How Do I Determine if a Book Published AFTER 1923 is in the Public Domain or Not?
Posted On: 2013-07-17
by: James Jones
That's a great question. But it can also get very technical so I've decided to divide this into a two part article complete with video examples so I can cover it in detail.
First off determine when the book was first published. (The copyright notice on the book should tell you).
As you probably know if the book was published in the US before 1923 it is in the public domain and you do not need to perform a copyright search.You are free to republish the book.
If the book was published in the US between 1923 and 1963 it is in the Public Domain UNLESS the copyright was renewed 28 years after first publication. If there is NOT a renewal record the book is in the Public Domain.
If the book was published in the US AFTER 1963 it will not be in the public domain until at least 2053 so we can eliminate any book first published after 1963 from consideration as Public Domain.
The next thing we need to do is find the copyright registration and/or copyright renewal information:
The renewal records for books first published between 1951 and 1963 can be searched from the Copyright Office website at:
Here's a video showing you how to use the Copyright.gov search:
If you don't find a match by searching for the title of the book try searching by Author Name and then by Illustrator name (if applicable).
If you don't find a match from any of these searches you can be reasonably sure that the book was not renewed and that it is in the Public Domain.
If you do find a match the book is not in the public domain and you cannot republish it.
And the key thing to remember is this database is only useful for books published in the US between 1951 and 1963. We'll cover books published between 1923 and 1950 in the next issue of Self Publisher Today.
Happy Treasure Hunting-
James J. Jones