University of Texas at Austin

University of Reading WATCH Harry Ransom Center


WATCH is a database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent people in other creative fields. It is a joint project of the Harry Ransom Center and University of Reading Library in England. Founded in 1994 as a resource principally for copyright questions about literary manuscripts held in the U.S. and the U.K., it has now grown into one of the largest databases of copyright holders in the world.

WATCH's research has been supported over the years by the Strachey Trust, the Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society, the British Academy and the Arts Council of England, among others. Since 2003, WATCH has also been recognized by the British Academy with the status of Academy Research Project (ARP).

All individuals and organizations listed as "Contacts" in the WATCH File have indicated that they are the holder of an author's copyright for unpublished material or that they are the holder's representative or contact. All individuals have given written permission to have their names and addresses included in the WATCH File.

The compilers of the database have made no attempt to verify any individual's claim to copyright ownership or representation and cannot therefore be held responsible for any violations of copyright law which may follow use of the WATCH File. Scholars using this list are encouraged to verify such claims themselves before publishing anything on the basis of permissions received from people named in the list. Under no circumstances may addresses from WATCH be compiled, collected or used for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, other than that for which they are intended. The copyright to the WATCH list in its entirety is held by the compilers. Addresses may not be used for mass mailings ("spam") or databases without the express written permission of the individuals listed. All addresses are deemed to be "private."

The compilers are aware that the list may also provide the best available starting-point for researchers seeking information about published works which are still in copyright. The above warnings about verification apply more strongly for such researchers. Researchers in search of contact information for living authors might first try some of the organizations listed in Online Copyright Resources.

U.S. and U.K. Copyright

Occasionally, the compilers have received information that an author's or artist's works are in the public domain. This information is recorded in notes where applicable. Scholars using the WATCH File are reminded that the U.S. Copyright Revision Act of 1976, as amended, accords federal copyright protection to unpublished manuscripts created on or after January 1, 1978, for a fixed term: the life of the author plus 70 years. The "fair use" provision of the law (section 107) does permit limited use of unpublished materials for a number of purposes, including scholarly and research use, but the extent to which an unpublished manuscript may be quoted is not precisely defined.

In the United Kingdom, the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 abolished "perpetual copyright" in unpublished writings but established a transitional period of copyright protection for authors who died before August 1, 1989 until the end of 2039. Thereafter the distinction between published and unpublished writings comes to an end. The situation was further changed by the European Commission directive on copyright duration implemented in the UK from January 1, 1996, which extends copyright in all writings to the life of the author plus 70 years. This means, in effect, that the unpublished papers of any UK author who died up to and including 1969 come out of copyright on January 1, 2040; for an author who died in 1977 the date is January 1, 2048; for an author who died in 1996 it is January 1, 2067; and so on. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 has a "fair dealing" provision which, like its sister U.S. provision, is not precisely defined.

Additional information on the subject of copyright is available as "Quick Guide 1 on Copyright and Moral Rights" from The Society of Authors (84 Drayton Gardens, London SW10 9SB) and from the Locating Copyright Holders document on the WATCH site.

Also found to be helpful are three publications available from Nolo Press, Berkeley, California: Stephen Fishman's The Copyright Handbook: How to Protect & Use Written Works; Fishman's The Public Domain: How to Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More; and Richard Stim's Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off.

Please contact us if you have more current information to offer about a creator's copyright holder or representative.