COPYRIGHT AND PUBLIC DOMAIN

Frequently Asked Questions
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hugh
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Post by hugh » January 10th, 2006, 8:51 am

[Last updated: 3rd December 2015]

COPYRIGHT AND PUBLIC DOMAIN

What does "Public Domain" mean?
Copyright gives an individual or corporation exclusive rights on a text, for a limited period of time. This means no one else can reproduce the text, or make derivative works (such as audio recordings) while the copyright is in force. Eventually, though, copyright expires, and the text enters the 'public domain' -- meaning anyone can use that text however they wish. This is a complicated business, but in the US, anything published before 1923 is public domain, in the US. It may not be public domain in other countries. Similarly, a book may be in the public domain in another country, but not in the US. For more information and links, visit our public domain wiki page.

Why don't you use a Creative Commons License?
We had this discussion early on, and decided we didn't want to add any restrictions to the recordings we make, which are based on public domain books. This means others can use our recordings however they wish, including for commercial purposes. We would prefer if people acknowledged us if they do use our recordings, be we can't force them to. This makes some people uncomfortable, but the books we record are public domain, and we want our recordings to be public domain too.

For a more robust discussion, see here.

How do I know if a book is public domain?
The best place to look is http://www.gutenberg.org -- this is a huge catalog of ebooks, in many languages and most of them are in the US public domain. Gutenberg does extensive legal work to assure the copyright status of their books, so they are a safe resource -- just check the licence text within the ebook, to be sure. Of course, there are many non-Gutenberg books in the public domain, and if we are sure that's the case, we'd be happy to record them too.

Please note that, because the LibriVox server resides in the US, we are bound by US copyright laws. There are many Gutenberg & similar projects based outside the US, but at LibriVox we only record books from them which were published before 1923.

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