Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner. A work of authorship is in the "public domain" if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain include the following:
- Works published in the U.S. before 1923
- Post-1923 publications that did not satisfy U.S. copyright requirements (typically notice requirements) of the time
- Publications of the U.S. federal government
- Works donated to the public domain by the copyright holder (usually by providing a statement saying anyone may copy the work)
Public Domain Determination Tools
- Is it Protected by Copyright? (Brewer; ALA-Office of Information Technology Policy)
- Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States (Cornell Copyright Information Center)
- When U.S. Works Pass into the Public Domain (Gasaway; U. of North Carolina)
Copyright Registration Records
- Search Copyright Records: Registrations and Documents (U.S. Copyright Office)
- Copyright Renewal Database (Stanford) -- For books published in the U.S. from 1923 to 1963.
- U.S. Catalog of Copyright Entries (kingkong, U.K.) -- Alternative to Stanford (above). Transcriptions of the 1923-1963 "renewals of U.S. copyright for literary works, i.e., books (omitting laws, law reports & digests, instruction manuals, parts lists, instruction papers, maps, forms & patterns), contributions to periodicals & periodicals themselves (omitting law reports & digests), and a few unpublished dramatic (& other performance) works."
- How Can I Tell Whether a Copyright Was Renewed? (UPenn) -- Detailed instructions, with comments on international copyright.
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