Difference between revisions of "Copyright and Public Domain"

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m (fix formatting that I messed up with previous edit.)
(Posting new Wiki page regarding copyright. Language drafted by MaryAnn based on discussions among the admin team.)
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= Public Domain & LibriVox =
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{| style="width:95%; margin:0 auto; background:#FFFACD; border:1px solid orange; text-align:left;"
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| '''Please do not change''' the information included on this page without noting the fact and giving your reasons in the [[Talk:Information about copyright rules|discussion page]].
  
Copyright gives an individual or corporation exclusive rights on a text for a limited period of time. This means that no one else can reproduce the text or make derivative works (such as audio recordings) while the copyright is in force. Eventually, though, copyright expires, and the text enters the "public domain". This means that anyone can use the text however they wish.
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|}
  
LibriVox takes texts already in the public domain, asks volunteers to make audio recordings of that text, and then releases the resulting audio back into the public domain.
 
  
'''This means that if you volunteer to record for LibriVox, you are agreeing to release the audio files you make into the public  domain. This means that anyone can use those audio files however they wish.'''  
+
 
 +
= All LibriVox Recordings are in the Public Domain =
 +
 
 +
'''Copyright''' is a legal concept that grants the creator of an original work (e.g., the author or translator of a book) exclusive rights to its use and distribution, usually for a limited time.  This means that no one else can reproduce the text or make derivative works (such as audio recordings) while the copyright is in force.
 +
 
 +
Works in the '''public domain''' are those whose copyrights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable.  Once a work enters the public domain, it may be freely used or exploited by anyone.
 +
 
 +
LibriVox takes a text that is already in the public domain, asks volunteers to make audio recordings of that text, and then releases the resulting audio back into the public domain.
 +
 
 +
{| style="width:95%; margin:0 auto; background:#FFFACD; border:1px solid orange; text-align:left;"
 +
| '''This means that if you volunteer to record for LibriVox, you are agreeing to release the audio files you make into the public  domain. This means that anyone can use those audio files however they wish.'''  
 +
 
 +
|}
  
 
In addition, book summaries, CD cover art, and any other material that goes into our catalog with the audio recordings are in the public domain.
 
In addition, book summaries, CD cover art, and any other material that goes into our catalog with the audio recordings are in the public domain.
 
[https://forum.librivox.org/viewtopic.php?p=226651#p226651 Why we use Public Domain] (and not, for instance, Creative Commons).
 
  
 
== However They Wish? ==
 
== However They Wish? ==
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Although these examples are far-fetched, they are all acceptable uses of public domain materials. So be aware of what you are doing when you free your recordings, text and images into the public domain. You really have to let go!
 
Although these examples are far-fetched, they are all acceptable uses of public domain materials. So be aware of what you are doing when you free your recordings, text and images into the public domain. You really have to let go!
  
LibriVox primarily uses etexts already added to [http://www.gutenberg.org Project Gutenberg]. However, other works may be recorded for LibriVox if appropriate documentation of the item's copyright status can be shown.
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= Librivox Source Materials and Public Domain =
 
 
= Determining Copyright Status in the United States =
 
 
 
'''Please note:  Works published outside the US must have been published in 1922 or earlier to be included in our catalog.  The US copyright status of works published in other countries after 1922 is difficult to determine.  Exception: if Project Gutenberg has already determined a non-US publication to be public domain in the US, then we will accept it.'''
 
 
 
Follow these steps to determine if a work published in the United States is in the Public Domain in the United States and can be recorded for LibriVox:
 
 
 
 
 
; 1. Is this a published work?
 
 
 
* If Yes: Continue to next step.
 
* If No: We're sorry, but we cannot include your recording at this time. LibriVox is currently only accepting recordings of published works.
 
 
 
 
 
; 2. Has the copyright status already been cleared by Project Gutenberg?
 
 
 
* Check [http://www.dprice48.freeserve.co.uk/GutIP.html David's In-Progress List] (by author's last name)
 
* If Yes: Start recording!
 
* If No: Continue to next step.
 
 
 
 
 
; 3. In what year was the work originally published?
 
 
 
* Check [http://worldcat.org WorldCat] or the [http://catalog.loc.gov/ Library of Congress Online Catalog]
 
* If 1922 or earlier: Start recording!
 
* If 1923 or later: Continue to next step.
 
 
 
 
 
; 4. Was the work originally published in 1977 or earlier?
 
 
 
* If No: We're sorry, but we cannot include your recording in LibriVox at this time.
 
* If Yes: Continue to next step.
 
 
 
 
 
; 5. Was the work originally published in 1949 or earlier?
 
 
 
* If Yes: Continue to next step.
 
* If No: Please see [http://www.sunsteinlaw.com/media/2012_01%20Copyright_Chart.pdf the Flow Chart for Determining Copyright Status] for more details.
 
 
 
 
 
; 6. Was the copyright renewed in the 28th year following the publication of the original?
 
 
 
* Check the copyright renewal records of years X+26, X+27, years X+28, and years X+29 (X=Original Pub. Date) on [http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/cce/ the University of Pennsylvania Catalog of Copyright Entries]
 
* If Yes: We're sorry, but we cannot include your recording at this time... but we might be able to 95 years after the original publication date (somewhere between 2018 & 2044).
 
* If No: Start recording!
 
  
 +
Public domain works should not be confused with works that are publicly available. Works posted on the internet are publicly available but may not be in the public domain.  Copying these works may therefore violate the author’s copyright.
  
We have more detailed [[information about copyright rules]] in the US and elsewhere.
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A copyright expires after a set length of time set by law.  When the copyright expires, the work enters the public domain.  LibriVox follows the copyright laws of the United States because all of our files are hosted with [http://archive.org/ Archive.org] whose servers are located in the US.  
  
== Online Resources used in this section ==
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In the United States, determining whether a work has entered the public domain or is still under copyright can be quite complex.  Laws in the US have extended copyright terms multiple times, starting with the first publication of a work with a possible renewal term and shifting more recently to a term extending from 50 to 70 years after the death of the author.
  
* Sunstein's [http://www.sunsteinlaw.com/media/2012_01%20Copyright_Chart.pdf Copyright Flowchart] - for determining when U.S. copyrights in fixed works expire.
+
In most other countries that are signatories to the Berne Convention, copyright term is based on the life of the author and extends to 50 or 70 years beyond the death of the author.
  
* Cornell University's [http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States]
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As copyright rights are country-based and vary, a work may be under copyright in one country and not in another. Therefore, a work may be in the public domain in the US, but still be under copyright in other countries. 
  
* Michigan Library Consortium's [http://portal.mlcnet.org/cms/sitem.cfm/library_tools/copyright_/copyrightdigitize/ Copyright and Digitization] -  Copyright Issues for Libraries When Digitizing Materials for the Web
+
Librivox makes good faith efforts to ensure that the texts recorded are public domain in the United States.  We do not, and can’t, ensure that these texts are public domain outside the United States.  It is the responsibility of each reader and listener to determine whether a particular text is public domain in the country in which he or she resides, and to comply with local copyright laws in working on or listening to Librivox project files.  Wikipedia has country by country guidelines [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries%27_copyright_length here], but Librivox does not guarantee the accuracy of this information.
  
* [http://www.dprice48.freeserve.co.uk/GutIP.html David's In-Progress List] (by author's last name)
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{| style="width:95%; margin:0 auto; background:#FFFACD; border:1px solid orange; text-align:left;"
** (Please note: Books released by Project Gutenberg Australia have an A after their release number and are not usually public domain under US copyright law.)
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| '''NOTE: LibriVox encourages all volunteers to abide by the laws of their countries, but we are not responsible if a volunteer makes a personal decision to act in breach of their countries' copyright laws.'''
  
* [http://worldcat.org/ OCLC's WorldCat]
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|}
  
* [http://catalog.loc.gov/ Library of Congress Online Catalog]
 
  
* [http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/renewals.html FAQ: How To Find Out Whether A Copyright Was Renewed]
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= Determining Public Domain Status =
  
* [http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/cce/ Catalog of Copyright Entries]
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Public domain is a negative space, that is, it consists of works that are no longer in copyright term or were never protected by copyright law.  It can be difficult to determine whether a work’s copyright term has expired.  It can also be difficult to determine if a work is one that was never protected by copyright law in the first instance. Librivox is a volunteer organization with no budget to defend copyright challenges. We therefore take a very cautious approach to what is included in the Librivox catalog.
  
* [http://collections.stanford.edu/copyrightrenewals/bin/page?forward=home Stanford University's Copyright Renewal Database]
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Published works that fall into one of the following categories may be included in the Librivox catalog:
  
= Submitting a Copyright Clearance Request to Project Gutenberg =
+
<blockquote>
 +
* Works published in 1922 or earlier (the copyright has expired in the U.S. on these works),
  
If you have a work that you would like to record that is not yet in Project Gutenberg, please submit a copyright clearance request with them to verify the copyright status.
+
* Works authored by the U.S. Government (these works are not eligible for U.S. copyright protection),
  
Here's how:
+
* Works which [http://www.gutenberg.org Project Gutenberg] has determined are in the public domain (the Project Gutenberg website does include some works which are not public domain in the US, so be sure to check the PD status on the “Bibrec” tab for the work you are interested in), or
  
*Go to: http://copy.pglaf.org/index.php
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* Works which the author states have been released into the public domain.
*Login (or get username if new to PG)
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</blockquote>
*Select the button next to "Submit a new clearance request" and click "Go!"
 
*Enter the following information about the book in the form
 
:*Title
 
:*Subtitle (if applicable)
 
:*Main language
 
:*Author or creator name
 
:*Other contributors names (if applicable)
 
:*Publisher business name
 
:*Publication location
 
:*Publication dates
 
:*Page scans (title page and verso or other pages with publication information)
 
*Click "SEND this clearance"
 
*Usually within a week, you will receive an email from ''copyrightATpglafDOTorg'' notifying you whether or not the request cleared. If it is cleared, a "Clearance OK key" will be included that you can use to submit the full text to Project Gutenberg.
 
  
 +
Each edition of a work may have its own period of copyright protection so it is important that Librivox volunteers ONLY use an edition which meets one of the above criteria.  Also, every translation has independent copyright protection and Librivox will only accept translations which meet the above criteria.
  
'''Please note that works published after 1922 must obtain Rule 6 clearance from Project Gutenberg for them to be recorded at LibriVox.'''
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Project Gutenberg has a mechanism for demonstrating that items published in the U.S. after 1922 are in the public domain in the U.S. Project Gutenberg calls this a “Rule 6” procedure. This is a difficult and time consuming process for both you and Project Gutenberg because it essentially involves proving a negative.  Instructions are [http://copy.pglaf.org/rule6-new.htm here]. Project Gutenberg will only entertain requests for Rule 6 clearance from individuals who have demonstrated their ability to do accurate and complete copyright research and will reject incomplete requests.
 
 
 
 
The latest information on how to do this is here: http://copy.pglaf.org/rule6-new.htm
 
 
 
There is a lot of work you have to do yourself. If you submit an incomplete request it will be rejected. There is only one person who approves Rule 6 requests and he's very busy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
== Works that are NOT OK per Gutenberg ==
 
 
 
(We've already submitted these, and they did not pass clearance):
 
 
 
* ten Boom, Corrie. ''Common Sense Not Needed''.
 
 
 
= Requesting Help from Librivox =
 
 
 
You are welcome to research the copyright status of works on your own. If you do, please document every step you have taken to determine whether the work is in the public domain.
 
 
 
However, if you find this process overwhelming, have additional questions, or would just like someone to hold your hand through the process, please create a new topic in the [https://forum.librivox.org/viewforum.php?f=1 Book Suggestions] area of the [https://forum.librivox.org/ Librivox Forums], and a volunteer will be able to work with you to submit a request at [http://copy.pglaf.org/index.php Project Gutenberg Copyright Clearance Requests].
 
 
 
Please include as much of the following information in your request as you can:
 
 
 
* In the Subject line: COPYRIGHT? [TITLE], [AUTHOR]
 
* Full title
 
* Author's name
 
* Names of additional authors, translators, editors, or illustrators
 
* Publication date(s)
 
* Publisher's name and location
 
* If published as part of another work, the title of that larger work (i.e. magazine or compilation title)
 
* Whether you have a paper copy of this work in-hand.
 
* Any URLs of Web sites that you have found with the full-text of the work.
 
* Any additional information that you would like to include.
 
  
 
= Additional Copyright FAQs =
 
= Additional Copyright FAQs =
  
== What if I don't live in the United States? ==
+
== Why doesn't Librivox use a Creative Commons License? ==
  
Copyright law varies from country to country. LibriVox follows the copyright laws of the United States because all of our files are hosted with [http://archive.org/ Archive.org] whose servers are located in the US.
+
We had this discussion early on, and decided we didn't want to add any restrictions to the recordings we make, which are based on public domain books. This means others can use our recordings however they wish, including for commercial purposes. We would prefer if people acknowledged us if they do use our recordings, be we can't force them to. This makes some people uncomfortable, but '''the books we record are public domain, and we want our recordings to be public domain too.'''
 
 
Because Librivox's server and files are hosted in the US, we can only include in our Catalog works that are PD in the US. However, some works that are in the Public Domain in the US might not be PD in the reader's country. If you live in a country where a work you wish to record is not in the public domain, and still wish to record it, you might consider not recording your name or drawing attention to your location. Please note that doing so might be a breach of Copyright.
 
  
We have been told (by Project Gutenberg) this is a legal grey area, and not clear one way or the other. but we make no particular effort to know where our readers are located, and we keep no record of where our readers were located at the time of recording, and LibriVox cannot guarantee to check the copyright status of a particular work beyound the US which is the area where we must comply.
+
See also [https://forum.librivox.org/viewtopic.php?p=226651#p226651 why we use Public Domain] (and not, for instance, Creative Commons).
  
As long as a book is PD in the US where we have our servers, it satisfies the legal requirements for LibriVox. If a reader in the EU (or elsewhere) feels uncomfortable with this possibly grey legal interpretation, then certainly they should consider another project (one that is definitely PD in EU - or where they are located). We try to alert volunteers from life + x countries in the first post of projects if there are potential copyright issues.
+
== May I record an unpublished work? ==
  
<div class="note">DISCLAIMER: LibriVox makes all efforts to ensure the public domain status of texts in the USA.  
+
No.  Librivox policy is not to record unpublished  or self-published works.  
  
LibriVox does not, and cannot, ensure the copyright status of texts outside the USA, and so it is up to listeners and readers to assess compliance with laws in their countries. LibriVox encourages all volunteers to abide by the laws of their countries, and cannot be held liable for the volunteer's personal decision to act in breach of their countries' copyright laws.</div>
+
== What if a work has more than one author? ==
  
=== Copyright laws in countries outside the USA ===
+
Where a work has more than one author, it is normal to think of them as ''joint owners''.  If you reside in a “life plus” country, then the work enters the public domain for you when the copyright has expired as to the last to die of the authors.
  
Most countries outside of the United States have copyright for (the life of the author + x) number of years.
+
== Is it ok for me to record from an e-book or html version of a public domain text? ==
  
For example, in ''the European Union'' it's (life + 70) yearsThis means that works of authors who were still alive in (today's year - 70) are still under copyright in the EU.
+
Usually, yes. If the original text is in the public domain, you may record from any online text that is a transcription, scan or OCR version of the original textCopyright statements often accompany these new Internet versions, but the copyright only applies to the formatting and layout of the page.  
  
Example:  In 2007, works of all authors who died before 1937 are in the public domain in the EU. 2007-70 is 1937.
+
However, if the work has been significantly annotated/edited/altered, the new version of the work may be entitled to its own period of copyright protection.  New introductions or prefaces and book summaries are also entitied to their own period of copyright protection. When you read from a html version, please tell your MC the source you are reading from (e.g., Gutenberg e-text downloaded from Amazon) and your MC will help you confirm that the source you are reading from is public domain.
  
 +
== What if I want to record a translation or later edition of a work? ==
  
* In '''the European Union''' and some other places it's (life + 70).
+
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.
* In '''Australia''', works by authors who died before 1955 are in the public domain. Works by authors after 1955 are in copyright until (life + 70).
 
* In '''many other countries''' it's (life + 50).
 
  
 +
For example: the original German version of ''Die Verwandlung'' (''The Metamorphosis'') by [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Kafka 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.
  
; Additional Information
+
If you reside in a life plus country, then the work enters the public domain for you when the copyright has expired as to the last to die of each of the authors and translators.
  
* For more information about copyright terms in other countries, see [[Information about copyright rules]].
+
== How do I determine when an author/translator died? ==
* The University of Pennsylvania's [http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/okbooks.html How Can I Tell Whether a Book Can Go Online?] explains matters further and lists many countries.
 
* Project Gutenberg Australia has information on [http://gutenberg.net.au/newsandreviews.html#a14 Changes to Australian Copyright Law].
 
  
== Why doesn't Librivox use a Creative Commons License? ==
+
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.
  
We had this discussion early on, and decided we didn't want to add any restrictions to the recordings we make, which are based on public domain books. This means others can use our recordings however they wish, including for commercial purposes. We would prefer if people acknowledged us if they do use our recordings, be we can't force them to. This makes some people uncomfortable, but '''the books we record are public domain, and we want our recordings to be public domain too.'''
+
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". [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Orwell 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).
  
== Is it ok for me to record from a later edition or an html version of a public domain text? ==
+
The following websites may be helpful to determine an author or translator’s date of death:
 +
* [http://www.authorandbookinfo.com/ Author and Book Info.com]
 +
* (US) [http://catalog.loc.gov/ Library of Congress catalog]
 +
* (UK) [http://catalogue.bl.uk/ British Library catalog]
 +
* (UK) [http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/bodley/eresources#all Bodleian Library catalog]
 +
* [http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/authors.html Online Books Page]
 +
* [http://openlibrary.org/authors Open Library]
 +
* [http://www.archive.org/details/texts Internet Archive]
 +
* [http://books.google.com/books Google Books]
 +
* [http://www.hathitrust.org/ Hathi Trust]
 +
* (UK only and of limited use except for very unusual names) [http://www.freebmd.org.uk/ FreeBMD], an ongoing project to transcribe the Civil Registration index of births, marriages and deaths for England and Wales, and [http://www.ancestry.co.uk/ Ancestry], for which you may need a subscription
 +
* [http://gutenberg.net.au/birthdeath.html Birth and Death dates on Gutenberg AU]
 +
* [http://www.kingkong.demon.co.uk/abyod/abyod.htm Authors by year of death on kingkong.com]
 +
* [http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/meta/chrono.html Authors listed chronologically at Adelaide.edu]
 +
* [http://www.interment.net/ Cemetery records online]
 +
* [http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/ Poets' Graves]
 +
* [http://www.findagrave.com/ Find a Grave]
  
Usually, yes. If the original text is in the public domain, you may record from any online text that cites the source from which the text was obtained. Copyright statements often accompany these new Internet versions, but the copyright only applies to the formating and layout of the page. However, if the work has been significantly annotated/edited/altered, the new version does retain a copyright. Please make an attempt to verify the authenticity of the text and its source. Later printed editions of books often include new introductions or prefaces that are still under copyright and may not be recorded.
+
= External links of interest =
 
 
For more information, please read Project Gutenberg's statement on the topic: http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:No_Sweat_of_the_Brow_Copyright
 
 
 
= Additional Online Resources =
 
  
 +
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/ Project Gutenberg]
 
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain Public Domain - Wikipedia.org]
 
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain Public Domain - Wikipedia.org]
 
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright Copyright - Wikipedia.org]
 
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright Copyright - Wikipedia.org]
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyleft Copyleft - Wikipedia.org]
+
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention Berne Convention - Wikipedia.org]
 
* [http://www.copyright.gov/ United States Copyright Office]
 
* [http://www.copyright.gov/ United States Copyright Office]
* [http://www.public-domain.org/ Union for the Public Domain]
+
* [http://ecommons.library.cornell.edu/bitstream/1813/10884/6/Copyright_renewal_final.pdf Article on American copyright restoration] by Peter Hirtle, 2008
* [http://www.public.asu.edu/~dkarjala/publicdomain/SearchC-R.html "How to Determine Whether a Work is in the Public Domain,"] by Dennis S. Karjala, Professor of Law, ASU
 
 
* [http://creativecommons.org/ Creative Commons]
 
* [http://creativecommons.org/ Creative Commons]
* [http://www.fsf.org/ Free Software Foundation]
+
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries%27_copyright_length Current copyright terms in various countries]
* [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_Convention_for_the_Protection_of_Literary_and_Artistic_Works Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (International Copyright)]
 
* [http://www.digital-copyright.ca/about/ Digital Copyright Canada]
 
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/ Project Gutenberg]
 

Revision as of 12:14, 9 March 2014

Please do not change the information included on this page without noting the fact and giving your reasons in the discussion page.


All LibriVox Recordings are in the Public Domain

Copyright is a legal concept that grants the creator of an original work (e.g., the author or translator of a book) exclusive rights to its use and distribution, usually for a limited time. This means that no one else can reproduce the text or make derivative works (such as audio recordings) while the copyright is in force.

Works in the public domain are those whose copyrights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable. Once a work enters the public domain, it may be freely used or exploited by anyone.

LibriVox takes a text that is already in the public domain, asks volunteers to make audio recordings of that text, and then releases the resulting audio back into the public domain.

This means that if you volunteer to record for LibriVox, you are agreeing to release the audio files you make into the public domain. This means that anyone can use those audio files however they wish.

In addition, book summaries, CD cover art, and any other material that goes into our catalog with the audio recordings are in the public domain.

However They Wish?

What does "however they wish" mean, exactly? People may use our recordings to profit; they may remix them into other projects; they do not need to give credit to the individual reader/writer/creator or to !LibriVox. Anyone may do all kinds of things with LibriVox recordings. Some we might "approve of," and other things we might prefer them not do - but Public Domain means that just about anyone can do what they like with the recordings. Here are some things that we know people have done with LibriVox recordings:

  • used the LibriVox recordings in YouTube videos
  • remixed LibriVox recordings into music, and sold the recordings
  • remixed LibriVox recordings into music, and gave the recordings away
  • used LibriVox recordings in art installations
  • made CDs of LibriVox books, and sold them on ebay (see here for discussions about LibriVox and Ebay)
  • used LibriVox recordings in non-commercial educational projects
  • used LibriVox recordings in commercial educational projects

Some other examples of things that might happen (but has not, to our knowledge happened):

  • CDs of Romance of Rubber sold as a fundraiser for a charity you don't like;
  • The summary of Frankenstein used to promote a major motion picture;
  • Fables for the Frivolous sampled into a violent rap song;
  • Origin of the Species as background atmosphere for a pornographic film;

Although these examples are far-fetched, they are all acceptable uses of public domain materials. So be aware of what you are doing when you free your recordings, text and images into the public domain. You really have to let go!

Librivox Source Materials and Public Domain

Public domain works should not be confused with works that are publicly available. Works posted on the internet are publicly available but may not be in the public domain. Copying these works may therefore violate the author’s copyright.

A copyright expires after a set length of time set by law. When the copyright expires, the work enters the public domain. LibriVox follows the copyright laws of the United States because all of our files are hosted with Archive.org whose servers are located in the US.

In the United States, determining whether a work has entered the public domain or is still under copyright can be quite complex. Laws in the US have extended copyright terms multiple times, starting with the first publication of a work with a possible renewal term and shifting more recently to a term extending from 50 to 70 years after the death of the author.

In most other countries that are signatories to the Berne Convention, copyright term is based on the life of the author and extends to 50 or 70 years beyond the death of the author.

As copyright rights are country-based and vary, a work may be under copyright in one country and not in another. Therefore, a work may be in the public domain in the US, but still be under copyright in other countries.

Librivox makes good faith efforts to ensure that the texts recorded are public domain in the United States. We do not, and can’t, ensure that these texts are public domain outside the United States. It is the responsibility of each reader and listener to determine whether a particular text is public domain in the country in which he or she resides, and to comply with local copyright laws in working on or listening to Librivox project files. Wikipedia has country by country guidelines here, but Librivox does not guarantee the accuracy of this information.

NOTE: LibriVox encourages all volunteers to abide by the laws of their countries, but we are not responsible if a volunteer makes a personal decision to act in breach of their countries' copyright laws.


Determining Public Domain Status

Public domain is a negative space, that is, it consists of works that are no longer in copyright term or were never protected by copyright law. It can be difficult to determine whether a work’s copyright term has expired. It can also be difficult to determine if a work is one that was never protected by copyright law in the first instance. Librivox is a volunteer organization with no budget to defend copyright challenges. We therefore take a very cautious approach to what is included in the Librivox catalog.

Published works that fall into one of the following categories may be included in the Librivox catalog:

  • Works published in 1922 or earlier (the copyright has expired in the U.S. on these works),
  • Works authored by the U.S. Government (these works are not eligible for U.S. copyright protection),
  • Works which Project Gutenberg has determined are in the public domain (the Project Gutenberg website does include some works which are not public domain in the US, so be sure to check the PD status on the “Bibrec” tab for the work you are interested in), or
  • Works which the author states have been released into the public domain.

Each edition of a work may have its own period of copyright protection so it is important that Librivox volunteers ONLY use an edition which meets one of the above criteria. Also, every translation has independent copyright protection and Librivox will only accept translations which meet the above criteria.

Project Gutenberg has a mechanism for demonstrating that items published in the U.S. after 1922 are in the public domain in the U.S. Project Gutenberg calls this a “Rule 6” procedure. This is a difficult and time consuming process for both you and Project Gutenberg because it essentially involves proving a negative. Instructions are here. Project Gutenberg will only entertain requests for Rule 6 clearance from individuals who have demonstrated their ability to do accurate and complete copyright research and will reject incomplete requests.

Additional Copyright FAQs

Why doesn't Librivox use a Creative Commons License?

We had this discussion early on, and decided we didn't want to add any restrictions to the recordings we make, which are based on public domain books. This means others can use our recordings however they wish, including for commercial purposes. We would prefer if people acknowledged us if they do use our recordings, be we can't force them to. This makes some people uncomfortable, but the books we record are public domain, and we want our recordings to be public domain too.

See also why we use Public Domain (and not, for instance, Creative Commons).

May I record an unpublished work?

No. Librivox policy is not to record unpublished or self-published works.

What if a work has more than one author?

Where a work has more than one author, it is normal to think of them as joint owners. If you reside in a “life plus” country, then the work enters the public domain for you when the copyright has expired as to the last to die of the authors.

Is it ok for me to record from an e-book or html version of a public domain text?

Usually, yes. If the original text is in the public domain, you may record from any online text that is a transcription, scan or OCR version of the original text. Copyright statements often accompany these new Internet versions, but the copyright only applies to the formatting and layout of the page.

However, if the work has been significantly annotated/edited/altered, the new version of the work may be entitled to its own period of copyright protection. New introductions or prefaces and book summaries are also entitied to their own period of copyright protection. When you read from a html version, please tell your MC the source you are reading from (e.g., Gutenberg e-text downloaded from Amazon) and your MC will help you confirm that the source you are reading from is public domain.

What if I want to record a translation or later edition of a work?

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.

If you reside in a life plus country, then the work enters the public domain for you when the copyright has expired as to the last to die of each of the authors and translators.

How do I determine when an author/translator died?

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).

The following websites may be helpful to determine an author or translator’s date of death:

External links of interest