The following guide was created by Lolly Gasaway of the University of North Carolina, and is used by permission.
Definition: A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone. The reasons that the work is not protected include:
|Date of Work||Protected From||Term|
|Created 1-1-78 or after||When work is fixed in tangible medium of expression||Life + 70 years1(or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation2|
|Published on or before 1-1-1923||In public domain||None|
|Published between 1-1-1923 and 12-31-1963||When published with notice3||28 years + could be renewed for 47 years, now extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years. If not so renewed, now in public domain|
|Published between 1-1-1964 and 12-31-1977||When published with notice||28 years for first term; now automatic extension of 67 years for second term|
|Created before 1-1-78 but not published||1-1-1978, the effective date of the 1976 Act, which eliminated common law copyright||Life + 70 years or 12-31-2002, whichever is greater|
|Created before 1-1-1978 but published between then and 12-31-2002||1-1-1978, the effective date of the 1976 Act, which eliminated common law copyright||Life + 70 years or 12-31-2047, whichever is greater|
1 Term of joint works is measured by life of the longest-lived author.
2 Works for hire, anonymous and pseudonymous works also have this term. 17 U.S.C. § 302(c).
3 Under the 1909 Act, works published without notice went into the public domain upon publication. Works published without notice between 1-1-78 and 3-1-89, effective date of the Berne Convention Implementation Act, retained copyright only if efforts to correct the accidental omission of notice was made within five years, such as by placing notice on unsold copies. 17 U.S.C. § 405.
(Notes courtesy of Professor Tom Field, Franklin Pierce Law Center, and Lolly Gasaway)
Last updated 11-04-03
* Chart may be freely duplicated or linked to for nonprofit purposes. No permission needed. Please include web address on all reproductions of chart so recipients know where to find any updates. http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm
The status of an item that was published in another country is often difficult to determine. But it is even more nebulous when dealing with items that lapsed into the Public Domain the U.S., but were still protected in their country of origin. Here is what you need to know about copyright restoration.
Copyright restoration occurred under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, 17 U.S. Code Appendix L, 108 Stat. 4809 (December 8, 1994). The statute became effective on January 1, 1996. It extended copyright to foreign items that had formerly been in the public domain in the US because formalities were not taken. The statute requires:
It is also important to determine if there were copyright treaties in effect between the United States and the country of origin:
Here is an example to help illustrate how copyright restoration works. In 1937, Olaf Stapledon published his science-fiction novel Star Maker. This book had a substantial effect on the authors of the "golden age" of science fiction and later, including Arthur C. Clark, Robert Heinlein, Brian Aldiss, and Stanislow Lem. H.G. Wells was also a big fan, as were Virginia Wolfe, Doris Lessing, and Jorge Luis Borges (who wrote a prologue for the 1965 edition). The book was first published in the United Kingdom. So what is its copyright status in the U.S.? Before copyright restoration, the following factors come into play:
Under copyright renewal, however, the work came back under copyright protection:
Thus the copyright renewal act would have extended protection to Star Maker until 2000. However, that is not the end of the story.
The other law that affects this work is the Sonny Bono Copyright Restoration Act of 1998, 112 Stat. 2827 (1998). This statute added an additional 20 years onto all copyright periods. Thus, instead of Star Maker entering the public domain in 2000, it will not enter the public domain until 2020. (And had it been published in the U.S., it would have been under copyright until 2032.)
For a complete run-down, see Public Domain Sherpa. (2016). Copyright restoration and foreign works: be careful. http://www.publicdomainsherpa.com/copyright-restoration.html.