Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Any writing not having copyright protection is said to be in the public domain. That would generally
be written material that either never had copyright protection, or for which the copyright has run out. Before the new law went into effect, a piece of writing could be copyrighted for 28 years, and be renewed for another 28 years—or a total of 56 years. In 1978 the total length of a copyright was changed to the author’s lifetime, plus 50 years. Note that all copyrights are extended to the end of the final year. For example, if a copyright went into effect on June 15, the copyright would be good through December 31st of the 50th year after the author’s death.

If a copyright was in its first 28 years of copyright registration when the new law went into effect in 1978, in the 28th year that copyright could be extended for 47 more years, for a total of 75. For that reason, anything that is 75 years old or older is always in public domain. When determining if the copyright has run out on something you wish to use, simply deduct 75 from the current year. If it was published prior to that date it is always in public domain.

Once a piece of writing is in public domain, it can never be copyrighted again. That is the reason you now see so many classic books or stories published by a number of different publishers. Since the material is in public domain, anyone can publish it without permission.

What Kinds of Materials are in Public Domain?

Following is a list of most of the materials that will be in public domain:

  1. Anything published more than 75 years ago.
  2. Anything published more than 28 years ago, if the registration wasn’t renewed.
  3. Anything published prior to 1978 without a proper copyright notice.
  4. Anything created by federal government employees as a part of their job.

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