US Copyright Law

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Anna
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US Copyright Law

Post by Anna »

Can works created before 1923 renew protection in the US?

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi Anna,

I'm sorry that your short question can't be answered just as briefly!

If the works in question were created or first published outside the USA, then the answer is yes, copyright can be revived. The most well-known case on the subject in recent times was called Golan v Holder and it went all the way to the US Supreme Court who decided by a majority that something called the Uruguay Round Agreement Act could retroactively revive US copyright in foreign works. Revive is possibly the wrong word, because some of the works concerned had never previously enjoyed copyright protection in the USA.

Even some domestic works fall outside the often quoted 'everything produced before 1923 is in the public domain' dictum. For example certain unpublished works, and some which were subject to common law copyright regimes in certain States of the USA, such as Arizona and California.

Here's a link to what I think is the most comprehensive attempt to tabulate all the various anomalies in the US copyright landscape when it comes to the public domain: Cornell Law School.
I hope you will find the answer in there somewhere.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

Anna
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Post by Anna »

Hi Andy,

It really complicated. But thank you for the informative reply. I don't know if I really understand the system. I'll come back when I meet the problem. :)

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