Copyright Renewal, Copyright Restoration, and the Difficulty of Determining Copyright Status

D-Lib Magazine, Vol. 14, No. 7/8, July/August 2008

17 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2008 Last revised: 2 Oct 2008

See all articles by Peter B. Hirtle

Peter B. Hirtle

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Date Written: July 15, 2008

Abstract

It has long been assumed that most of the works published from 1923 to 1964 in the US are currently in the public domain. Both non-profit and commercial digital libraries have dreamed of making this material available. Most programs have recognized as well that the restoration of US copyright in foreign works in 1996 has made it impossible for them to offer to the public the full text of most foreign works. What has been overlooked up to now is the difficulty that copyright restoration has created for anyone trying to determine if a work published in the United States is still protected by copyright. This article discusses the impact that copyright restoration of foreign works has had on US copyright status investigations, and offers some new steps that users must follow in order to investigate the copyright status in the US of any work. It argues that copyright restoration has made it almost impossible to determine with certainty whether a book published in the United States after 1922 and before 1964 is in the public domain. Digital libraries that wish to offer books from this period do so at some risk.

Keywords: copyright, digital libraries

Suggested Citation

Hirtle, Peter, Copyright Renewal, Copyright Restoration, and the Difficulty of Determining Copyright Status (July 15, 2008). D-Lib Magazine, Vol. 14, No. 7/8, July/August 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1160006

Peter Hirtle (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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