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Copyright and Dracula

“Dracula” by Hamilton Deane and John L. Dalderston [i.e. Balderston] Two weeks only.

Like many people, I have always enjoyed being scared—just a little—not with chainsaws and blood but a contest of wits between the archetypal vampire Dracula and his human opponents.  Dracula of course is not the first  fictional vampire.   John Polidori, physician to Lord Byron, and Sheridan LeFanu both wrote short stories about vampires in the 19th century:  The Vampyre and Carmilla respectively.  But recently when I was re-reading Dracula, my attention was caught by the contention that Dracula had not been copyrighted in the United States when it was first published.  Since Bram Stoker was a lawyer, I thought: if true, this probably would have given him a greater fright than all the vampires in the world!

Shortly after this claim had aroused my curiosity, I serendipitously made the acquaintance of Rosemary Kelly, head of Records Research & Certification Section of the Copyright Office.  Ms. Kelly urged me to visit the Copyright Reading Room to do my research.  Although I have been with the Law Library of Congress for seven years, I have not worked with Copyright Office resources much, outside of the online Copyright Catalog which contains records of works registered between 1978 and the present.

So I turned to the Copyright Office’s website for information on finding records prior to 1978.   In particular I looked at the information in the Copyright Office’s Circulars 6, 22 and 23.  The information in Circular 23 was of particular importance since it discussed the Copyright Card Catalog which has records beginning in 1870.  This catalog is housed in the Copyright Public Records Reading Room on the fourth floor of the Madison Building.  The Catalog is housed in two rooms and is organized by date.  The oldest records are in the back room which is where I went to begin my research.  I started by looking at entries between 1898-1937 for Book and Authors.  I did not find any entries for “Dracula”; but under “Stoker, Bram” I found three cards, two about the copyright and the third a “requisition” card.  The first card was for the book Dracula with the copyright assigned to Bram Stoker of Dublin, Ireland with the date March 10, 1899.  The second card was also an entry for “Stoker, Bram i.e. Abraham” for the book Dracula as published by Doubleday & McClure of New York.  There was also a handwritten note on the back of this card: it noted that two copies of this book had been received.  The third card, the requisition card, referred to Copy A.  A typed note on the back of this card states that “under the Librarian’s General Order No. 20 the Register of Copyrights is authorized to deliver the first copies or ‘A’ copies of a copyright deposit for transfer to the general collections of the Library of Congress or any division thereof.”  Curiousity aroused, I turned to the Library of Congress OPAC to confirm that the Library does indeed  have a copy of the 1899 edition of Dracula, published by Doubleday & McClure and deposited through Copyright in 1899.  Then relieved from the fear that Dracula had not been copyrighted in the  United States, I was able to return to the tale of the blood-sucking Count!

One Comment

  1. César De Lucas Ivorra
    February 7, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I am César De Lucas Ivorra, I lived in San Juan de Alicante, Spain.
    Drácula, is an historical man that is called Vlad teppes.He was very hard with his enemies, but it´s not sure related to Transilvany, maybe Balaquia, in Romania.Dracul is word that means demond. He lived in an epoch that there was wars in Europe between Christian Kingdons and the Turkish Empire. The batles are very hard in spite of the vapires.

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