(Unfortunately for non-subscribers this essay is currently behind the paywall.)
The fact that I even had to look this up is a testament to the absurdity of our intellectual property system:
A work that was created on or after January 1, 1978, is automatically protected from the moment of its creation and is ordinarily given a term enduring for the author’s life plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death...
Works Originally Created before January 1, 1978, But Not Published or Registered by That Date
These works have been automatically brought under the statute and are now given federal copyright protection. The duration of copyright in these works is generally computed in the same way as for works created on or after January 1, 1978: the life-plus-70 or 95/120-year terms apply to them as well. The law provides that in no case would the term of copyright for works in this category expire before December 31, 2002, and for works published on or before December 31, 2002, the term of copyright will not expire before December 31, 2047.
Unfortunately, this is still confusing. This work was created by an author who died in 1910. 1910 plus 70 is 1980. So, this work ought to be in the public domain. Therefore it is a disservice that it has been placed behind the New Yorker's pay wall, and you've the right to republish it in full on MemeStreams.
However, this is where it gets odd. The law provides that in no case would the term of copyright for works in this category expire before December 31, 2002. So, its not 1980, its 2002. I guess.
But it gets even more bizarre. If the work was published sometime between 1978 and 2002, apparently the term of copyright would not expire until 2047. Thats lifetime of the author plus 135 years! Presumably because the New Yorker waited until 2008, the copyright expired in 2002, which is lifetime of the author plus 92 years. Doesn't it seem counter intuitive that by waiting to publish this the New Yorker shortened the length of its copyright protection? No less counter intuitive, perhaps, than the notion that intellectual property rights ought to be held for centuries in the first place.
Do we need to get a lawyer in order to find out whether or not we can republish this thing?
RE: The Privilege of the Grave