Can I Publish My Dead Friend’s Manuscript? No!

Can I Publish My Dead Friend’s Manuscript? No!


I have a manuscript, but am not the author. The author gave me the manuscript personally many years ago but without any written permission. His wish was just to somehow get it published. To make the matter worse, he was a resident of a foreign country and it was there he handed me the manuscript. He is now already deceased for several years. In this case, what should I do in order to prove that I am the rightful holder of the publishing rights, or at least some sort of representative? I do not expect to make any money off the book for myself. If there will be any income from it, it will be spent on worthy causes that the work’s topic is closely related to. I would really appreciate your suggestions and/or recommendations.

Thank you,


P.S. I will not be publishing it under my own name. Of course the author will be the original author and the publisher will be my nonprofit organization and another nonprofit that may potentially finance the publication.

I am not an attorney and this isn’t legal advice.

In my opinion, in the absence of a written contract from the author, giving you all rights to his manuscript, you will need to approach his heirs. His legal heirs will likely be recognized as the owners of his assets (which include his manuscript), and they will need to assign all rights to you. If you can’t prove you own it, you can’t publish the book. If this wasn’t required, anybody who was given a manuscript by an author to read could then publish that manuscript after the author died. Of course, that would not be right.

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