| 1 This
chart was first published in published in Peter B. Hirtle, "Recent
Changes To The Copyright Law: Copyright Term Extension," Archival
Outlook, January/February 1999. This version is current as of
1 January 2005. The most recent version is found at http://www.copyright.cornell.edu/training/Hirtle_Public_Domain.htm.
The chart is based in part on Laura N. Gasaway's
chart, "When Works Pass Into the Public Domain," at <http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm>,
and similar charts found in Marie C. Malaro, A Legal Primer On
Managing Museum Collections
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998): 155-156.
useful copyright duration chart by Mary Minow, organized by year, is
found at <http://www.librarylaw.com/DigitizationTable.htm>.
A "flow chart" for copyright duration is found at <http://www.bromsun.com/practice/copyrights/copyright_durations.html>.
See also Library of Congress Copyright Office. Circular 15a, Duration
of Copyright: Provisions of the Law Dealing with the Length of
Copyright Protection (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 2004)
2 All terms
of copyright run through the end of the calendar year in which they
would otherwise expire, so a work enters the public domain on the first
of the year following the expiration of its copyright term. For
example, a book published on 15 March 1923 will enter the public domain
on 1 January 2019, not 16 March 2018 (1923+95=2018).
Unpublished works when the death date of the author is not known may
still be copyrighted, but certification from the Copyright Office that
it has no record to indicate whether the person is living or died less
than 70 years before is a complete defense to any action for
infringement. See 17 U.S.C. §
Presumption as to the author's death requires a certified report from
the Copyright Office that its records disclose nothing to indicate that
the author of the work is living or died less than seventy years
was not explicitly defined in the Copyright Law before 1976, but the
1909 Act indirectly indicated that publication was when copies of the
first authorized edition were placed on sale, sold, or publicly
distributed by the proprietor of the copyright or under his authority.”
all published works are copyrighted. Works prepared by an officer
or employee of the United States Government as part of that person's
official duties receive no copyright protection in the US. For
much of the twentieth century, certain formalities had to followed to
secure copyright protection. For example, some books had to be
printed in the United States to receive copyright protection, and
failure to deposit copies of works with the Register of Copyright could
result in the loss of copyright. The requirements that copies
include a formal notice of copyright and that the copyright be renewed
after twenty eight years were the most common conditions, and are
specified in the chart.
1961 Copyright Office study found that fewer than 15% of all registered
copyrights were renewed. For books, the figure was even lower:
7%. See Barbara Ringer, "Study No. 31: Renewal of Copyright"
(1960), reprinted in Library of Congress Copyright Office. Copyright
law revision: Studies prepared for the Subcommittee on Patents,
Trademarks, and Copyrights of the Committee on the Judiciary, United
States Senate, Eighty-sixth Congress, first [-second] session.
(Washington: U. S. Govt. Print. Off, 1961), p. 220. A good guide
to investigating the copyright and renewal status of published work is
Samuel Demas and Jennie L. Brogdon, "Determining Copyright Status for
Preservation and Access: Defining Reasonable Effort," Library
Resources and Technical Services 41:4 (October, 1997):
323-334. See also Library of Congress Copyright Office, How to investigate
the copyright status of a work. Circular 22. [Washington, D.C.:
Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 2004]. The Online Books
Page FAQ, especially "How Can I
Tell Whether a Book Can Go Online?" and "How Can I
Tell Whether a Copyright Was Renewed?", is also very helpful.
following section on foreign publications draws extensively on Stephen
Fishman, The Public Domain: How to Find Copyright-free Writings,
Music, Art & More. (Berkeley: Nolo.com, 2004). It applies
to works first published abroad and not subsequently published in the
US within 30 days of the original foreign publication. Works that
were simultaneously published abroad and in the US are treated as if
they are American publications.
works published after 1923 are likely to be still under copyright in
the US because of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA) modifying the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The URAA restored
copyright in foreign works that as of 1 January 1996 had fallen into
the public domain in the US because of a failure to comply with US
formalities. One of the authors of the work had to be a non-US
citizen or resident, the work could not have been published in the US
within 30 days after its publication abroad, and the work needed to
still be in copyright in the country of publication. Such works
have a copyright term equivalent to that of an American work that had
followed all of the formalities. For more information, see
Library of Congress Copyright Office, Highlights of
Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act
(URAA). Circular 38b. [Washington,
D.C.: Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 2004].
formalities include the requirement that a formal notice of copyright
be included in the work; registration, renewal, and deposit of copies
in the Copyright Office; and the manufacture of the work in the US.
differing dates is a product of the question of controversial Twin
Books v. Walt Disney Co. decision by the 9th Circuit Court of
Appeals in 1996. The question at issue is the copyright status of
a work only published in a foreign language outside of the United
States and without a copyright notice. It had long been
assumed that failure to comply with US formalities placed these works
in the public domain in the US and, as such, were subject to copyright
restoration under URAA (see note 9). The court in
Twin Books, however, concluded "publication
without a copyright notice in a foreign country did not put the work in
the public domain in the United States." According to the court,
these foreign publications were in effect "unpublished" in the US, and
hence have the same copyright term as unpublished works. The
decision has been harshly criticized in Nimmer on Copyright,
the leading treatise on copyright, as being incompatible with previous
decisions and the intent of Congress when it restored foreign
copyrights. The Copyright Office as well ignores the Twin
Books decision in its circular on restored copyrights.
Nevertheless, the decision is currently applicable in all of the 9th
Judicial Circuit (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana,
Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands),
and it may apply in the rest of the country.
Library of Congress Copyright Office, International
Copyright Relations of the United States. Circular 38a.
[Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 2004].
13 See 63
Fed. Reg.19,287 (1998), Library of Congress Copyright Office, Copyright
Restoration of Works in Accordance With the Uruguay Round Agreements
Act; List Identifying Copyrights Restored Under the Uruguay Round
Agreements Act for Which Notices of Intent To Enforce Restored
Copyrights Were Filed in the Copyright Office.