Marxists Internet Archive: Legal: Copyrights
What is the Public Domain?
When a work is in the public domain, you can freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists Internet Archive as your source, include the url to this work, and note the transcribers & proofreaders of the work.
How do you find if your work is in the Public Domain?
All works published in the US before October 27, 1923 are public domain.
Also in the Public Domain:
1. If a book was published in the US without a copyright notice prior to March 1, 1989, the work is in public domain. For works published after 1978 and before 1989, a publisher had a five year period to correct the omission of notice.
2. For works published in the US before 1964: was the copyright renewed for a second term? If not, the work is in the public domain.
a. For books published between 1924-1949, check the following file to see if the work was renewed for a second term: U.S. Copyright Renewals 1950 - 1977
This is a 30Mb file. See Project Gutenberg's ZIP version.
b. For books published between 1950-1963, check the Library of Congress to see if the coyright was renewed (for works published after 1964 renewal was automatic -- see below).
Hey! Don't be discouraged just yet! If none of these apply to the book you have, you can still write to the owner of the copyright, and request permission for us to print it! Visit our guide for how to do this!
Using Copyright Notices on MIA
The documents you publish on MIA will fall into one of four categories. Cite the appropriate category for any work you publish on MIA:
Copyright: Materials that we have recieved permission to publish.
Public Domain: Materials that are no longer copyright, based on the copyright law of the nation the book was published in.
Fair Use: Use this very rarely and with great care. In the US, fair use laws are highly ambigious, and could encompass anything from a few paragrahs to a chapter of a book. Several pages of a book is a safe middle ground, and we recommend volunteers not exceed this.
Copyleft: Materials that are created by MIA volunteers and uploaded to MIA must be licensed under Creative Commons (Attribution-Sharealike).
Summary of U.S. Copyright Laws
What follows is a general summary of U.S. Copyright laws (by no means a completely accurate representation); the short version for the merely curious: October 28, 1923, will not become public domain until the same day in the year 2019. For the exact letter of the law, please refer to: The US Copyright Office, especially Chapter 3 of Title 17 (on the Duration of copyrights).
Works published or registered before 1 January 1978:
(I) First term of copyright endures for 28 years after registration/publishing.
(II) During the last year of the first term, the copyright can be renewed for a second (last) term. The following restrictions apply to the second term:
(a) The second term for copyrights that expired on or before December 31, 1949 is 28 years (i.e. books published in 1921 and before became public domain in 1977). [Title 17, § 304(a)] (aka 56 year rule)
(b) Second terms that began between January 1, 1950 to October 26, 1951 last for 47 years. (For a work renewed in 1950 (© 1922), it became public domain in 1997) [Copyright Act of 1976] (aka 75 year rule)
(c) Any work published on or after January 1, 1964 is automatically renewed for a second term (making the entire copyright restricted for 75 years from date of publishing). [Copyright Renewal Act of 1992] (Public Law 102-307)
(d) Any second term subsisting on October 27, 1998 is extended an additional 20 years (i.e. applies to works published on that date in 1923 and later -- For a work renewed in 1952 (© 1924), it is restricted from the public domain until 2019).(Making the entire copyright restricted for 95 years from date of publishing) [Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act] (Public Law 105-298; aka 95 year rule)
Note: These laws apply only to works published in the U.S.A. Works published in other countries are restricted by different copyright laws; please research these laws for the country the book was published in, if not the U.S.A., and contact us with the details you find. Here is a link database, listing International Copyright Law sites. Two countries we know of that do not abide by copyright laws are the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Cuba. The Former U.S.S.R. did not abide by copyright laws until 1973, so works published in the U.S.S.R. before that date are public domain. See also: Principles of Civil Legislation: Copyright, 1961.
Contact the Marxists Internet Archive Admin Committee for further information