The U.S. Copyright Office states:
“A work of authorship is in the “public domain” if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.”
All types of materials can be in the Public Domain. Books, magazines, articles, famous quotes, music, movies, pamphlets….etc.
Here are the basic Public Domain Guidelines for items published in the U.S.:
Public Domain Guidelines for Books:
Any book published before 1923 is in the Public Domain.
Any book published between 1923 and up to and including 1963 might be in the Public Domain if Copyright was not renewed 28 years after the initial registration.
Public Domain Guidelines for Magazines:
The same date ranges apply to magazines – however – there are a few ways these items could be copyrighted:
- The publication itself could copyright the entire issue/year of the magazine.
- Individual authors of articles can copyright their work.
- Photographers/illustrators can copyright their work.
Those are the basics – there are little gray areas here and there to watch out for as well. Unfortunately, copyright research isn’t always black or white.
For some more Public Domain Guidelines click here.
To learn the intricacies of proper Copyright Research of suspected Public Domain items, I highly recommend this excellent resource.
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