22 April 2009

4.0 Duration of Copyright Protection

4.1 Question: Is there a simple way to determine duration of a copyright work in the U.S.?
Answer: The duration of copyright protection in the U.S. is more complicated than in other countries due in part to the fact that the length of copyright protection in the U.S. has been amended a number of times. Helpful charts to determine whether a work is in the public domain are at: http://www.copyright.cornell.edu/public_domain/, and http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm. (2006-3)

4.2 Question: There is a photograph on a Web site that my organization wants to copy and paste into our Web site. There is no copyright notice on the photograph nor any information relating to copyright protection or the name of the photographer or owner of the photograph. Is the work in the public domain?
Answer: No, assume that all content on the Web is protected by copyright unless there is a statement to the opposite, or you have investigated the copyright status of the work. Even a work that does not contain a copyright symbol or other information relating to the identification of the copyright owner is presumably subject to copyright protection. (2008-1)

4.3 Question: Do all countries have the same copyright duration?
Answer: No. The Berne Convention sets out the minimum duration for copyright protection, which is currently life + 50 -- fifty years after the author's death. So most countries (including Canada) still have a life + 50 duration. However, countries are "free" to provide a longer duration and the U.S. and European Union countries now provide a life + 70 duration. Note that this is the "general rule" of copyright duration and specific works such as government works and employment works may have different durations of protection. (2009-1)

4.4 Question: What does public domain mean?
Answer: Public domain means that a work is not protected by copyright. This may occur in several situations. For example, U.S. government works (those created by the U.S. government and its employees) are in the public domain. Also, works in which copyright duration has expired are in the public domain.


MoonBeam said...

Based on the lifetime + 70 years rule, can I assume that quotations from anyone who died before 1939 are now in the public domain and therefore safe to use without obtaining permission, or can the copyright be extended beyond that time by the copyright owner’s estate?

Copyrightlaws.com said...

Hi Moonbeam, the duration of copyright in the US is now life + 70 but has gone through various durations over the past several decades. As such, you may want to consult the chart referred to in 4.1 above. Also note that many use short quotations from copyright protected materials without obtaining permission.

Mrms said...

Is a print of a painting which is in the public domain also in the public domain or is it considered to be an original work with copyright of its own?

Copyrightlaws.com said...

Hi Mrms, a print or photograph of a public domain work is not necessarily in public domain itself. The reproduction of the public domain work (assuming it meets copyright criteria) is a new work, subject to its own duration of copyright.

Debbie said...

Question: If I am a photographer and want to post my photograph on the web, but have it copyrighted in my name, how do I do that?
Can I just put the copyright symbol with my name and the year beside the photo, and then it will be copyrighter to me?