MTNA  |  MTNA Foundation Fund  |  Site Map  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us

When Works Pass Into the Public Domain

By Lolly Gasaway, University of North Carolina

DATE OF WORK PROTECTED FROM TERM
Created 1-1-78 or after When work is fixed in tangible medium of expression Life 70 years1(or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation2
Published before 1923 In public domain None
Published from 1923–63 When published with notice3 28 years could be renewed for 47 years, now extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years. If not so renewed, now in public domain
Published from 1964–77 When published with notice 28 years for first term; now automatic extension of 67 years for second term
Created before 1-1-78 but not published 1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life 70 years or 12-31-2002, whichever is greater
Created before 1-1-78 but published between then and 12-31-2002 1-1-78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life 70 years or 12-31-2047 whichever is greater

 

  1. Term of joint works is measured by life of the longest-lived author.
  2. Works for hire, anonymous and pseudonymous works also have this term. 17 U.S.C. § 302(c).
  3. Under the 1909 Act, works published without notice went into the public domain upon publication. Works published without notice between 1-1-78 and 3-1-89, effective date of the Berne Convention Implementation Act, retained copyright only if, e.g., registration was made within five years. 17 U.S.C. § 405. (Notes courtesy of Professor Tom Field, Franklin Pierce Law Center.)

LOLLY GASAWAY Last updated 9-18-01. For additional updates, check the following website: www.unc.edu/~unclng.