Peter Hirtle just sent the following request to the A&A list, and I thought it was worth re-posting here for those who haven’t seen it. An interesting question, isn’t it?
For reasons that are explained at the Law Library Blog, I have tried to figure out what is the oldest copyrighted work in the US. My best guess is that it is John Adams’s diary from 1753, currently in the possession of the Vermont Historical Society and first published in 1966. Copyright in the diary is owned by the Massachusetts Historical Society, and will last through 2061, for a total of 309 years of protection.
I’d be interested to learn whether anyone can think of a copyright owner who has rights in any work that is earlier, or if there is an earlier published Adams manuscript of which I am not aware.
Please pass this question along to other communities who might be able to help answer the question.