How do you Find Out if a Book is on the Public Domain?

8 replies
I have spent hours trying to find if a certain book from 1940 is in the public domain but to no avail. Anyone have a definite way to do this? Thanks.
#book #domain #find #public
  • Profile picture of the author Star69
    Google is such a wonderful search tool! I found the following at this site:

    FAQ: How Can I Tell Whether a Book Can Go Online?

    How do I find out whether the book is in the public domain?

    The rules vary from country to country. In just about every country, authors can put a work in the public domain by formally declaring that they are doing so. But most books enter the public domain either because they are not copyrightable (e.g. certain government documents), or because their copyrights expire. Below, I give my best understanding of when copyright expires in various countries, but keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, and should not be relied on for legal advice.
    In the United States, the following rules apply:
    • Anything copyrighted prior to 1923 is in the public domain. (Practically speaking, this includes anything published prior to 1923, since publication without copyright put the work straight into the public domain. But note this possible exception in some western states for some 1909-1922 foreign works that were not published in the US before 1923.) Due to a 20-year copyright extension enacted in the US in 1998, copyrights from 1923 or later that are still in force will stay in effect through 2018 or longer.
    • Certain works copyrighted in 1923 or later may already have entered the public domain. In particular, works published in the US before 1989 without proper copyright notice, and works published in the US before 1964 whose copyrights were not renewed, may have entered the public domain. However, works from 1923 or later that were originally published in countries outside the US may still be copyrighted regardless of whether they were printed with proper notice or renewed. To research whether a book's copyright has been renewed, or needed to be renewed, see this article.
    • Works never published prior to 2003 (and never registered for copyright prior to 1978) are now in the public domain in the US if they are by authors who died more than 70 years before the most recent New Year's day. (For 2009, this means authors who died before 1939.) Although this new rule does not put any previously published material into the public domain, it may allow some long-lost manuscripts and collections of letters to be published online as "new" online books.
    Peter Hirtle at Cornell has a useful annotated chart covering the US copyright status of various types of works in more detail.

    hth...
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  • Profile picture of the author Bishop81
    U.S. Copyright Office
    U.S. Copyright Office - Search Copyright Records
    Check out copyright.gov and you can learn a lot about the books. Do a search for the book and if it shows up, then it is NOT in the public domain. If it doesn't show up, then it's almost safe to assume that it is in the public domain. To be absolutely sure, contact the Copyright Office and request a search. It will cost some money, though, but you'll know 100% if it is in the public domain or not.

    Here's a link to a PDF explaining how to do that.
    http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ06.pdf
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    • Profile picture of the author Marhelper
      Originally Posted by Bishop81 View Post

      U.S. Copyright Office
      U.S. Copyright Office - Search Copyright Records
      Check out copyright.gov and you can learn a lot about the books. Do a search for the book and if it shows up, then it is NOT in the public domain. If it doesn't show up, then it's almost safe to assume that it is in the public domain. To be absolutely sure, contact the Copyright Office and request a search. It will cost some money, though, but you'll know 100% if it is in the public domain or not.

      Here's a link to a PDF explaining how to do that.
      http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ06.pdf
      Thanks, that is helpful. I looked up a book that did come up in the copyright page but I wonder if that is someone's adaptation of the original and the original itself is public domain?
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  • Profile picture of the author Bishop81
    Check the book at worldcat.org as well, and you should be able to see all the editions that have been printed. Cross-reference with what you find out from copyright.org.
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    • Profile picture of the author Marhelper
      Originally Posted by Bishop81 View Post

      Check the book at worldcat.org as well, and you should be able to see all the editions that have been printed. Cross-reference with what you find out from copyright.org.
      Thanks for the help, it is coming in handy.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dave777
    Invest in the following, as many will tell you Jack's WSO's are full of golden info and money making tools...
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    Dave
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  • Profile picture of the author Bishop81
    No problem. I understand how difficult it can be when you're just getting into it. I'm by no means an expert, but have dedicated quite a bit of time into learning about public domain.
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  • Profile picture of the author hollierae
    You can do a search at Project Gutenberg
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