Mr Toad's heirs strike it rich

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The Independent Online
The heirs of long-dead favourite British authors are set to receive large-scale royalty payouts following the introduction of European copyright regulations which have given literary classics a new lease of life.

Such masterpieces as J M Barrie's Peter Pan, Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jerome K Jerome's Three Men In A Boat could start attracting publishers' cheques again 20 years after passing out of their original copyright.

Books affected were written by a whole generation of authors who died between 1926 and 1946, and literary agents representing their estates are negotiating with publishing houses.

The authors concerned include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H G Wells, John Galsworthy, Virginia Woolf, D H Lawrence, A E Housman, Lytton Strachey, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce and Beatrix Potter.

The Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations effectively scrap the old British copyright, which lasted until 50 years after an author's death, and replace it with a 70-year copyright based on the German system.

This means that Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, on which copyright ceased eight years ago, will earn money again for Oxford University's historic Bodleian Library until 2004.

"The fund enabled us to purchase rare manuscripts and pay for scholarly publishing, and we are delighted we may now receive some more money towards it," said Joanna Dodsworth, the Bodleian head of marketing and publishing.

"We have no idea how much this might be and our agent is negotiating on our behalf. We are also waiting to hear whether we will receive royalties from an animated cartoon of Wind in the Willows shown on television at Christmas."

Another beneficiary is the National Trust, which was bequeathed the income from Rudyard Kipling's work by his daughter, Mrs Elsie Bambridge, in 1976. Copyright will now run for another 10 years.