Copyright Expiry

Future Orwell works at risk from poor quality edits and illegitimate prints when copyrights expire in 2020



September 4th 2019. The expiration of copyright on George Orwell’s extensive body of work next year could lead to “poor quality editions and dubious editing” of future publications of his novels, the chair of the Orwell Society has warned.

With the 70th anniversary of George Orwell’s death in January 2020, works including Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm will be released from UK copyright restrictions forcing publishers to seek permissions and satisfy other legal requirements before they reproduce them.

This has raised concerns that the relaxing of restrictions could be exploited by unscrupulous publishers and online booksellers seeking to misrepresent or editorialise Orwell’s works, many bootlegged and pirated editions of which are already known to be in circulation around the world.

Commenting on the rise of incidences of spurious editing and fake texts for a feature in the New York Times in August, Bill Hamilton, agent for the Orwell Estate at A.M. Heath said: “Once a week a counterfeit pops up. When will a company like Amazon take responsibility for the curation of the products passing through their hands?”

Professor Richard Keeble, chair of the Orwell Society and Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln, said: “We recognise the end of the copyright period, but we hope that those who take advantage of it will not exploit it with poor quality editions and dubious editing.”

“The stories we have heard of pirate editions even while the works are in copyright has not filled us with hope. Orwell’s writing has a huge presence in popular culture, and is already widely misused for political gains, especially on social media, either with fake quotations or real quotations applied in ways that Orwell didn’t intend them.”

The Orwell Society is calling on future publishers of his writing to be rigorous in respecting the original texts, and the major body of work that has gone into compiling and editing the vast collection of essays, letters, poetry, diaries and newspaper articles written by and about Orwell while he was alive. These works, including forewords, introductions and edits are still covered by copyright law.

Professor Keeble said: “We want to see enhanced value in new editions of our favourite author. What this can’t be allowed to do is spoil the recognition of the work of those who have contributed so much since Orwell’s death, especially his editors. There has to be proper recognition for those people.”


For all media enquiries, including to arrange an interview with members of the Orwell Society committee, please contact:

Benedict Cooper, publications officer for the Orwell Society: or 07973 943 246.

Uploaded 3rd September 2019


One thought on “Copyright Expiry

  1. I understand the concern but thinking back on my reading history, the horribly abridged Classics Illustrated comic book series I thought quite wonderful … Caesar’s Commentaries, Treasure Island Moby Dick, The Red Badge of Courage with happy ending…and I think and hope the intent and gold will rise to the surface in any future versions of Orwell’s work


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