Copyright and Fair Use

This Guide has been created to help students and faculty find information about Copyright and Fair Use in an academic setting. This guide does not constitute legal advice.
  • URL: https://libguides.enc.edu/copyright
  • Public Domain Laws

    Public Domain Laws. Tables modified from Cornell University's Copyright Information Center. Please note that these instances cover most cases of copyright but not all. 

    Never Published and Never Registered Works 

    Type of Work Length of Copyright In the public domain in the U.S. as of 1 January 2018
    Unpublished works
    Life of the author + 70 years Works from authors who died before 1948
    Unpublished anonymous and pseudonymous works, and works made for hire 120 years from the date of creation Works created before 1898
    Unpublished works when the death date of the author is not known 120 years from the date of creation Works created before 1898

    Works Registered or First Published in the US

    Date of Publication Conditions Copyright Term
    Before 1923 None None. In the public domain due to copyright expiration
    1923 through 1977 Published without a copyright notice None. In the public domain due to failure to comply with required formalities
    1978 to 1 March 1989 Published without notice, and without subsequent registration within 5 years None. In the public domain due to failure to comply with required formalities
    1978 to 1 March 1989 Published without notice, but with subsequent registration within 5 years 70 years after the death of the author. If a work of corporate authorship, 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first
    1923 through 1963 Published with notice but copyright was not renewed None. In the public domain due to copyright expiration
    1923 through 1963 Published with notice and the copyright was renewed 95 years after publication date
    1964 through 1977 Published with notice 95 years after publication date
    1978 to 1 March 1989 Created after 1977 and published with notice 70 years after the death of the author. If a work of corporate authorship, 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first
    1978 to 1 March 1989 Created before 1978 and first published with notice in the specified period The greater of the term specified in the previous entry or 31 December 2047
    From 1 March 1989 through 2002 Created after 1977 70 years after the death of the author. If a work of corporate authorship, 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first
    From 1 March 1989 through 2002 Created before 1978 and first published in this period The greater of the term specified in the previous entry or 31 December 2047
    After 2002 None 70 years after the death of the author. If a work of corporate authorship, 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first

     

    What is Public Domain?

    A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone.

    Works fall into the public domain for three main reasons:

    1. the term of copyright for the work has expired;

    2. the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright or

    3. the work is a work of the U.S. Government.

    As a general rule, most works enter the public domain because of old age. This includes any work published in the United States before 1923. Another large block of works are in the public domain because they were published before 1964 and copyright was not renewed. (Renewal was a requirement for works published before 1978.) A smaller group of works fell into the public domain because they were published without copyright notice (copyright notice was necessary for works published in the United States before March 1, 1989).

    Use the Copyright Slider Tool in the box below to determine if a work is still protected by copyright.

     

    The Copyright Slider