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copyright symbolThis page presents Full Text Archive's rules for confirming the public domain status of Books. We are very diligent about confirming copyright status before hosting a book. Nearly all of our books are in the public domain in the United States. For the rest, copyright permission has been granted by the copyright owner.

Full Text Archive's copyright rules are for Full Text Archive books, and apply only to works we release on our main servers. Most of our visitors are from the United States so we follow US law regarding copyright. In addition, the only servers on which the collection is directly maintained are in the US.

Full Text Archive will not release any eBook until the book's copyright status has been confirmed. It is wisest to confirm copyright clearance prior to working on any eBook. Unless we have permission from the copyright owner, we must demonstrate a book is in the public domain under the applicable U.S. law.

Full Text Archive's Copyright Rules

We have seven active rules (others are under development) under which an item may be copyright-cleared for inclusion in the Full Text Archive.

Rule 1

Works first published before January 1, 1923 with proper copyright notice entered the public domain no later than 75 years from the date copyright was first secured. Hence, all works whose copyrights were secured before 1923 are now in the public domain, regardless of where they were published. (This is the rule Full Text Archive uses most often)

Works published and copyrighted 1923-1977 retain copyright for 95 years. No such works will enter the public domain until 2019 unless one of the other rules applies.

Rule 2

Works first created on or after January 1, 1978 enter the public domain 70 years after the death of the author if the author is a natural person. (Nothing will enter the public domain under this rule until at least January 1, 2049.)

Rule 3

Works first created on or after January 1, 1978 which are created by a corporate author enter the public domain 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation whichever occurs first. (Nothing will enter the public domain under this rule until at least January 1, 2074.)

Rule 4

Works created before January 1, 1978 but not published before that date are copyrighted under rules similar to rules 2 and 3 above, except that in no case will the copyright on a work not published prior to January 1, 1978 expire before December 31, 2002. If the work is published before December 31, 2002, its copyright will not expire before December 31, 2047. (This rule copyrights a lot of manuscripts that we would otherwise think of as public domain because of their age.)

Rule 5

If a substantial number of copies were printed and distributed in the U.S. prior to March 1, 1989 without a copyright notice, and the work is of entirely American authorship, or was first published in the United States, the work is in the public domain in the U.S. (Note that we do not clear items printed/published outside of the U.S. under this rule)

Rule 6

Rule 6 is currently under testing and revision. This section describes GATT exceptions to Rule 6. A future version of Rule 6 will describe the steps for demonstrating non-renewal to determine public domain.

Works published before 1964 needed to have their copyrights renewed in their 28th year, or they'd enter into the public domain. Some books originally published outside of the US by non-Americans are exempt from this requirement, under GATT. Works from before 1964 were automatically renewed if all of these apply:

  1. At least one author was a citizen or resident of a foreign country (outside the US) that's a party to the applicable copyright agreements. (Almost all countries are parties to these agreements.)
  2. The work was still under copyright in at least one author's "home country" at the time the GATT copyright agreement went into effect for that country (January 1, 1996 for most countries).
  3. The work was first published abroad, and not published in the United States until at least 30 days after its first publication abroad.

If we can prove that one of the above does not apply, and if we can prove that copyright was not renewed, then the work is in the public domain.

To prove an item was not renewed, we would need to do an extensive search of renewals in Library of Congress records (or get a letter from the author or publisher attesting that there was no renewal). For this reason rule 6 is almost never used to justify publication in the Full Text Archive.

Rule 7

U.S. Government and Crown copyright. Items published by the United States Government do not have copyright protection in the US. We need to be careful with this rule, because some items distributed by the U.S. Government might have been authored by other entities who are entitled to a copyright. In the U.K. and Canada, Crown copyright lasts for 50 years for items published by the government.

Whose law applies?

When we distribute in the United States, U.S. law applies. When we distribute to other countries, their law applies. You are liable under your country's laws to determine whether it is lawful for you to view/copy individual books in your country.

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