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Q: Out of copyright? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Out of copyright?
Category: Business and Money
Asked by: copyguy-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 19 Oct 2006 14:01 PDT
Expires: 18 Nov 2006 13:01 PST
Question ID: 775139
How long does a published book stay in copyright after the last edition?

Specifically, I'm wondering if a book published in 1950 and that's now
out of print is still under copyright.

Request for Question Clarification by rainbow-ga on 19 Oct 2006 15:03 PDT
Please let me know if this answers your question:

How long does material stay in copyright?

"Generally, for published material (literary, dramatic, musical and
artistic), work remains in copyright until 70 years after the death of
the author/creator.
This includes material published in EU countries or the USA (work
published in certain other countries may be protected for a shorter
period of 50 years after the death of the author).

However, there are some exceptions to the rule:

Crown Copyright material and Parliamentary Copyright material: 50
years from the end of the year of first publication
Databases: as well as the full term of copyright in the material
included, there is a 15 year database right - this begins from each
time the database is updated
Sound recordings: 50 years from first publication (so recordings from
before 1954 are in the public domain from 2004)
Films: 70 years from the death of whoever is last to survive of
director, screenwriter, composer
Broadcasts: 50 years from when broadcast first made 
Typography of published editions: 25 years from first publication 
Unpublished material: all currently in copyright - pre-1989 material
in copyright until 2039; post-1989 material until 70 years after year
of creation
Remember there may be multiple authors/creators of any one work."

Here's a more detailed explanation:

Looking forward to your clarification.

Best regards,
Subject: Re: Out of copyright?
Answered By: hummer-ga on 20 Oct 2006 08:49 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi again, copyguy,

Original 1950 U.S. copyrights could be renewed in 1977 or 1978. The
U.S. Copyright Office search form only searches works registered in
the Copyright Office since January 1, 1978 and it's possible that your
book was renewed in 1977. So, a good place to start is at the
following Rutgers website  (assuming a U.S. copyright and a 1977

"This form searches the U. S. copyright renewal records. Any book
published during the years 1923-1963 which is found in this file is
still under copyright... Books published before 1923, or before Jan.
1, 1964 and not renewed, are out of copyright..."
"Note that a renewal may be shown on a book but only the preface,
illustrations, or translation are actually copyright. Sometimes this
is indicated with an abbreviation "NM" meaning "new matter". For
example, searching for charles dickens pickwick  finds seven items, of
which four are only cross references. The remaining three specify as
"new matter" items such as illustrations, introductions, or an
afterword; the main text of Pickwick Papers is public domain (The
Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club was published in 1836-37, and
Charles Dickens died in 1870)."

If your book doesn't show up, you're probably golden but double-check
at the U.S. Copyright Office for a 1978 renewal. If it does show up on
either website, it's important to notice if there are any
abbreviations in the record. As noted above, the main body of the text
may be in the public domain, but any new matter isn't. If this is the
case with your book, you are free to use the text as you wish.

U.S. Copyright Office Search:

Abbrevations used in the Catalog of Copyright Entries

Data Fields in Copyright Cataloging Online Records

Copyright renewals for 1977
Copyright renewals made in 1977 will be available from this page.
Renewals in 1977 were classified by category.
Original copyrights date from 1949 and 1950. 1949 copyrights could
also be renewed in 1976, and 1950 copyrights could also be renewed in
1978. (For renewals in 1978 or later, search the Library of Congress'
online copyright database-- see this page for instructions.)

The Online Books Page
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Tell Whether a Book Can Go Online?

Another trick is to search for your book at the Gutenberg Project
website which only catalogues titles which are in the public domain (a
great website to know about anyway):

Gutenberg Project

I'm glad to work on another question for you. As always, please let me
know if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Search strategy,
My own bookmarks

Request for Answer Clarification by copyguy-ga on 26 Oct 2006 08:09 PDT
Rainbow, thanks, but I'm in the U.S.

Clarification of Answer by hummer-ga on 26 Oct 2006 09:01 PDT
You're welcome, copyguy, thank you. Good luck with your project! hummer
copyguy-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Hummer, another great answer!  Thanks.

Subject: Re: Out of copyright?
From: tr1234-ga on 20 Oct 2006 06:40 PDT
For what it's worth, there's a usefully organized chart of copyright durations at

Going by that, it would seem that, if you're talking about a book
published in the U.S. and its copyright duration in the U.S., your
book published in 1950 would be in the public domain *IF* its required
copyright renewal was not filed and still under copyright until 2045
if that reqired copyright renewal was filed (even if the book is out
of print...)

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