JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen (US) Millions of Books Are in Public Domain Due to Quirk of Copyright Law #general

Jan Meisels Allen

Prior to 1964, most US published books had a 28-year copyright term. To
extend the copyright the authors or publishers had to send in a separate
form. That did not happen in many cases, meaning they are in the public
domain today. Why prior to 1964? The Copyright Act of 1992 pushed the
date back established in The Copyright Act of 1976 and did away with
renewal for books published after January 1, 1964. See NYPL blog post
below for list of copyright laws and dates. Through the 1970s, the
Library of Congress published the Catalog of Copyright Entries, all the
registration and renewals of America's books.

The New York Public Library (NYPL) took the effort to make those books
free online today. The NYPL recently blogged about Copyright History at:

This was not an easy task. The NYPL converted the registration and
copyright information into a searchable format, making the old
copyrights searchable and now knowing when, and if, they were renewed.

Around 80 percent of all the books published >from 1923 to 1964 are in the
public domain and free. The NYPL blog post (see above) they covered
copyright history. They state there are 642,000 registered copyrights with
only 25 percent (162,000) having renewed their copyright, the remaining
480,000 are probably in the public domain. To read more see the
aforementioned URL. I would encourage you to read the article as it
includes the convoluted history on copyright and what they have done to
list the books.

The Internet Archive has digital copies of
the books. I entered into the search bar "Jewish" (54,000 entries); "Jewish
Genealogy" (435 entries); and "Genealogy"(146,000 entries)

The Hathi Trust , is a digital library has
uploaded some of the newly free books.

The bottom line is there are many books of interest on genealogy, Jewish
genealogy and general Jewish category that are no longer under copyright
protection and may be downloaded >from the above sources.

To read more see:
Original url:

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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