Genealogists are usually told that books published prior to 1924 are in the public domain and can be freely copied. Indeed, that is true. However, we also have been told to be cautious about copying large amounts of data published in books published in 1924 or later because those books might be under copyright. However, there are millions of exceptions.
Indeed, many books published between 1924 and 1964 MAY have fallen out of copyright. The problem is that determining the copyright status of a 1924 or later book has always been almost impossible. However, thanks to the New York Public Library, we can now determine copyright status easily.
According to an article by Matthew Gault in the Motherboard web site:
“Prior to 1964, books had a 28-year copyright term. Extending it required authors or publishers to send in a separate form, and lots of people didn’t end up doing that. Thanks to the efforts of the New York Public Library, many of those public domain books are now free online. Through the 1970s, the Library of Congress published the Catalog of Copyright Entries, all the registration and renewals of America’s books. The Internet Archive has digital copies of these, but computers couldn’t read all the information and figuring out which books were public domain, and thus could be uploaded legally, was tedious. The actual, extremely convoluted specifics of why these books are in the public domain are detailed in a post by the New York Public Library, which recently paid to parse the information in the Catalog of Copyright Entries.
“It amounts to an explosion of new books once lost to the mire of potential copyright claims. And they’re all free.”
The same article provides a lot of additional details, including where to download these free public domain eBooks. The list is expanding daily so if you don’t find what you want today, check back again later. You can read more at: https://tinyurl.com/eogn190806.