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Copyright and the Public Domain Research

ooks published before 1923 rest happily in the public domain, awaiting all manner of academic reappropriation. Books printed after 1963, meanwhile, sit quietly under copyright, thanks to a 1976 act that automatically renews the protected status of those works. But works created during the four decades in between live in limbo. Some are still under copyright, but others have become "orphan works" -- books that have exhausted their commercial life spans and have no apparent owners. Tracking down the copyright holders for works over half a century old can be an awfully tedious and inexact process, so it's hard sorting the orphans from the books that still have owners. But it's important to do just that: Librarians who want to digitize titles from their collections usually need to know whether the works they're scanning are, in fact, still under copyright. Enter Stanford University's new Copyright Renewal Database, an online repository that aims to make it easier to identify orphans. Piggybacking on the work of Project Gutenberg, Stanford has collected transcriptions of the U.S. Copyright

Copyright Durations
A flow chart setting forth some general guidelines regarding the duration of United States federal statutory copyright. There are a number of exceptions to these guidelines. In most cases, these exceptions may involve expiration prior to the theoretical date indicated. However, in some cases, copyright protection may continue past the indicated date. In addition, some remnants of state common law copyright protection continue to exist, and may provide protection even when federal copyright does not. See, e.g., Capitol Records, Inc. v. Naxos of Am., Inc., 4 N.Y.3d 540 (2005) (holding that New York state common law copyright protects sound recordings made before 1972 until February 15, 2067).

Public Domain Music
A reference site to help identify public domain songs and public domain music

ASCAP To ascertain whether a song is in the public domain, there are some guidelines, based on when the song was written.

2015 #MUSICIANS Learn what % of fractional shares to each copyrighted musical composition is 'controlled by ASCAP.'


According to Mr. Rowell, the Library of Congress will do searches on particular pieces to determine their copyright status. He recalls that the fee is $20/hour, at a rate of about three songs per hour. The report will arrive in about 3 months.
Att. Reference and Bibliography Section
Copyright Office
Library of Congress
Washington, D.C. 20559
(202) 707-3000.

A free resource for anyone who has questions about Copyright Law and Licensing Music for use and distribution over the World Wide Web." The site is at: