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Top > Publications > NDL Newsletter > No. 201, August 2015

National Diet Library Newsletter

No. 201, August 2015

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Guide to finding an author's year of death

Ryonosuke TANAKA
Humanities, Maps, Rare Books and Old Materials Division
Reader Services and Collections Department

This article is a translation of the article in Japanese in Biblos No. 67 (January 2015).

Contents

1. Introduction

When providing copying services or digitizing library collections, librarians must often verify an author's year of death in order to determine the duration of copyright protection, which according to the Copyright Law of Japan extends for fifty years following the death of the author. In response to numerous inquiries regarding an author's year of death, the National Diet Library has created a web guide "How to search for an author's year of death" on Research Navi and has also prepared a printed pathfinder for visitors to the library. This article presents an introduction to several of the tools that are useful in such searches. (Please note that most of the reference material below is in Japanese.)

2. Searching via the Internet

2.1 Japanese authors
(1) NDL-OPAC

An author's year of death is often noted in the author heading of the bibliographic information.

(2) Web NDL Authorities (in Japanese)

Authority data author headings are searchable in NDL-OPAC. Searches can be made using kanji, kana, or the Roman alphabet (Romanized according to JAPAN/MARC MARC21 format (PDF: 212KB).

Image of the top page of Web NDL Authorities: Search box is on the upper left
<<The search box is in the upper left of the Web NDL Authorities top page.>>

(3) National Diet Library Digital Collections

The status of copyright protection for each item is shown in the Access Restrictions field of the left-hand column on the Metadata tab. Please refer to the Site Policy page of the NDL website for explanations of messages.

(4) Aozora Bunko (in Japanese)

Writers whose works are in the public domain are listed in Japanese syllabary order on the following page:
トップページ > 資料 > 著作権が消滅した作家 (Top page > information > writers whose copyrights have expired)

2.2 Non-Japanese authors
(5) Library of Congress Online Catalog
(6) Explore the British Library (online catalog of the British Library)

An author's year of birth and death are often noted in the author heading of online catalogs at the Library of Congress, the British Library, or other national libraries.

(7) VIAF (Virtual International Authority File)1

Name authorities of authors often include an author's year of birth and year of death.

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3. Searching reference works

(8) 『人物レファレンス事典 明治・大正・昭和(戦前)編 (Biographical reference dictionary: Meiji, Taisho and pre-war Showa)』[NDL call no.: GB12-G5] (approx. 47,000 persons)

General index to Japanese persons of the Meiji, Taisho, and pre-war Showa period (from the latter 19th century to 1945) in 72 major biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias. Years of birth and death are included.

(9) 『人物レファレンス事典 郷土人物編 (Biographical reference dictionary: Local persons)』 [NDL call. no.: GB12-J8, GB12-J9] (approx. 93,000 persons)

Index by prefecture to persons in 111 biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias that are not included in item (8).

(10) 『外国人物レファレンス事典 20世紀 (Biographical dictionary of foreign persons: 20th century)』[NDL call no.: GK2-G10] (approx. 65,000 persons)

Index to non-Japanese persons in biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias corresponding to items (8) and (9). The year of birth and death are shown for each source. Searching by Japanese syllabary is also available if the original spelling of a name is not known.

(11) 『CD現代日本人名録 物故者編 1901-2000 (Biographical dictionary of modern Japanese persons 1901-2000 in CD-ROM)』[NDL call no.: YH231-1467] (approx. 97,000 persons)

Includes information on Japanese persons who died during the 20th century. Searching by Japanese syllabary or place of birth is available.

(12) 『明治過去帳 : 物故人名辞典 (Book of persons who died during the Meiji period: Biographical dictionary of the deceased)』[NDL call no.: GB13-E19] (approx. 21,000 persons)

Biographical information of persons who died during the Meiji period (mid-19th to the beginning of 20th century) based on data from newspapers, the official gazette, and tombstones around the country.

(13) 『大正過去帳 : 物故人名辞典 (Book of persons who died during the Taisho period: Biographical dictionary of the deceased)』[NDL call no.: GB13-30] (approx. 4,000 persons)

Biographical information of persons who died during the Taisho period (early 20th century) based on data from newspapers. Searching by name is available using an index that follows the table of contents.

(14) 『人物物故大年表 日本人編 (Major chronology of the deaths Japanese persons)』[NDL call no.: GK2-H15 (vol. 1: Ancient times to 1945), GK2-H16 (vol. 2: 1946-2004)] (vol.1: approx. 55,000 persons, vol.2: approx. 56,000 persons)

Includes native Japanese, naturalized Japanese, and other persons with a strong connection to Japan, who died prior to 2005. Content is arranged by year, month, and day of death as well as an index of names at the end of each volume.

The above resources are general biographical dictionaries, primarily of people who have died. Specialists in certain fields also appear in encyclopedias of that field. (Please refer to 5. Example of searching an author's year of death.)

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4. Searching newspaper articles (obituaries, etc.)

The duration of copyright protection can be verified by looking at articles published during an author's lifetime as well as at obituaries or news articles reporting an author's death.

4.1 Online newspaper databases2
(15) Yomidas Rekishikan (The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper)

Starting with the first issue from November 1874

(16) Kikuzo II Visual (The Asahi Shimbun newspaper)

Starting with the first issue from 1879

(17) MAISAKU (The Mainichi Newspapers)

Starting with the first issue from 1872

4.2 Newspaper articles index
(18) 『朝日新聞人名総索引 (General biographical index of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper)』[NDL call no.: UP58-H1 (vol.1) to UP58-H5 (vol.5)]

Index to personal names in Asahi Shimbun newspaper articles from July 1912 up to December 1992.

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5. Example of searching for an author's year of death

Here is an example of how we search for an author's year of death at our Division. A patron wished to find the year of death for Mr. Shigeo HATANAKA, former chief editor of Chuo Koron (a monthly Japanese magazine). Chuo Koron is a high-profile magazine, so we expected to find the information in at least one of the above reference books or databases. The actual search, however, was not as easy as we expected. We found articles about Mr. Hatanaka using (8) and (19), but the year of death was not included.

Taking his status as a former chief editor of Chuo Koron as a starting point, we searched biographic dictionaries related to publishing and journalists, and finally found the year of death (December 12, 1998) in 『出版文化人物事典 (Biographic dictionary of publishing culture)』[NDL call no.: UE2-L1]3.

As seen above, searching the year of death is often complicated, but knowing an individual's professional affiliations or place of birth helps increase the probability of finding the information.

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6. Tools for searching for contact information for copyright holders

In principle, copying or digitizing a work under copyright requires permission from the copyright holder (author or inheritor). So we often need to find contact information for the copyright holder.

(19) 『文化人名録 (Biographies of cultural leaders)』 (another name:『著作権台帳 (Copyright register)』) [NDL call no.: GB13-G12]

Authors' works, biography, and contact information for the copyright holder are included. This work ceased publication with the 26th edition [NDL call no.: GB13-G12] in 2001 for the printed version and with 『著作権台帳CD-ROM』[NDL call no.: YH231-2516] in 2002 for the CD-ROM version.

(20) 『文芸年鑑 (Literary yearbook)』 [NDL call no.: Z42-41]

A list of various cultural figures and a list of copyright inheritors are included at the end the book.

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  1. Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) is a system for receiving authority data from national libraries around the world to identify an authority record for the same individual or organization and link to each other. Refers to Bibliographic Control Section, Acquisitions Administration and Bibliographic Control Division "International distribution of authorities―participation in the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) (2)" NDL Bibliographic Information Newsletter (in Japanese), 2013(1), March 2013.
  2. The NDL subscribes to these databases.
  3. The duration of copyright is calculated from January 1st of the year after the year in which an author died (Article 57 of the Copyright Law).

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