Information about copyright rules

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The contents of this page are intended as helpful guidance only. No promise is made that it is free from error. Nothing here should be taken as legal advice, and nothing here guarantees that any particular text or class of texts is suitable for LibriVox or for distribution on the Internet in general.
Please do not change the information included on this page without noting the fact and giving your reasons in the talk page.


For a literary work to be eligible for inclusion in the LibriVox catalogue, it must be in the public domain in the United States of America. It should also be in the public domain in the country where the volunteer wishing to record it resides.

This page gives guidance on the copyright status of works from a number of countries, which is intended to help members identify recordings which are eligible for inclusion in the catalogue.

There are various minor loopholes and exception to rules when it comes to copyright law, so please be aware that what is below might not be the whole story in unusual cases.

LibriVox prides itself on following good practice in ensuring that everything its volunteers record is legal. Volunteers should be aware, though, that it is our policy to remove any recording if a valid challenge is made to its legality. This has only happened once.


Contents

Things to note

Determining the "country of origin"

LibriVox primarily follows United States copyright law. This means that any literary work that was first published in the United States, or which was published in the United States within 30 days of its first publication in a Berne Covention or World Trade Organisation member country, should be considered to have originated in the United States for our purposes. This is true regardless of the nationality of the author.

Furthermore, a work should be considered to have originated in the United States if its author was domiciled (residing on a permanent basis) in the US at the time of the first publication of the work. This is true regardless of where the first publication took place.

If neither of these things apply, then the country of origin is the country where the author was a national or domciled at the time of first publication.

Where an author was a national of one country and domiciled in another, then the test is which country (other than the US) has the most "significant contacts" with the work (see below).

Multiple authors and "country of origin"

If a work has more than one author, and at least one of them was not a United States national or domiciled in the US at the time of first publication, then the country of origin is the country other than the US where a majority of the authors are nationals or domiciled.

If the country of origin remains unclear because there is no clear national majority among the authors, then the test is which country has the most "significant contacts" with the work (see below).

"Significant contacts"

"Significant contacts" is a matter of judgement, but it will most often be the country where the work was first published. If you are ever in a position where you feel you need to apply this test, please make the fact known to a member of LibriVox's admin team.

Rounding up to the New Year

Copyright rules will often state that a work enters the public domain so many years after the death of the author, or so many years after publication. This normally means that the work will enter the public domain on 1st January of the year following the anniversary of that event.

For example: in the United Kingdom, copyright is generally spoken of as expiring "70 years after the death of an author". This really means: "at the beginning of the seventy-first year after the death of the author". George Orwell died on 21st January 1950. This means that his works will come into the public domain in the United Kingdom on 1st January 2021 (70 years after the beginning of the year following his death).

Anonymous works

In the information below, reference may be made to works which are "anonymous". An anonymous work is one where the identity of the author has never been declared to the general public. The fact that the identity of the author of a work may be hard to ascertain does not necessarily make it "anonymous".

More than one author

Where a work has more than one author, it is normal to think of them as joint owners.

For example: science fiction author Arkady Strugatsky died in 1993. Under Russian law, his work will enter the public domain on 1st January 2064.

However, most of his work was written jointly with his brother, Boris Strugatsky, who is still alive. None of this work will enter the public domain in Russia until January 1st of the 71st year after Boris' death.

Where the authors are of different nationalities, please see above.

Translations and adaptations

The fact that the original version of a work is in the public domain does not mean that all versions of that work will follow suit. Translations and adapted/edited versions will normally carry a brand new copyright.

For example: the original German version of Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis) by Franz Kafka is in the public domain in the United States, since it was first published in 1916. However, the 2002 translation of the book into English by David Wyllie will remain copyrighted until 70 years after David Wyllie's death.

Similarly, William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet is in the public domain in the United States. But the script for the 1996 film William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, which was adapted from the original by Craig Pearce and Baz Luhrmann, will remain copyrighted in the US until 70 years following the death of the longer surviving of the two.

Unpublished works

There are specific rules governing the copyright of unpublished works, but it is not normal LibriVox policy to record unpublished works.

Copyright registration and renewal

In some cases, copyright status in the US depends on whether the formalities of registering and renewing copyright have been complied with. The University of Pennsylvania has produced a resource which can help you to check relevant records: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/cce/

Copyright guidance by country

Australia

Literary works of Australian origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Australian origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1945 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of Australian origin first published anonymously or postumously on or before 31st December 1945 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1955 are in the public domain in Australia.

Literary works of any origin first published on or before 31st December 1955, where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are in the public domain in Australia.

Australia recognises the Rule of the Shorter Term, so that works which are in the public domain their country of origin, provided it is a Berne Convention member, are also in the public domain in Australia.

Belgium

Literary works of Belgian origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Belgian origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of Belgian origin first published anonymously or postumously on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941) are still under copyright in Belgium.

Literary works of any origin first published 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in Belgium.

Belgium recognises the Rule of the Shorter Term, so that works which are in the public domain their country of origin, provided it is a Berne Convention member and is not an EU member, are also in the public domain in Belgium.

Brazil

Literary works of Brazilian origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Brazilian origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of Brazilian origin first published anonymously or postumously on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941) are still under copyright in Brazil.

Literary works of any origin first published 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in Brazil.

Canada

Literary works of Canadian origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Canadian origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1945 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of Canadian origin first published anonymously or postumously on or before 31st December 1945 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 50 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1961) are still under copyright in Canada.

Literary works of any origin first published 50 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1961), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in Canada.

Canada recognises the Rule of the Shorter Term, so that works which are in the public domain their country of origin, provided it is a Berne Convention member and is not a NAFTA member, are also in the public domain in Canada.

China

The following information relates specifically to mainland China. Rules may differ in Macau and Hong Kong.

Literary works of Chinese origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1955 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Chinese origin first published on or before 31st December 1955, where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are in the public domain in the United States.

All literary works of Chinese origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 50 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1961) are still under copyright in China.

Literary works of any origin first published 50 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1961), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in China.

All publications of the Chinese Government, including official translations, are in the public domain worldwide.

Cuba

Literary works of Cuban origin whose authors died on or before 20th February 1947 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of Cuban origin first published on or before 20th February 1947, where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

All literary works of Cuban origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 50 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1961) are still under copyright in Cuba.

Literary works of any origin first published 50 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1961), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in Cuba.

All publications of the Cuban Government are protected in Cuba by perpetual copyright, including official translations. Those published on or before 31st December 1933 are in the public domain in the United States.

France

Literary works of French origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of French origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of French origin first published anonymously or postumously on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941) are still under copyright in France.

Literary works of any origin first published 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in France.

There were previously rules which added time to the copyright term of works produced during World War I and World War II, but, in 2007, these rules were declared illegal for literary works.

Under French law, the reproduction of all literary works, including those in the public domain, must acknoweldge the author.

France recognises the Rule of the Shorter Term, so that works which are in the public domain their country of origin, provided it is a Berne Convention member and is not an EU member, are also in the public domain in France.

Germany

Literary works of German origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of German origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of German origin first published anonymously or postumously on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Certain works created under the direction of the German Third Reich are in the public domain in the United States, if they can be said to have come into the legal possession of US forces following World War II.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941) are still under copyright in Germany.

Literary works of any origin first published 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in Germany.

India

All literary works of Indian origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Indian origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1935 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of Indian origin first published anonymously or postumously on or before 31st December 1935 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 60 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1951) are still under copyright in India.

Literary works of any origin first published 60 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1951), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in India.

India recognises the Rule of the Shorter Term, so that works which are in the public domain their country of origin, provided it is listed in the Schedule to the International Copyright Order 1991, as amended, are also in the public domain in India.

Ireland

Literary works of Republic of Ireland origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Republic of Ireland origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of Republic of Ireland origin first published anonymously or postumously on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941) are still under copyright in the Republic of Ireland.

Literary works of any origin first published 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in the Republic of Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland recognises the Rule of the Shorter Term, so that works which are in the public domain their country of origin, provided it is a Berne Convention member and is not an EU member, are also in the public domain in the Republic of Ireland.

Japan

Literary works of Japanese origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1955 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Japanese origin first published on or before 31st December 1955, where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are in the public domain in the United States.

All literary works of Japanese origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Australian, Canadian, French, UK or US origin whose authors died 50 years plus 3,794 days ago or later (on or after 20th August 1950) are still under copyright in Japan.

Literary works of Australian, Canadian, French, UK or US origin first published 50 years plus 3,794 days ago or later (on or after 20th August 1950), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in Japan.

Literary works of other origins whose authors died 50 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1951) are still under copyright in Japan.

Literary works of other origins first published 50 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1951), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in Japan.

The Netherlands

Literary works of Netherlands origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Netherlands origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of Netherlands origin first published anonymously or postumously on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941) are still under copyright in the Netherlands.

Literary works of any origin first published 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands recognises the Rule of the Shorter Term, so that works which are in the public domain their country of origin, provided it is a Berne Convention member and is not an EU member, are also in the public domain in the Netherlands.

Poland

Literary works of Polish origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1968 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Polish origin first published on or before 31st December 1968, where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are in the public domain in the United States.

All literary works of Polish origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the Public Domain in the United States.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941) are probably still under copyright in Poland.

Literary works of any origin first published 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are probably still under copyright in Poland.

No new literary works of Polish origin will enter the public domain in the United States until 1st January 2039.

Russia

Literary works of Russian origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1952 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Russian origin first published on or before 31st December 1952, where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are in the public domain in the United States.

All literary works of Russian origin first published on of before 31st December 1922 are in the Public Domain in the United States.

Publications of the Russian Government (or the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) are not subject to copyright.

Russia recognises the Rule of the Shorter Term, so that works which are in the public domain their country of origin, provided it is a Berne Convention member, are also in the public domain in Russia.

Spain

Literary works of Spanish origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of Spanish origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of Spanish origin first published anonymously or postumously on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941) are still under copyright in the Spain.

Literary works of any origin first published 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in the Spain.

Spain recognises the Rule of the Shorter Term, so that works which are in the public domain their country of origin, provided it is a Berne Convention member and is not an EU member, are also in the public domain in the Spain.

United Kingdom

Literary works of United Kingdom origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of United Kingdom origin whose authors died on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of United Kingdom origin first published anonymously or postumously on or before 31st December 1925 are in the public domain in the United States, unless copyright was renewed with the US Library of Congress during the 28th year following first publication.

Literary works of any origin whose authors died 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941) are still under copyright in the United Kingdom.

Literary works of any origin first published 70 years ago or later (on or after 1st January 1941), where the author is anonymous or the publication is posthumous, are still under copyright in the United Kingdom.

Works first published in the United Kingdom by a Crown Body 50 years ago or earlier (on or before 31st December 1960) are in the public domain worldwide. This includes UK legislation, words spoken in the UK Houses of Parliament and official reports of the UK Government.

The King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer are not in the public domain in the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom recognises the Rule of the Shorter Term, so that works which are in the public domain their country of origin, provided it is a Berne Convention member and is not an EU member, are also in the public domain in the the United Kingdom.

United Nations

Offical documents produced by the United Nations are in the public domain worldwide, unless originally produced by the United Nations on a commerical basis. This includes transcripts of official proceedings and literature designed to inform the public about the activities of the United Nations.

Documents published by the United Nations not qualifying as public domain are subject to copyright following the normal rules based on their country of origin.

United States

Literary works of United States origin first published on or before 31st December 1922 are in the public domain in the United States.

Literary works of United States origin first published on or before 31st December 1977 without a valid copyright notice are in the public domain in the United States. A valid copyright notice should include: 1) the word "copyright", the abbreviation "copr" or the "©" symbol; 2) the name of the copyright holder; 3) the year of copyright.

Literary works of United States origin first published on or after 1st January 1978 but on or before 28th February 1989 without a valid copyright notice are in the public domain in the United States, unless their copyrights were registered with the Library of Congress within five years of first publication.

Literary works of United States origin first published on or before 31st December 1964 are in the public domain in the United States, unless their copyrights were renewed with the Library of Congress during the 28th year after first publication or, for works published on or before 31st December 1949, during the year preceding the 28th anniversary of first publication.

Works of the US Federal Government, including Government agencies and Federal courts, are not subject to copyright, although works of State governments may be.

External links

  1. Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 104 of the United States Code
  2. Article on American copyright restoration by Peter Hirtle, 2008
  3. Information on dates of accession of various countries to international copyright treaties
  4. Current copyright terms in various countries

Determining authors' death dates

  1. Author and Book Info.com
  2. (US) Library of Congress catalog
  3. (UK) British Library catalog
  4. (UK) Bodleian Library catalog
  5. Online Books Page
  6. Open Library
  7. Internet Archive
  8. Google Books
  9. Hathi Trust
  10. (UK only and of limited use except for very unusual names) FreeBMD, an ongoing project to transcribe the Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales, and Ancestry, for which you may need a subscription
  11. Birth and Death dates on Gutenberg AU
  12. Authors by year of death on kingkong.com
  13. Authors listed chronologically at Adelaide.edu
  14. Cemetery records online
  15. Poets' Graves
  16. Find a Grave
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