Who owns the rights to a lover's poems?

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Question:

Many years ago, several ardent admirers wrote poems about me in wonderful, lusty, funny, romantic, and adoring prose. These were presented to me as gifts, for my amusement and, of course, to gain favor. My question: I would like to print some of these delightful poems. Do I own them, or can I use them only if I give the writers credit? Suppose I can't locate them or they are deceased?

Answer:

Your admirers own the copyrights in the poems and you will need to get their permission before publishing them (unless they transferred the copyrights when they sent the poems -- a decidedly unromantic move, not to mention introducing huge problems in rhyming and cadence). If some of the former suitors have left this world, you would need permission from their estate. For more on permissions, read Getting Permission, by Nolo author Rich Stim.

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