Copyright renewal registrations

Information and help regarding copyright renewal.

Under United States copyright law, works published in the United States between and only had a "first term" of copyright of 28 years. However, they were eligible for an additional "renewal term" if a renewal was filed in the 28th year of the first term.[1] If the renewal was not filed, these works entered the public domain. If the renewal was filed, the work is still under copyright as the copyright period has since been extended to 95 years from the year of first publication.

For example: Book A was published by Author B in 1930. In 1957–1958, Author B must renew the copyright on Book A. If they did not do this, it enters the public domain in 1959. If they did do this, Book A remains under copyright through 2025.

It is therefore important for Wikisource to know the renewal status of any works published during these four decades. Potentially lots of works are in the public domain due to lack to renewal.

Renewal registration information is available from a variety of sources. These can be checked for evidence of renewal. If no renewal registration is found, the work can be assumed to be in the public domain.

How to check for renewals edit

Copyright renewals were registered by the United States Copyright Office. Records of renewals made up until 1977 (ie. for works published in 1923-1949) were published in the Catalog of Copyright Entries (or CCE), published twice a year. Scans are available in several places on the internet. Records of renewals made from 1978 onwards (ie. for works published in 1950-1963) are available online at the U. S. Copyright Office website. For 1978 renewals (ie. relating to 1950), it is recommended that both the CCE and the Copyright Office website be checked.

Renewals could be made by the author or, if dead, by their spouse, children or representative of the estate. In some cases the author of the work was not the owner of the copyright (for example, a work made for hire). An important case of the latter is a contribution to a periodical, such as a magazine or newspaper; in which case, the copyright could be renewed both by the author renewing the copyright on the individual work or by the publisher renewing the copyright on the issue of the periodical. Therefore, for works published in periodicals, the copyright status of both the work and the periodical need to be checked.

Who could file a renewal edit

There were only four classes of people who could normally file a renewal registration:

  1. The author, if living.
  2. The widow/widower and/or children of the author if the author had died.
  3. The author's executor, if the author left a will and there was no widow, widower or children.
  4. The author's next of kin, if the author did not leave a will and there was no widow, widower or children.

Four types of work could have a renewal registered by the owner of the copyright (that is, the legal owner but not the actual author of the work) at the time of renewal registration:

  1. Posthumous work, where there was no copyright assignment or contract during the author's lifetime.
  2. Periodical, cyclopedic or other composite works.
  3. Works copyrighted by a corporate body.
  4. Works for hire (where the work was made for an employer).

Catalog of Copyright Entries (CCE) edit

Stanford and Rutgers Universities have databases of renewals for books only. Not included in these databases are periodicals, contributions to those periodicals, films, etc. However, the databases are easily searchable, which makes checking for book renewals a much simpler process.

Scans of the CCE are available via Pennsylvania University, Google Books, the Hathi Trust and other scan databases. The Pennsylvania site is especially useful as a starting point because it is arranged into years, has useful information and it links to the other sites. Google Books and the Project Gutenberg transcriptions are easier to search automatically but you risk missing something due to an uncorrected typo or OCR error.

Searching edit

To search for a renewal, you need to know the year in which the work was originally published.

While renewal was required in the 28th year after publication, you should also look in the 27th year. Just in case the records were published late, checking the 29th year is also useful. For example, for Book A, published in 1930, you should check the records for 1957 and 1958 (and maybe 1959).

Each year usually has two, six-monthly catalogs. The first covers January to June, the second covers July to December. Again, both need to be checked. The CCEs have a title index but the major details are listed under the author's name. Both lists are in alphabetical order.

Each CCE is split into sections, for example:

  • Part 1: Books, Pamphlets, Serials, and Contributions to Periodicals
  • Part 2: Periodicals
  • Parts 3–4: Drama and Works Prepared for Oral Delivery
  • etc...

For Wikisource, part 1 is the main section of interest, although others may need to be checked for some works. (Note that the parts varied over time, so the sections may be different in different years).

If the work cannot be found in any of the appropriate CCEs then it can be taken as "not renewed" and in the public domain. In this case, it is free to be added to Wikisource (or used in any other way).

Abbreviations edit

There are many abbreviations used within the CCE. Some of the most relevant are:

  • (A): Author(s).
  • (C): Child or children of the deceased author.
  • (E): Executor(s) of the author.
  • (NK): Next of kin of the deceased author.
  • (W): Widow of the author.
  • (Wr): Widower of the author.
  • (PCB): Proprietor of copyright in a work copyrighted by a corporate body otherwise than as assignee or licensee of the individual author.
  • (PCW): Proprietor of copyright in a composite work.
  • (PPW): Proprietor of copyright in a posthumous work.
  • (PWH): Proprietor of copyright in a work made for hire.

Examples edit

The following are all extracts from the CCE to show the appearance of renewal entries.

Extract Text Notes

The case book of Sherlock Holmes. © 17Jun27; A990606. Adrian M. Conan Doyle & Lena Jean Annette Conan Doyle (C); 12May55; R149513.

The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Registered in June 1927 with the registration number A990606. Renewed by the author's children, Adrian and Lena, in May 1955 (28 years after registration) with the renewal ID R149513.

The Maltese Falcon. (in Black mask, Sept.-Dec. 1929) © 12Aug29, B38732; 12Sep29, B41934; 12Oct29, B52499; 12Nov29, B49815. Dashiell Hammett (A); 3Dec56, R181617-181619; 4Jan57, R183404.

Red Harvest. © 1Feb29; A7441. Dashiell Hammett (A); 25Sep56; R177772.

The Maltese Falcon and Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett. Both were published in 1929, although The Maltese Falcon was serialised in Black Mask from September to December. Hammett filed the renewals himself. As The Maltese Falcon was serialised, each instalment has a separate registration ID and renewal number.

The Maltese Falcon is an example of a work published as a contribution to a periodical (the pulp magazine Black Mask).

  Pigeons from Hell. (In Weird tales, May 1938) © 1Apr38, B389702. Mrs. P. M. Kuykendall (E); 27Sep65; R369102. Pigeons from Hell by Robert Ervin Howard

This is another example of a contribution to a periodical (the pulp magazine Weird Tales), although, as a short work, it appeared complete in one issue and was not serialised. In this case, the renewal was filed by a representative of the author's Estate, Mrs. P. M. Kuykendall, as the author and his family were all dead by the time renewal was required.


The poky little puppy. Illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren. © 1Oct42; A169133. Western Pub. Co., Inc. (PWH); 10Oct69; R470008.

The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey. Renewal filed by Western Publishing as this was a work made for hire.

Amber's mirage. (In Ladies' home journal, May-July 1929) © 30Apr29, B26414; 31May29, B29700; 28Jun29, B33217. Lina Elise Grey (W); 17Sep56; R176929-176931.

The drift fence. (In The American magazine, May-OCt. 1929) © 26Mar29, B22249; 24Apr29, B26159; 25May29, B29683; 25Jun29, B32966; 26Jul29, B37032; 22Aug29, B39437. Lina Elise Grey (W); 17Sep56; R176932-176937.

Fighting caravans. © 2Oct29; A13880. Lina Elise Grey (W); 23Oct56; R179060.

Amber's Mirage, The Drift Fence and Fighting Caravans by Zane Grey. All renewed by the author's wife Lina Elise Grey. The first two were a short story (Amber's Mirage) and a serial (The Drift Fence) published in periodicals (Ladies' Home Journal and The American Magazine respectively) while the third was a novel published in the same year.

Copyright Office website edit

Records for 1978 onward (ie. renewals for 1950 to 1963 and new copyrights from 1978) can be found at the US Copyright Office.

Searching edit

  1. Click "Search the Catalog" to get to the Basic Search page.
  2. There are six types of search available (Title, Name, Keyword, Registration Number, Document Number, Command Keyword). Notes about each one can be found at the bottom of the page. Pick the most appropriate from the "search by" field and enter the search terms in the "search for" field.
    • NB: It is recommended that several different searches are performed to confirm the lack of a copyright. For instance, search for the title of the work and the name of the author.
  3. Begin search.
  4. The search results have five columns (#, varies based on search type, Full Title, Copyright Number, Date).
    • Renewal registrations have a Copyright Number that starts with "RE".
  5. More details can be seen by clicking on either the number (first column) or the full title (third column).

Examples edit

Click the images to see larger versions.

Search results Details Text Notes
Search #1 Title search: Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring being the first part of The Lord of the Rings. ...

Type of work: Text

Registration Number / Date: RE0000121069 / 1982-01-05

Renewal registration for: AI0000004273 / 1954-07-29

Supplemented by: RE0000141277 / 1982-11-12

Title: The Fellowship of the Ring being the first part of The Lord of the Rings. By J. R. R. Tolkien (i.e. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien]

Copyright Claimant: Christopher R. Tolkien, Michael H. R. Tolkien, Joha F. R. Tolkien & Priscilla M. A. R. Tolkien (C)

Copyright Note: See also The Fellowship of the Ring being the first part of The Lord of the Rings; Reg. 12Nov82; RE 141-277

Variant title: The Fellowship of the Ring being the first part of The Lord of the Rings.

Names: Tolkien, Christopher R.

Tolkien, Michael H. R.

Tolkien, Joha F. R.

Tolkien, Priscilla M. A. R.

Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel, 1892-1973

Tolkien, J. R. R.

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien. Found through a title search for "Fellowship of the Ring". Work originally published in 1954 and renewed in 1982 (note that original publication was outside the United States). Part one of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Renewal made by the author's children. The second set of details are supplemental to the first.

The Fellowship of the Ring being the first part of The Lord of the Rings. ...

Type of work: Text

Registration Number / Date: RE0000141277 / 1982-11-12

Supplement to: RE0000121069 / 1982

Title: The Fellowship of the Ring being the first part of The Lord of the Rings. By J. R. R. Tolkien (i.e. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien]

Copyright Claimant: Christopher R. Tolkien, Michael H. R. Tolkien, John F. R. Tolkien (on original appl.: Joha F. R. Tolkien) & Priscilla M. A. R. Tolkien (C)

Supplement to Registration: RE 121-069, 1982

Variant title: The Fellowship of the Ring being the first part of The Lord of the Rings.

Other Title: The Lord of the Rings

Names: Tolkien, Christopher R.

Tolkien, Michael H. R.

Tolkien, John F. R.

Tolkien, Joha F. R.

Tolkein, Priscilla M. A. R.

Tolkein, John Ronald Reuel, 1892-1973

Tolkein, J. R. R.

Search #2 Name search: Fleming, Ian

Casino royale. By Ian Fleming.

Type of work: Text

Registration Number / Date: RE0000108490 / 1981-12-07

Renewal registration for: AI0000003863 / 1953-04-13

Renewal registration for: A00000130489 / 1954-03-23 (in notice: 1953)

Title: Casino royale. By Ian Fleming.

Copyright Claimant: Raymond Arthur Clanaboy Baron O'Neill, Martin Michael Charles Charteris & Arnold Abraham Baron Goodman (E)

Variant title: Casino royale.

Names: Fleming, Ian, 1908-1964

Goodman, Arnold Abraham, Baron Goodman, 1913-

O'Neill, Raymond Arthur Clanaboy, Baron O'Neill

Charteris, Martin Michael Charles, Baron Charteris

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. Found through an author name search for "Fleming, Ian". Work originally published in 1953 and renewed in 1981 (note that original publication was outside the United States). First of the "James Bond" series of novels. Renewal made by the executors of the author's estate.
Search #3 Command Keyword search: harper AND lee AND mockingbird

To kill a mockingbird. By Harper Lee.

Type of work: Text

Registration Number / Date: RE0000387164 / 1988-06-13

Renewal registration for: A00000448971 / 1960-04-25

Title: To kill a mockingbird. By Harper Lee.

Copyright Claimant: Harper Lee (A)

Variant title: To kill a mockingbird.

Names: Lee, Harper

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Found through a Command Keyword search for "harper AND lee AND mockingbird" (three search terms with AND operators). Work originally published in 1960 and renewed in 1988. Renewal made by the author.

Contributions to periodicals edit

This covers newspaper articles, stories published in magazines and so forth, as well as collective works such as encyclopaedia. In these cases, it is likely that the contract signed between the author and the publisher gave the publisher the right to the work. If the copyright on an issue of a periodical was renewed it probably means that every piece published in that issue was covered by this renewal as well. Unless it can be proved otherwise, we must assume that this is the case.

If the original author died before the renewal year, the contract between them and the publisher ended. Therefore the publisher no longer owned the copyright and was not eligible to register a renewal.[2]

The author or other suitable people could also register a renewal of the copyright on their own works published in periodicals or collective works.

Examples edit

Periodical renewals are similar to the individual work renewals.

Extract Text Notes
  ACTION COMICS. © National Periodical Publications, Inc. (PCW)

v.1, no.

1, Jun 38. © 18Apr38; B379787.
1Jun65; R362187.
2, Jul 38. © 25May38; B379788.
1Jun65; R362189.
3, Aug 38. © 25Jun38; B385466.
6Jul65; R3664270.
4, Sep 38. © 25Jul38; B387907.
17Aug65; R366321.
5, Oct 38. © 25Aug38; B394784.
15Sep65; R368071.
6, Nov 38. © 26Sep38; B394886.
8Oct65; R369836.
7, Dec 38. © 25Oct38; B399214.
1Nov65; R371935.

Action Comics, volume 1, numbers 1 to 7. Cover dated from June to December 1938. Originally registered from April to October 1938, starting from registration number B379787. Copyright renewed by National Periodical Publications from June to November 1965, starting from renewal number R362187.
  BLACK MASK. © Popular Publications Inc. (PCW)

v.25, no.

9, Jan43. © 20Nov42; B566217.
2Nov70; R493253.
10, Feb43. © 18Dec42; B569911.
2Nov70; R493225.
11, Mar43. © 20Jan43; B573287.
2Nov70; R493243.
12, May43. © 19Mar43; B580104.
2Nov70; R493194.

v.26, no.

1, Jul43. © 19May43; B588843.
2Nov70; R493142.
2, Sep43. © 21Jul43; B594893.
2Nov70; R493121.
3, Nov43. © 17Sep43; B601910.
2Nov70; R493093.

Black Mask, volume 25, numbers 9 to 12, and volume 26, numbers 1 to 3. Cover dated from January to November 1943. Originally registered from November 1942 to September 1943, starting from registration number B566217. Copyright renewed by Popular Publications on 2 November 1970, starting from renewal number R493253.

Template edit

Works that are in the public domain due to the lack of a copyright renewal registration should be tagged with the {{PD-US-no-renewal}} template.

Note that this template has additional parameters to record the year of publication and the year of the author's death. For example, {{PD-US-no-renewal|1950|pubyear=1936}} for a work published in 1936 by an author who died in 1950 for which there was no renewal registration. This helps other uses verify the lack of renewal and is necessary for users outside the United States whose copyright laws may differ from that of the United States. Please include either or both additional parameters where possible.

For more information, see the template documentation.

Notes edit

  1. This also applied to works published in 1964-1977 but Public Law 102-307 () made the renewal automatic.
  2. See Roger Miller Music, Inc. v. Sony ATV Publishing, LLC for a case where this featured, along with other issues relating to the change in copyright law affecting 1964.

Useful resources edit

Project Gutenberg transcripts of U.S. Copyright Renewals
Year Transcript Transcript Year Transcript Transcript
1950 January - June July - December 1964 January - June July - December
1951 January - June July - December 1965 January - June July - December
1952 January - June July - December 1966 January - June July - December
1953 January - June July - December 1967 January - June July - December
1954 January - June July - December 1968 January - June July - December
1955 January - June July - December 1969 January - June July - December
1956 January - June July - December 1970 January - June July - December
1957 January - June July - December 1971 January - June July - December
1958 January - June July - December 1972 January - June July - December
1959 January - June July - December 1973 January - June July - December
1960 January - June July - December 1974 January - June July - December
1961 January - June July - December 1975 January - June July - December
1962 January - June July - December 1976 January - June July - December
1963 January - June July - December 1977 January - June July - December
All combined

External links edit