“Can I publish somebody else’s old journal/diary?”

“Can I publish somebody else’s old journal/diary?”

Q –

Angela,

I am in possession of a journal that was published in the 1940’s. Is something like this publishable?

I.


A –

I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. Please consult with an attorney concerning this situation. That said…

Your first concern should be related to copyright. If you received that journal from someone, or even if you purchased it, you may not own the rights to it. This article has excellent information on this topic:

Who can claim a copyright to old diaries, journals and letters?

Another consideration is libel and invasion of privacy. Even if the journal was written decades ago, if anyone who reads the published edition recognizes themselves, or someone else, and if the person mentioned in the journal believes their rights were violated in any way, the author who published the journal would be legally liable for putting those words in front of the world.

Of course, you could anonymize everything in the book but there’s still a chance somebody, somewhere will recognize something, and know who wrote the book or who that person was writing about.

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