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Author Topic: Copyright Basics USA  (Read 2125 times)

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« on: September 22, 2010, 14:49 »
This comes up from time to time and there are some pretty good pages with charts and graphs and all the details. But today I happened to find this very short and sweet paragraph. (which I broke up into lines for easier reading)

All works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain.

Works published after 1922, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication.
(2019 is 95 years for 1923)

If the work was created, but not published, before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.

However, even if the author died over 70 years ago, the copyright in an unpublished work lasts until December 31, 2002. And if such a work is published before December 31, 2002, the copyright will last until December 31, 2047.

Part of the reason I keep following this is I have a photo of Lindbergh on the ground next to his plane, in Paris, 1927. Which I thought would be PD by now, but with the changes in the laws since I obtained it (over 40 years ago) I have to wait until 2022 before I can sell it. It's suitable for editorial, but can't be used for postcards, T-shirts, magnets... Etc. for over another decade.

The micro sites don't follow the above and will refuse anything they please, and in some cases accept things that are after 1922, so don't count on the actual laws being of any use when coming up with materials for Micro. :(
« Last Edit: September 22, 2010, 20:56 by RacePhoto »


  • Think before you speak
« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2010, 14:57 »
I'm going to have to research that.....I thought it was 75 years between 1922 and 1978. We just recently are republishing a book that was published in 1964. Of course we retain copyright to the book but thought that was only good for 75 years...not 95.

« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2010, 15:09 »
Thank you for that synopsys.  We just inherited a BUNCH of old photos and as I was sifting through them some are quite amazing (bomber nose first into a family house from WW1 as an example) I was thinking of putting some up for editorial.


« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2010, 19:01 »
Here's the link to the details - Library of Congress, U.S. copyright Office - http://www.copyright.gov/


« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2010, 20:56 »
Thank you for that synopsys.  We just inherited a BUNCH of old photos and as I was sifting through them some are quite amazing (bomber nose first into a family house from WW1 as an example) I was thinking of putting some up for editorial.

Yes it has changed. For someone my age, it's easy, Before 1923 is out of copyright, after that will probably still be protected throughout my lifetime.

They had bombers in WWI? That was the era of the Red Barron and bi-planes. Obvious I'm not a military buff. :)

This is why I had the date wrong, it's 2019. But the change was made in 1998, so if you knew something before, it's not true now. Amazing isn't it? Commonly referred to as the Sonny Bono Act or Mickey Mouse Protection Act. It was Disney and the Sonny Bono estate that lobbied for this reform.

The Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998 extended copyright terms in the United States by 20 years. Since the Copyright Act of 1976, copyright would last for the life of the author plus 50 years, or 75 years for a work of corporate authorship. The Act extended these terms to life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier. Copyright protection for works published prior to January 1, 1978, was increased by 20 years to a total of 95 years from their publication date.

The actual law added 20 years, which is why things that would have been PD in 1998 (those from 1923) were the cutoff point. It didn't work retroactively to reinstate items that had gone public, but did stop things that were about to change status. My Lindbergh photo would have gone PD in 2002, which I had checked. Then they changed the rules and now it's 2022. Which in my book, kind of sucks!

Here's another favorite that I keep finding and losing. Now I have it bookmarked.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States
There's a PDF version on the page also, if you want to print a copy for your desk.


Cornell University
« Last Edit: September 22, 2010, 21:15 by RacePhoto »

« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2010, 21:15 »
Bomber, plane, they fly, they crash.


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