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Dec 02, 1996 06:08 PM
by Kim Poulsen

I could not resist posting the hard facts on copyright. It's against
my principles, as Patrick is on his own, but the question is vital
to me. The following is from the Berne Convention (1971 Paris
revision) and the US Copyrights Acts - either verbatim or
rendered freely.

The "Berne Convention" is the Convention for the Protection
of Literary and Artistic Works, signed at Berne, Switzerland,
on September 9, 1886, and all acts, protocols, and revisions thereto.

Copyright law is quite explicit that the making of what
are called "derivative works" -- works based or derived from another
copyrighted work -- is the exclusive province of the owner of the original
work. This is true even though the making of these new works is a
highly creative process. If you write a story using settings or characters
from somebody else's work, you need that author's permission.

National treatment: Under Berne, an author's rights are respected in
another country as though the author were a national (citizen) of that
country (Art. 5(1)).  For example, works by U.S. authors are protected by
French copyright in France, and vice versa, because both the U.S. and
France are signatories to Berne.

Minimum terms of protection:  Under Berne, the minimum duration for
copyright protection is the life of the author plus 50 years (Art. 7(1)).
Signatory nations may have provide longer durations if they so choose.

What is "public domain?"

In contrast to copyright is "public domain."  A work in the public domain
is one that can be freely used by anyone for any purpose.

It used to be that if a work was published without notice, it lost all
copyright, and entered the public domain.  That's no longer true, and now
public domain is more the exception than the rule.

There are still a number of ways that a work may be public domain.

 - The copyright may have expired...........................

 - The copyright might have been forfeited.  For example, the work
   may have been published without notice prior to the change in
   the law that eliminated the notice requirement (March 1, 1988,
   the effective date of the Berne Convention Implementation Act,
   PL 100-568, 102 Stat. 2853).

here's a short analysis of copyright
duration. (from US copyrights act)

Generally, for works created in 1978 or later, a copyright lasts for
fifty years beyond the life of the work's author, after which it lapses
into public domain.  17 U.S.C. 302(a).  If the work is prepared by two or
more authors (a "joint work"), its copyright lasts for fifty years after
the last surviving author dies.  17 U.S.C. 302(b).  For anonymous and
pseudonymous works, and for works made for hire, copyright exists for 100
years from the date of creation, or 75 years from the date of first
publication, whichever comes first.  17 U.S.C. 302(c).  No renewal is
necessary or permitted.  (The year 1978 in this paragraph is because
January 1, 1978 is the date on which the Copyright Act of 1976 took

For works published in the years 1904 through 1963, the copyright lasted
for 28 years from date of publication; if the copyright was not renewed,
it lapsed, and the work went into the public domain.  Another 28 years of
protection could be obtained by filing a renewal, for a total term of 56
years (1906 comes from the fact that the U.S. effectively switched to a
47-year second term in 1962, and 1962 minus 56 (the old maximum duration
of two 28-year terms) equals 1906).  If the copyright was not renewed
after its initial 28-year term, the work lapsed into public domain.
Generally, all copyrights secured in 1918 or earlier lapsed at the latest
in 1993 and are now in public domain (1993 (last year) minus 75 equals
1918).  Copyrights secured in the period 1919 through 1949 continue to
exist only if they were renewed, and expire in the period 1994 through

Once a work is in the public domain, whether by expiration of copyright
or by expressly being dedicated to the public domain by its copyright
holder, it can never again regain copyrighted status.


In short, Patrick could do just about anything (including selling us his
copy) - except copyright it or impose any limitations on its use
whatsoever (even notes like - "this may only be used....etc." are
slightly out of order.)

Please check out:

Thank you,


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