Beginning January 1, 2019, the cut-off date for works in the public domain will change each year.
As of that date, most works published in the U.S. during 1923 are in the public domain.
This may supersede the information provided in older resources cited below.
Overview of Digitizing Collections
- Legal Issues to Consider When Digitizing Collections
- Library Digitization Projects and Copyright A very readable overview of what librarians need to know about copyright, including a discussion of what qualifies as Public Domain (with examples), copyright terms in published and unpublished works, and information on Section 108 of Copyright Law (Library Exception), Fair Use, and permissions.
- Well-Intentioned Practice for Putting Digitized Collections of Unpublished Materials Online
- Library of Congress legal statement regarding copyright, privacy and publicity rights.
Public Domain, Fair Use and *Orphan Works
- Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States, updated January 1, 2019. Comprehensive table with information about the copyright term for unpublished items, items published in the United States and internationally, sound recordings and special cases.
- Digital Copyright Slider ALA Office for Information Technology Policy. An easy-to-use calculator shows whether or not will need permission is required.
- Is it in the Public Domain? Flowchart and Handbook A thorough and image-rich flowchart to help determine copyright status and assess risks for works created from 1923-1977.
- Copyright and Fair Use Charts and Tools Excellent links, including information on media and performance works.
- Fair Use checklist
- Determining Orphan Works vs. Public Domain Status for Print Works Published in the U.S. from 1923 through 1977 Flowchart to help determine if your item is in the public domain.
- Digitizing Orphan Works: Legal strategies to reduce risks… Report from Orphan Works Project
*Orphan works: Items that are copyright protected, but for which the copyright owner cannot be determined or located. If needed, use this term to investigate issues surrounding their publication.
Researching Copyright Status
- How to Investigate Copyright Status, Circular 22 U.S. Copyright Office Includes an overview of copyright issues.
- Search copyright registration & renewals:
Library of Congress Copyright Catalog (1978-present)
Stanford University Copyright Renewals (1950-1992)
University of Pennsylvania Copyright Registration & Renewals (1789-present)
Google - scanned Catalog of Copyright Entries (1922-1977)
Copyright Permission Information
- Copyright Permission FAQ Includes sample form.
- Rights Statements Recommended statements for different situations.
Copyright Code: Reproduction by Libraries
- Section 108: Reproductions by Libraries and Archives for their Users, for Replacement or for Preservation This spinner helps libraries and archives assess whether or not they can make reproductions of copyrighted materials without permissions in certain circumstances.
- Section 108 Study Group Additional information.