Ever found an image and had no idea if it was still protected by copyright? Wondered if it was already considered to be a part of the public domain? What exactly is the public domain?
Thankfully, here is a simple chart that can help you get started on your search. This chart breaks down what images or creations may still be protected under copyright, or what is already considered public domain.
This chart is in no way all-inclusive, but it does give you a good idea of where to start. However, there are two key things to remember:
If the original author or creator has passed away, you can contact next of kin. Copyright does transfer similar to property rights. Public Domain is when the original author's copyright has expired, and they failed to renew their copyright, and so the copyrighted work was then made available to the public. Any creation categorized as public domain is free for the public to use without having to worry about copyright laws.
When was the image published:
How long will the copyright last:
If the work was published before 1923
This image is considered to be a part of the public domain. Nothing new will be considered public domain until 2019.
1923 to 1977
1923-1963: Work is considered to be public domain if the copyright was not renewed during this interim. If the work was renewed, the copyright will last for 95 years from date of initial publication.
1964-1977: Unlike images produced between 1923 and 1963, the copyright does not have to be renewed and will automatically last for 95 years from the date of first publication.
In both cases, if the image was created but not published before 1978, the copyright will last for the author's lifetime plus another 70 years. If the creator died more than 70 years ago, then the copyright may last until December 31, 2047, if it was published before December 31, 2002.
1978 or later
The copyright will last for the life of the creator plus an additional 70 years.
If the work was for-hire, was created using a pseudonym, or was anonymous, the copyright will last for 95 years from the date it was first published or 120 years from when it was first created, whichever one is shorter.
*Note: this information not meant to be taken as legal advice. When in doubt or for legal advice, contact a local attorney.*
It is also worth noting that, for works published before March 1, 1989, the use of © copyright notice is mandatory. For any work published after this date, it is recommended to include the copyright notice, but is not a requirement.
To stay informed on copyright matters, boomark PPA.com/Copyright!