When Copyright Does Not Apply
In certain instances, copying work is permitted:
When the orignional has lost copyright protection due to expiration
of the term of copyright - such works are now in public domain
Works that are not covered by copyright - lists, ideas, and facts.
The following examples of works that you may copy and use in your
Creations in the public domain - there is a massive volume of
works in public-domain. Check any legal statements carefully for
any special license requirements.
If you are in doubt as to whether work is in the public domain,
check the application of the following statutes:
- The 1909 Act - covers material created before Jan. 1, 1978.
- The 1976 Act - added durther protection
Under the 1909 Act
A creator could obtain copyright protection for:
- 28 years after publication and could then renew the copyright
for a second 28-year term.
- If the second term expired before the 1976 Act took effect,
the work is in the public domain.
This means - anything first published in the USA before
Jan. 1, 1922, is in the public domain.
Under the 1909 Act in second 28 year term at Jan. 1, 1978
For these works, the 1976 Act extends the copyright to a maximum
total of 75 years from publication.
This means - any work published more than 75 years ago,
it's public-domain material.
Work created on or after Jan. 1, 1978
For these works the duration of the copyright is:
- The life of the author plus 50 years, or
- 75 years for anonymous, pseudonymous, or work-made-for-hire
This means - you probably won't be around to worry about
any of these works.
Other Instances Copyright Does not Apply
Other circumstances in which copyright protection does not apply
- Ideas - Copyright DOES protect expression of
ideas, but DOES NOT protect the actual ideas. You need to get
patent protection for ideas.
- Facts - facts are generally not copyrightable,
however interpretations and explanations of facts may be copyrighted.
For instance, contact details in a phone book is NOT copyright
protected, however if the data was compiled using a specific formula
or proprietary system, then copyright MAY apply.
- Tiny parts of existing works - the de minimis
doctrine allows for the copying of very small or insignificant
portions of existing works. The difficulty is in agreeing with
the creator what constitues a 'tiny part'. It may be claimed that
this portion represents the essence of the work.
- Images that merge a concept with an execution
- the merger doctrine applies where a concept and its
execution are inextricably merged. For instance: two perspectives
of the same image, where point perspective is viewed purely as
a drawing technique, and as such the concept is said to be "merged"
with the execution. In this case, the form execution of two-point
perspective, even allowing for executions in different media,
cannot be copyright protected.
When in doubt, call a copyright attorney before you use the copy.
Next: How do
I get copyright protection?
Back To Top
Please note that these articles about Copyright are informational only. Please
consult your legal advisor.