Copyrights are not forever. Typically, a copyright lasts for 50 years past the natural life of the original author. Authors' heirs may sometimes re-apply for copyrights, but generally written texts that are this old are considered “public domain” and may be reproduced without paying the author's family a royalty fee.
In the publishing world, you will find that many publications require that you relinquish your copyrights to the work in return for having your work published. This is a fairly standard procedureunless your name happens to be Stephen King or Danielle Steele. Once you've relinquished your copyright to a given work, you cannot sell or submit that text again unless you get express approval from the publisher that now owns the copyright.
There are sites on the World Wide Web where you can post your work for others to read or use as they see fit, so-called “free sites.” In cases such as this, there should be a disclaimer that anyone who uses or reproduces your work must give you full credit. Whether this happens all the time is certainly a matter for some speculation, but your safeguard is that you own the copyright and if you find that someone is profiting from your work and that you have not been compensated, you can file a copyright infringement suit against them.
An excerpt from Things You Might Like to Know about Copyrights by Jan K. The Proofer
The word encyclopaedia comes from two Greek words meaning "a circle of learning." The oldest known encyclopaedia was written in Greece about 2,000 years ago. It's no longer in existence. The oldest encyclopaedia in existence was written in the 1st century by Roman scholar Pliny the Elder. His encyclopaedia, called Natural History has 37 volumes. The largest ever encyclopaedia is the 17th century Yung Lo Ta Tien encyclopaedia. Written by 2,000 writers, it was bound in 11,100 volumes.
The first volume of Encyclopaedia Britannica was published in 1771, a year after Beethoven was born and 5 years before America declared independence.
The novel has always had the reputation of being light entertainment, almost bordering on the frivolous. Part of the blame for this reputation can be placed on the word novel itself. The word originally derived from the Latin novus, meaning "new." It came to English by way of the Italian word for short story, novella. A novella was a short work of prose fiction that told a new, original story, in contrast to retelling a traditional one.
The story in a novella was meant to be a novelty, a new delight for readers. The readers responded, and today there numerous kinds of novels: romance, spy, Westerns, mystery, detective, gothic fiction, science fiction, historical novels, novels of place, the psychological novel, epistolary novels (in which the story is told through an exchange of letters), the roman à clef (which requires a "key," or supplementary information), the cult novel, the proletarian novel, and the modern antinovel.
The world's first novel was written by a woman
In the year 1007 a Japanese noble woman, Murasaki Shikibu, wrote the world's first full novel. Called "The story of Genji," it tells the story of a prince looking for love and wisdom.
By the Middle Ages there were many novels about kings and heroic knights but in the late 1500s the anti-romance movement took roots and villains became the main characters. The first such novel was "Life of Lazarillo de Tormes", written in 1554 by an unknown author. It is the story of a poor boy who makes his way in the world by tricking his employers.
The antinovel was invented by the French. Antinovel writers insist that traditional novels sketch a false appearance of the world in much the the same way as television soap operas do - or as Murasaki Shikibu did. Instead of creating fantasy plots and characters, antinovelists emphasize the minute details of life and the world.
The author who wrote the most novels ever also is a women. Barbara Cartland wrote 723 novels, which sold more than 1 billion copies in 36 languages, making her the best-selling novelist of all time.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006