Public Domain Laws
The legal tool of public domain has offered people with a plethora of knowledge, creativity and entertainment.
Not only is the matter in public domain conveniently accessible, but it also has no monetary or social obligations attached to it. Nevertheless, while enriching ourselves with work of any field in public domain, one must not forget to keep in mind the laws encircling the same lest one ends up penalized for copyright infringement.
As per the laws of public domain, all work that was created before the year 1923 definitely falls under public domain and thus can be used without the fear of any impending legalities. The laws of copyright were conceived from 1923 onwards. However, there is a large possibility of work produced during the time frame between 1923 and 1963 to be in public domain. The reason being that during those years, public domain laws required registration for copyright that lasted only for 28 years. Thereafter, the copyright owner was expected to renew the rights for another 47 years. Those who ceased to do so lost their copyrights and their work came into public domain.
The laws pertaining to public domain underwent certain alterations in the year 1964. The system of renewal of copyrights by owners was eliminated. The copyrights of any work created or published between the years 1964 and 1978 was renewed on its own, thereby increasing the life of copyright protection for not just a few more decades but for more than seven decades even after the author was gone. The new rule stated that the copyrights over a work would exist for 75 years after the demise of the author or last author alive in cases of collective work. Only after this time lapsed would the specific work be part of public domain. Work published under fabricated names has an even longer time frame of protection. The copyright law is effective on such work for a period of 95 years from the time of publication or 120 years from its production, whatever takes precedence. In another ruling passed during the government of Clinton, all work under the copyright law was given an added extension of 20 years, which means that any work published even in 1923 will not become public domain till the year 2019.
However, any work that is produced by the US Federal government is automatically under public domain. Even then, it is prudent to give adequate recognition to the source when using any work.
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