When Does A Book Become Public Domain ?  

The laws of copyrights were formulated to shield the rights of artists, writers, musicians and others involved in creating innovative works.

Any work that is not protected by copyrights enters into the public domain. This signifies that just as any other public property, this work can also be used by any individual in any desired form.Books not protected under copyright law also fall into public domain, after which the contents can be duplicated, published or used as a base for further creations by any person without any approval from the author or without paying any royalties. There are approximately 85 million books in public domain. 

The rules related to copyright law are not internationally standardized and therefore, vary in different nations. Since, the copyright law was established in 1923 in the US, all work published before January 1, 1923 is automatically in public domain. Rules during the time span of January 1, 1923 to January 1, 1964 protected any literary work under copyright law for 28 years. After the expiration of these 28 years, the author was expected to renew the registration, which would restore rights for another 47 years. In case, the author for any reason did not do so, the book passed into public domain.

The terms and conditions of copyright law were revised again in 1964. Now the rule for renewal of copyright laws was eliminated. In accordance to the new rules, any work published during the time frame of 1964 to 1977 would automatically be renewed. As per the rule in the current year of 2009, any work published after January 1, 1978 is not only safeguarded during the entire lifespan of the author, but is also under protection for another 70 years after the author’s demise. Only after the expiration of this stipulated period can a book enter into public domain.

There are times when some authors for unknown reasons abandon their copyrights, thereby letting their work go into the hands of the public. Many authors prefer to take this step towards the last years of their life. Also, any literary work or books published by the United States government or related agencies is involuntarily a part of public domain and thus at public disposal.

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