The Samuelson Clinic is excited to provide a
handbook, “Is it in the Public Domain?,” and accompanying
visuals. These educational tools help users to evaluate the
copyright status of a work created in the United States between
January 1, 1923 and December 31, 1977—those works that were
created before today’s 1976 Copyright Act. Many important
works—from archival materials to family photos and movies—were created during this time, and it can be
difficult to tell whether they are still under copyright.
The handbook walks readers though a series of
questions—illustrated by accompanying charts—to help readers
explore whether a copyrighted work from that time is in the
public domain, and therefore free to be used without
permission from a copyright owner. Knowing whether a work
is in the public domain or protected by copyright is an
important first step in any decision regarding whether or
how to make use of a work.
The handbook was originally developed for the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Legacy Project (“SLP”), a
nonprofit organization run by civil rights movement veterans
that is creating a digital archive of historical materials.