Portrait photograph of Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher in 1981 (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The recent, sad death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has highlighted an odd juxtaposition of international copyright laws. (Yes, this is yet another copyright post.) Her author page received 95 page views on 8th April, which is about the same traffic it usually gets in an entire month. However, the page only links to two works, one of which I have now tagged as a copyright violation (her famous “the lady’s not for turning” conference speech, which is probably under copyright until the early 2080’s).

The somewhat odd situation being highlighted is due to the other work on that page. I transcribed and added it not long ago. It’s a memcon, a memorandum of a conversation, with President Gerald Ford before Mrs. Thatcher became Prime Minister. This document was made available by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, part of the American presidential library system. It is in the public domain because all works by officers of the Federal Government of the United States, made as part of their official duties, are in the public domain under United States law. So, it would appear that the only way to read any of the works of Margaret Thatchers, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, on Wikisource is via the government of the United States of America.

Fortunately, there is also a link to the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website, which does have a complete, online collection of all of her speeches, interviews, etc. So they are not lost or hidden but they aren’t free. It is not necessarily a problem, bar potentially limiting distribution and preventing things like crowd-sourced translation. It is, nevertheless, still a very odd position in which to be.

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