I give attribution and citation to the newspaper they were originally published in?

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Alasdair Taylor's Answer

I do not have enough information to answer your question , but the following observations (reflecting the law in England and Wales) may help you to answer it:

  • It would likely be helpful to determine who actually owns the copyright. The first owner of the copyright in a work is usually the author, but if the author is an employee acting in the course of his or her employment, then the employer will usually be the owner. Freelance editors, even though not employees, will usually assign copyright to their employing newspaper via their contracts. You should review the contents any contracts you entered into with the publisher to shed light on these points.
  • If the newspaper was legally the individual (now deceased) publisher, and the publisher was the owner of the copyright , then his or her death may have led to the copyright being transferred to another person.  On the other hand, if the business was run via a Ltd company or other corporate entity, then that entity could still be in existence and may yet retain ownership of the copyright.
  • Licences of copyright granted by the copyright owner may also affect the position here.
  • In generally, you can only copy, edit or publish copyright-protected material with the direct or indirect permission of the copyright owner, unless one of the special defences set out in the legislation applies (e.g. one of the fair dealing defences).  I am not 100% clear what sort of “use” you intend to make of the stories.  Some uses will not constitute copyright infringement, and some uses will be protected by a defence.  Attribution / citation may be relevant if you are trying to rely upon the fair dealing defences.

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