Is the work currently protected by copyright?

Scholarship & Research Materials

Is the work currently protected by copyright?

If a work is not protected by copyright, it is in the public domain. The public domain is a way of referring to those works for which copyright has expired, been forfeited, or to which copyright did not apply. This includes works published prior to 1923, federal government publications, and many state publications. You can do whatever you wish with these works, as they no longer have copyright protections.

Some works published after 1923 are in the public domain as well. These works may have initially been covered by copyright, but said copyright has been allowed to expire. There are a variety of tools available to help you determine whether a particular work is in the public domain or not.

The Copyright Genie is a tool from the American Libraries Association that can determine if a work is covered by copyright and, if it is, when it will no longer be covered.

The Stanford University Copyright Renewal Database is a searchable database of copyright renewal records for books published in the U.S. between 1923 and 1963. If a work was published with a © symbol and registered, this database will help determine if it is still covered.

The Catalog of Copyright Entries is also available online through the Internet Archive and Google Books. These scans will cover all copyright entries, but aren’t easily searchable. While copyright renewal had to take place by the 28th year, anecdotal evidence has suggested that entries were not always published promptly. Look for records for 27 to 29 years after the initial copyright date.


Learn more - Check out the Copyright FAQs