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Copyright: Public Domain?

Some basic tips and links on copyright law.

Defining Public Doman

A work in the Public Domain is not protected by copyright, and may be used freely by anyone for any purpose, without the need to obtain permission or authorization. A work may enter Public Domain by expiration of the copyright term, by declaration of the creator or owner, and, under the Copyright Act of 1909, failure of the creator or owner to secure valid copyright according to the required application and registration process.

Copyright Terms

A work is granted copyright protection for a specific, limited period of time and it is the express intent of the Copyright Act that all intellectual property eventually will revert to the Public Domain. That being said, copyright laws have changed over time and the duration of copyright varies according to the type of work, publication status, and place of first publication. This chart provided basic information about when a work will fall into the Public Domain in the United States. Note, there are some exceptions to the following rules; for example, if a work was never published, its copyright protection falls under different dates than those outlined here. 

Date of Work       Details Term of Protection

Published before 1923

In the Public Domain None
Published between 1923-1963  When published with a notice

28 years with chance for renewal of 67 more years.

If not renewed then it is Public Domain

Published between 1964 - 1977 When published with a notice 28 years with an automatic 67 year extension 
Created after 1978 Work must be fixed in a tangible means of expression Life of author plus 70 years. 

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