Monday, June 30, 2008

Searching for Copyrights

Are you writing a book and want to quote from some other author’s book? Need to find out whether that other work is copyrighted? Seems like it ought to be easy to determine. Look in the book and check the copyright date, right?

Ahh, if only it were that easy. The copyright date in a book tells you when it was published and can tell you who held the rights at that time. But things change. And time is fluid. Ownership of the rights can go back to the author. Or to the author’s family if the author is deceased. And how long a book is under copyright varies according to when the book was published. Then you have to find out if the rights were renewed.

So, you have to check with the U.S. Copyright Office records. Part of the records are online. The others are not.

Now, thanks to the Universal Library Project, Project Gutenberg, the Distributed Proofreaders and Google, the records are available free to the public. You can download the entire file. Yeah, it’s huge. And not easily searchable. But…it’s a start.


  1. nice blog title!
    at first i thought this blog was something about religion but it was a name "Hel" not the Hell ^_^

    keep it up

  2. I did question the title of the blog, but decided to go with it. Hel is a nickname. "Heck" if you're a kid. ;-)


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