Okay, it's time to continue with Copyright 101. We're addressing the issue about once a week throughout the month of April.
First, the disclaimer: I am not an attorney and am not pretending to be one here. The information contained in my blogs on this subject are based on my own practical experience and on information gleaned from research. If you have a copyright issue, consult the U.S. Copyright Office at www.copyright.gov/ or a copyright attorney.
Today, we look at the different terms of protection for works created in the United States during the period between 1923 to 1978. Remember: works created before 1923 are largely in the public domain.
To begin with, here's a helpful summary from Wikipedia: "Copyright subsists for a variety of lengths in different jurisdictions...[D]ifferent categories of works and [their] length...also depend on whether a work is published or unpublished. In most of the world the default length of copyright for many works is either life of the author plus 50 years, or plus 70 years. Copyright in general always expires at the end of the year concerned, rather than on the exact date of the death of the author. (The right to reclaim a copyright--or 'terminate the transfer' of a copyright--commences and ends on the anniversaries of exact dates in the United States.)
"In the United States, all books and other items published before 1923 have expired copyrights and are in the public domain. In the US, government documents, regardless of date, are all public domain."
There's a great copyright resource by Keith Aoki, James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins. It's a graphic novel by the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain called "Bound by Law?" Included in what looks like a comic book, is a great chart showing terms of protection for copyrights in the United States. I will reproduce a portion of it here (permitted by attribution). To determine the length of copyright, find the description that best fits the work:
1) For a work created: 1/1/78 or after (works published without notice of copyright between 1/1/78 and 3/1/89 retained copyright only if the omission of notice was corrected)
It is protected from the point at which the work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression to the point in time that is the life of the author plus 70 years (for works of corporate or anonymous authorship, they are protected for the shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 yeas from creation).
2) For a work published before 1923, it is now in the public domain and the term of protection has expired.
3) For a work published from 1923 to 1963 that was published WITH notice, the term of protection is 95 years after publication date. However, if the copyright was not renewed, the work is now in the public domain. Many works published during the period between 1923 and 1977 are in the public domain because the authors did not comply with notice, renewal or other formalities.
4) For a work published from 1964 to 1977 that was published WITH notice, the term of protection is 95 years after publication date. Again, works published without notice are now in the public domain.
5) For a work CREATED before 1/1/78 but NOT published, the term of protection began on 1/1/78 (the effective date of the 1976 Copyright Act) and the term of protection is life of the author plus 70 years.
6) For a work CREATED before 1/1/78 but PUBLISHED between then and 12/31/02, the term of protection began on 1/1/78 (the effective date of the 1976 Copyright Act) and the term of protection is life of the author plus 70 years OR 12/31/47, whichever is greater.
7) For a work CREATED before 1/1/78 and PUBLISHED after 12/31/02, the term of protection began on 1/1/78 (the effective date of the 1976 Copyright Act) and the term of protection is the life of the author plus 70 years.
Next time, we'll address the issue of "fair use."
P.S. I've already had several emails asking about the "notice." So I'll do another post tomorrow to address that issue ONLY.