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What Constitutes A Public Domain Work?

Aug 18, 2007
In this article, I am going to cover just a few more details about what constitutes a public domain work or a work that is still under copyright.

So far we know that anything before 1923 is public domain and anything after March 1, 1989, is pretty much off limits until many of us are long dead and buried. And with works between 1923 and 1989, we said as long as the proper paperwork was filed, it was under copyright. Well, this is where that also depends on the year and also what paperwork was filed. So let's go over those small details here. We'll do this as briefly as possible.

If a work was published between 1923 and 1978, then in order for it to be public domain it only has to be missing a valid copyright notice. Now, if the work was made between 1923 and 1963, even if it did have a valid copyright notice, if the author didn't renew it, then it is also part of public domain.

If something was published between 1978 and 1989, then the work has to have a notice of registration or it is also part of public domain. Now, if a work was published between 1923 and 1963, has a proper copyright notice and renewed it before 23 years is up, then this work is NOT part of public domain. Also, if a work was published between 1963 and 1989 with a valid copyright notice, it is also NOT part of public domain.

Are you confused yet? Good, because most people are hopelessly lost at this point. This is why there are copyright lawyers. This is one of the messiest areas in all the legal profession and why you see so many cases of plagiarism going before the courts.

Okay, now that you know what a public domain work is, the next thing you have to be able to do is find one. This can be almost as tricky as figuring out if a work is actually public domain or not.

So, where do you start? Well, this depends on what resources you have available to you. If you live close by to a library, that is probably one of your best places to start. The reason is simple. Libraries probably have one of the largest collections of public domain works in the world, especially if you go to one of the national libraries where they literally have hundreds of thousands of works. Plus, you can physically examine the books and see when they were first printed and if there is a copyright.

If a library isn't near you and you have a computer, then that is probably your next best bet. There is literally a ton of information on public domain works on the Internet.
About the Author
Almin Cehajic is experienced webmaster and resell rights products marketer. He writes informative articles on various topics, especially on resell rights business. If you are interested in resell rights business visit his new website ResellRightsProfessional.com
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