A question about copyright issues

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Anise
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Post by Anise » April 14th, 2012, 11:48 pm

Hi all,


So... what I've always read is that a basic rule of thumb pretty much goes as follows: if any book was published in 1923 or earlier, it's public domain. HOWEVER, Circular 22: How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work (Copyright Office, Library of Congress, January, 1991) says that:
WORKS PUBLISHED AND COPYRIGHTED BEFORE JANUARY 1, 1978: A work published before January 1, 1978, and copyrighted within the past 75 years may still be protected by copyright in the United States if a valid renewal registration was made during the 28th year of the first term of the copyright. If renewed, and if still valid under the other provisions of the law, the copyright will expire 75 years from the end of the year in which it was first secured. Therefore, the United States copyright in any work published or copyrighted more than 75 years ago (75 years from January 1st in the present year) has expired by operation of law, and the work has permanently fallen into the public domain in the United States. For example, on January 1, 1991, copyright in works first published or copyrighted before January 1, 1916, will have expired on January 1, 1992, copyright in works first published or copyrighted before January 1, 1917, will have expired.
Going by the 75-year rule, anything published in 1937 or earlier would be public domain. But this doesn't seem as if it could possibly be right, because Gutenberg certainly doesn't go by that rule. Still... it's hard to see what else this could mean, because it does say that the copyright will expire 75 years from the end of the year in which it was FIRST secured-- not from when the copyright was renewed (if it was.) I am probably just missing something very obvious. Does someone know what the answer is here?

BTW, the original link to Circular 22 is here.

ETA: I think I may have found the answer, and Sonny Bono is involved. :P Do let me know if that's it.
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RuthieG
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Post by RuthieG » April 15th, 2012, 1:45 am

Yes, good old Sonny and Mickey Mouse.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act

By the way, if any book was published in 1922 or earlier, it's public domain in the US.

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Anise
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Post by Anise » April 15th, 2012, 10:36 am

It's always so hard to know what to believe! A lot of people have said 1923, but I DO trust your word on the subject. :)The U.S. Copyright office needs to fix that link (IMHO, anyway,) because what they're linking to is only the 1991 circular. But as for its being Sonny Bono's fault... oh, isn't it always? :roll:
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Post by Cori » April 15th, 2012, 10:46 am

I think the 1922/23 thing depends on which side you're on. If you're thinking about how great copyright is, and how well everything is protected, then 1923 and on is the key thing! If you're more interested in sharing old books and bringing forgotten favourites back to light, then the focus is of course 1922 and before.
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Post by TriciaG » April 15th, 2012, 11:26 am

Sometimes I say "anything published 1922 or earlier is OK" and other times I say "anything published before 1923 is OK."

Same thing, slightly different wording that can easily get mixed up. And then someone who is mixed up will post that if it's published in 1923 it's OK, and that, of course, perpetuates the confusion. :)
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Post by knotyouraveragejo » April 15th, 2012, 11:36 am

Anise wrote:It's always so hard to know what to believe! A lot of people have said 1923, but I DO trust your word on the subject. :)
Here's a link to a very useful summary of Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the U.S.

http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm
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Anise
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Post by Anise » April 15th, 2012, 12:41 pm

I'll definitely check out that link... one good thing about this (sort of) is that at least I know that I missed So Big by two years, not one. One year just seems worse, somehow.
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Post by annise » April 15th, 2012, 3:09 pm

I think a reason for some of the confusion is that like racehorses get a year older on the same day , all copyright laws are removed on the 1st January the year after they have expired . It is more obvious in the "copyright expires in ? years after the author dies" countries but it is still part of the highly complicated USA version.
So in a death+70 country the author dies 1st January 1930 the book is PD on 1st January 2001

Anne

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