Policy on out-of-print books and electronic copies

Are there any Gregg Simplified dictionaries that are still in print? So far all I have found are used copies off of Amazon that were printed in the 50’s. I purchased two of them and am planning to have one turned into a PDF. Although it kills me to sacrifice a book that has lasted nearly 60 years, such a conversion will make it more portable and durable.

If this book is out of print, does anyone know if I can legally distribute it? I would be more than happy to share but don’t want to cross any legal boundaries. Does anyone know if it is still under copyright?

(by Erik for group greggshorthand)

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  1. Below is a summary of U.S. copyright laws related to what you are asking:

    Just because a book is out of print does NOT mean that it is not copyrighted.

    Books published before 1923 are in the public domain.

    Books published in the U.S. from 1923 through 1963 required a copyright renewal during the 28th year after publication to avoid falling into the public domain on January 1st of the 29th year.
    Less than 10% of all books published from 1923 through 1963 were renewed during the 28th year, so they fell into the public domain.

    If a book was originally published in the United States prior to 1989 without a valid copyright notice appearing on the copyright page, that book immediately entered the public domain upon publication. (There are a few exceptions that would not likely apply to Gregg Books.)

    Books published outside the U.S. after 1923 are not in the public domain, even if they lack a valid copyright notice or were not renewed with the U.S. copyright office during the 28th year after publication. (There are many more details about foreign books, too numerous to describe here.)

    Careful research of copyright records shows that McGraw Hill did NOT renew the copyrights during the 28th year for MOST pre-Anniversary Gregg Shorthand Books. Only a few pre-Anniversary titles show up in the copyright office renewal records. However, MOST Anniversary Gregg Shorthand books were renewed and will not be in the public domain for many years.

    Here are some guidelines for those who want to strictly adhere to U.S. copyright regulations:
    –Do not distribute any Anniversary Gregg books, unless they lack a valid copyright date on the copyright page. For example, the Gregg novels with plates by Winifred Kenna Richmond lack a valid copyright.

    –Most pre-Anniversary books published 1923 or later can be distributed because they were not renewed in the 28th year, but check the copyright database books on Google Books for the few exceptions.

  2. Thanks for the info, it at least gives me somewhere to start. I did a search on the Google Books copyright database but all I can find is a reference to a copyright in 1974 of the "Gregg Shorthand Dictionary" with no reference to Simplified, so I don't know if it is the same book. Link for search: Google Books

    The one I have is copyright 1949, so it would fall under that grey area of needing to be explicitly renewed. The title is "Gregg Shorthand Dictionary Simplified" and the ISBN number is 07-024547-9 if anyone is willing to point me in the right direction or help me find out what the copyright status is.

    EDIT: Used text for the link to make the post easier to read

  3. Thank you all for the feedback and the links. It would have been nice to be able to share it and keep the book alive in electronic format, but I will err on the side of caution.

  4. Yes, my 1916 version has b-t for "better" and "withdrew" is just i-th-d. Sounds like they made some of those changes in my 1916 version. It still has "gulf" in the reverse curve paragraph. I don't remember where I got my pdf of the 1916 version. It's the only one of the first three manuals that I don't have a hard copy of. I'm actually happy referring to my Anniversary hard copy when I need a quick reference. Maybe if I ever get a kindle I'll be able to access my 1916-19 manual just as quickly, although I'm not sure that it would look that much better. The 1916 does have a great selection of brief forms and useful words and phrases in general. I'm a big fan of the 'tr' principle, so I refer to the 1916 manual a lot for that.

  5. Speaking of the 1919 edition, be aware that even though the 1916 and 1919 manuals are essentially the same, there were some changes made in a few outlines and a slightly different preface was written, and whether your particular book contains those changes depends on the year of printing.

    If you compare the online versions of these manuals from Google Books and Andrew's site, you will find that the 1919 manual has a different preface. In terms of the theory, there are these changes:

    1. The word "better", which had an ending reversed circle in the 1916 manual, had the circle removed in the 1919 edition, becoming just b-t.
    2. On paragraph 94, section (a), discussing omission of vowels between two reversed curves, they replaced the word "gulf" with "across" in the 1919 manual (which, incidentally, does not belong in that rule, because it does not have a vowel between the k and the r!).
    3. The outlines for "expire" and "myself" were rewritten for clarity.
    4. The outline for "withdrew" on page 152 does not end with the oo-hook in the 1919 edition.

    However, some printings of the 1916 manual have the outline edits of the online 1919 edition. For example, my copy of the 1916 manual, printed in April 1917 has the online 1919 manual changes. Andrew's online version appears to have been published in January 1928, just after the Anniversary manual. So my theory is that my copy of the 1916 manual and the online 1919 manuals are the "original" pre-anniversary, whereas the online 1916 version printed later was one with proposed changes. Confusing? Yes, but interesting nevertheless.

    If anyone finds other differences, post them here.

  6. Interesting. Could you check the printer code on the back of the title page of the pdf of your 1916 manual and post it? The printer code is a specific letter-number combination: one letter+two digit number, like D56. I wonder when your electronic version was published.

  7. I53 is September 1925.

    The 1919 Google online manual was published in September 1920 (H5a). Hence, the outline substitution in paragraph 94 (putting "gulf" instead of "across") was done first, as it is obvious that "across" is in error for that paragraph. That makes sense. The other changes were done after the Anniversary manual came.

    Here is Paul's post regarding printer codes.

  8. The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More [Paperback]
    Stephen Fishman J.D. (Author) 2012

    The latest edition of this book will tell you everything you need to know about U.S. Copyright law. It is a Nolo book. Nolo creates legal books for the general public. So it is easy to read and understand if you are not a lawyer.

    It is available on Amazon in paperback or as a Kindle book.

  9. I believe that it is a "non-issue" for people on this sight to share digital copies of out-of-print books, because no one is making a profit–there isn't so much as an ad-link here, and because it is being used for educational/research purposes. No one even realistically expects that someone would use Gregg Shorthand for money-making purposes in a career. (But, hey, some of us may surprise "them" sometime. :-)) So, I'm pretty sure it falls under the fair-use and scholarly research clauses. Add to that the fact that the bulk of the documents of this group are inaccessible to non-joiners. Maybe I'll have time to hunt up more about this later, if someone else doesn't do it first.

    1. I ran across this excerpt this morning posted on a website's resource page:

      The United States Copyright Law, Title 17 of the United States Code, Circular 92, Chapter 1, §107. states:

      … the fair use of a copyrighted work … for purposes such as … teaching …, scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. … for nonprofit educational purposes; ….

      The full section reads:

      "§ 107 . Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use40

      Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

      (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

      (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

      (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

      (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

      The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors."


  10. Legally, out-of-print has no bearing on it. Nor does whether the distributor makes money on it.

    Many authors complain about this. When a new book comes out, they want to push their earlier books — and if the publisher doesn't print more, they're stuck. (Note to aspiring authors: Always put a time limit on any agreement. Harlequin does "as long as the book is still making money," and guess who decides the definition of "still making money".)

    Schools have to pay for copies of the books they use — and that's clearly educational. Most text book and encyclopedia companies would be out of business otherwise. Limiting access to members of the group makes it harder for their lawyers to find it, and might reduce the penalty, but it's still against copyright.

    Educational and fair-use refer to excerpts, not entire texts. (Oh, the joy of spending $150 for the Chemical Engineers' Handbook. 80% of their market is students. Plus the texts that showed us how to use the tables in the handbook.)

    I'm not too worried. We're small fish. However, if they let us small fish get away with it, the big fish will claim it's not fair.

    1. That's one of the reasons I haven't posted anything book-related from the Simplified or later series — only the occasional Today's Secretary article. Those books are still available, plus I don't want to deal with the issue of copyright.

      However, going back to the original post, I don't see a problem in scanning your own books since you already have a copy, as long as it is for your own use.

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