Works from 1924 are Now in the Public Domain

For years, genealogists learned that anything published prior to 1923 is now considered to be in the public domain. In other words, there are no copyrights on these older works and they may be copied or reproduced freely. However, the date of early copyrights changed last year.

Starting on January 1, 2019, anything published in  the United States in 1923 (or anything published prior to 1924) is now considered to be in the public domain. Now the new year has pushed the date out another year.

Starting on January 1, 2020, anything published in 1924 (or anything published prior to 1925) is now considered to be in the public domain.

It’s time to (legally) republish some of those old family history books!

See https://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/2020/ for further details.

3 Comments

My understanding is that, before the deadline of a work goes into public domain, someone with a familial or other qualifying connection to the original copyright owner may go through the hoops to reestablish the copyright, this time for themselves. Off the top of my head, I don’t remember examples of this, but the reading I did about it not long ago is probably online to be found by someone who wants to take the time to find it.
If no one qualifies to reestablish the copyright and the work goes into public domain, then it is copy-able by whoever wants it, even beyond the strictures of fair use copying which are always in place, with or without a copyright owner.

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You should point out that this only applies to US Copyright.

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Debra Newton-Carter January 5, 2020 at 8:07 am

For all the details on copyright, I viewed Judy G. Russell’s webinar entitiled, “Facts, Photos, and Fair Use: Copyright Law for Genealogists” at the APGen site. Sure, it was written in 2012 and wouldn’t have this newest piece of legislation, but it shows there is much more to copyright than we would expect.

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