Information about copyright rules

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Revision as of 22:09, 31 January 2009 by Carl Manchester (talk | contribs) (Rounding up to the New Year)
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The contents of this page are intended as helpful guidance only, but 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.


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 is also advised that it should 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.


Things to note

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 is Russia until January 1st of the 71st year after Boris' death.

Translations and adaptation

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.