All Copyrighted Works First Published In the US In 1923 Will Enter Public Domain On January 1st

Most U.S. genealogists have been told that all books  and other documents published PRIOR to 1923 are in the public domain. In other words, those books are not under copyright. However, that rule is changing. Starting on New Year’s Day, published in 1923 are now in the public domain. The new rule will be: all books and other documents published PRIOR to 1924 are in the public domain.

That rule will add another year again every January 1st thereafter.

Details may be found an an article by Glenn Fleishman in the Smithsonian Magazine at


Sounds like it might actually happen this time. One of the last times 1923 was supposed to come out of copyright, Mickey and others got it delayed for 20 years. Even now, there are some who want to see copyright be extended longer. Although I won’t be surprised if in a year or two, maybe longer, that Congress pulls up an illegal retroactive law that makes it stay in copyright for another 20 years. I just wish Congress and the Supreme Court would pay attention to what the Founding Fathers meant when they instituted copyright.


One should bear in mind that the relevant period is that prescribed by the law of the place where the copying or republishing is done, rather than that of the place where the work was written or originally published. In the European Economic Area a literary work (even one from the United States) published before 1924 is generally free of copyright only if the author died before 1948. Incidentally, copyright existed before any father was engaged in founding in North America.


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