Copyright question on pulp sci-fi.

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Post by KeithThomas » January 4th, 2013, 12:07 pm

Hi everyone, I just discovered that librivox offers a surprisingly large selection of sci-fi from the 50s by writers like Philip K Dick and Isaac Asimov. I'd assumed that everything we read needs to be from before 1922 or so. Could someone explain this to me? (And I'm betting that this is a common question, but I didn't immediately see it in search, so sorry to repeat, if I am.) As much as I've enjoyed the pre-1922 literature I'm delighted to find these treasures. Many thanks,

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Post by TriciaG » January 4th, 2013, 12:21 pm

Everything 1922 and earlier is automatically and clearly PD.

Some works after 1922 are in the PD because their copyright wasn't renewed within 26 (or is it 28? Now I don't remember) years of the original publication date. So there may be stories from, say, 1944 that are in our catalog, because the copyrights weren't renewed in 1970.

Finding out whether things published after 1922 are PD or not is a tricky business. We trust Gutenberg's research, so we try to only do works in this category that are on :)
Mystery stories: The Master of Mysteries
Kerner Report on 1967 race riots: LINK
Mussolini's speeches thru 1923: LINK
The Medici family history: LINK

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Post by RuthieG » January 4th, 2013, 2:35 pm

because their copyright wasn't renewed within 26 (or is it 28? Now I don't remember) years of the original publication date.
In the US, books and periodicals published before 1964 had to get their copyrights renewed in their 28th year, or they'd fall into the public domain. And short-lived pulp magazines were particularly bad at renewing copyright, often because they had gone out of business by then. However, as Tricia says, we have to rely on Gutenberg, because we have no access to copyright lawyers ourselves, and magazine contribution renewals are particularly hard to track down.

In the early 1960s, fewer than 15% of all registered copyrights were renewed, apparently, and for books, the figure was even lower at 7%. However:
As the US Copyright Office, in 2004, wrote:There are several ways to investigate whether a work is under copyright protection and, if so, the facts of the copyright. These are the main ones:
1 Examine a copy of the work for such elements as a copyright notice, place and date of publication, author and publisher.
2 Search the Copyright Office catalogs and other records.
3 Have the Copyright Office conduct a search for you.

A Few Words of Caution About Copyright Investigations

Copyright investigations often involve more than one of these methods. Even if you follow all three approaches, the results may not be conclusive. Moreover, as explained in this circular, the changes brought about under the Copyright Act of 1976, the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988, the Copyright Renewal Act of 1992, and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 must be considered when investigating the copyright status of a work.
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