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Posts Tagged ‘1976 copyright act’

I thought this could be helpful for anyone trying to determine the public domain status of certain unpublished and unregistered works. The article is from www.copywrite.gov and discusses the dates, authors and when an unpublished work would enter the public domain. You might want to print this one out 🙂

January 13, 2003

Certain Unpublished, Unregistered Works Enter Public Domain

Certain works that were neither published nor registered for copyright as of Jan. 1, 1978, entered the public domain on Jan. 1, 2003, unless the works were published on or before Dec. 31, 2002.

Under the 1909 Copyright Act, works that were neither published nor registered did not enjoy statutory protection, although they were protected under common law in perpetuity as long as they remained unpublished and unregistered. But under section 303 of the 1976 Copyright Act, works that were created but neither published nor registered in the Copyright Office before Jan. 1, 1978, lost their common law protection and acquired a statutory term of protection that was the life of the author plus 50 years, amended in 1998 to life plus 70 years.

As a result of the 1976 Copyright Act, any of the works in question whose author had died over 50 years prior to 1978 would have entered the public domain after Dec. 31, 1977. To provide a reasonable term of copyright protection for these works, and in light of the fact that these works had enjoyed perpetual protection under common law, Congress extended their term by at least 25 more years. Congress also encouraged publication by providing an additional 25 more years, extended in 1998 to 45 more years, of protection if the work was published on or before Dec. 31, 2002.

That first 25-year period expired on Dec. 31, 2002. Any work that was neither published nor registered as of Jan. 1, 1978, and whose author died before 1933 entered the public domain on Jan. 1, 2003, unless it was published on or before Dec. 31, 2002. If the author died in 1933 or later, the work will be protected for 70 years after the author’s death, due to the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998.

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