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JohnC's 'How To Check Public Domain Status Tutorial'

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John C:
Hi there,
First off here's the basics on US Copyright over at Project Gutenberg to get you familiar with terms.

The best bet (for books prior to 1950) is the Catalog of Copyright Entries, of which there are scans here:


You need to check the renewal 28 years after the book was published (plus, to be sure, the end of the previous year and the start of the next year).  If there's no renewal, the book is public domain.

Every issue has its own possible copyright, not the title, so every issue of interest needs checking independently.

For books 1950 to 1963 (1991 was the last year that copyrights needed renewal), the US Copyright Office has a searchable database:


If whatever you're searching for comes back with a number (to the right) starting with an R, that's a renewal.

Finally, we are not the final word on PD status.  it's important to point out (again) that none of us are lawyers.  If you have plans to use a PD title/character have a lawyer or the Library of Congress check the status for you.

Another handy link though by no means complete is "First copyright renewals for periodicals" site here:

But remember, when we are in doubt about a upload we likely will not add it to the site.  We are on the conservative side especially if its a popular character still being published.


John C:
And keep in mind that the First Renewals list was hand-compiled by looking at the individual CCEs.  Things may slip through the cracks, especially if multiple magazines had similar titles.

Another informative site as far as when laws were changed, etc is this Flash site -

Not actually comics but Disney lost a $319 million law suit. About time they get caught.



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