This guide should not be construed as a substitute for legal advice, nor is this resource comprehensive on the subject of copyright.
The following materials are NOT protected under U.S. Copyright law:
- Works that lack originality
- logical, comprehensive compilations (like the phone book)
- unoriginal reprints of public domain works
- Works in the public domain
The simple absence of a copyright notice does not mean that a work is in the public domain. The general rules for determining whether a work is in the public domain are as follows:<
- Works published on or before December 31, 1922 are in the public domain.
- Works published between January 1, 1923 and December 31, 1978, inclusive, do not become public domain for 95 years from the date of publication, so long as the there is a copyright notice and copyright owner also renewed the copyright term.
- Works published after 1978 do not become public domain for 70 years from the date the author dies (called, "life of the author" plus 70 years).
- "Freeware" software
- U.S. Government works
- Ideas, processes, methods, and systems described in copyrighted works
See also: Cornell University's Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States chart