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How To Determine If A Work Published Outside The United States Is In The Public Domain
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In a previous article I discussed how to determine if something published within the United States is part of the public domain. Here's a question: What if it's not?

The first one is easy. If it was published prior to July 1, 1909, it is in the public domain in the U.S.

If it was published between July 1, 1909 and July 1, 1922 with a copyright notice, that work is now in the public domain.

If publication occured between 1923-1977 with a copyright notice outside the United States, copyright protection exists for 95 years from publication. That means the earliest a work from this time period could enter the public domain is 2018. If the work was published in 1977, it's not eligible for the public domain until 2072.

Let's say a work was published between July 1, 1909 and July 1, 1977 without a copyright notice. In this instance, the work will not enter the public domain for 70 years following the death of the author. If it was republished between 1978 and 2003, copyright extends to December 31st, 2047. If it was not republished, do your homework.

The last instance is a work published outside the U.S. after 1978 either with or without a copyright notice. Here it would be protected for 70 years after the death of the author. Here's the catch: What if the author is anonymous? Good question. In this case, it's protected for 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation. . .whichever ends soonest.

As with anything involving copyright, it's best to consult a professional if you ever have any questions. It's always best to err on the side of caution than it is to have any fines eat into the profits of your business.

Keep in mind that copyright laws are very complex, they vary by country, and they change quite frequently, particulalry as the laws relate to corporate works, unauthored works, works that are considered non-literary, and those that are unpublished. Copyright in the United States is a fairly straightforward thing, even though it is subject to change as well. International copyright law is a different story. It can be a little trickier, so always do your research.

Just because something is part of the public domain in the U.S. doesn't mean the same rule holds true internationally. It's always best to check the laws of the country in question just to be sure. A quick search on Google will probably yield you the information you require.


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