Skip to Main Content



Copyright Basics

Copyright Basics

U.S. Copyright Statutes: The United States copyright statutes may be found in its entirety here.

Information specific to Fair Use may be found here.

Watch a short video from the Copyright Clearance Center to learn the basics about copyright.

Copyright Quick Guide

When Works Pass Into Public Domain:


Date of Work:



Created 1/1/1978 or after

When work is fixed in tangible medium of expression

Life +70 years (or, if work is of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation)

Published before 1923

In public domain


Published from 1923-1963

When published with notice

28 years+ could be renewed for 47 years, now extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years. If not so renewed, now in public domain.

Published from 1964-1977

When published with notice

28 years for first term; now automatic extension of 67 years for second term

Created before 1/1/1978 but not published

1/1/1978, the effective date of the 1976 Act, which eliminated common law copyright

Life +70 years or 12/31/2002, whichever is greater

Created before 1/1/1978 but published between then and 12/31/2002

1/1/1978, the effective date of the 1976 Act, which eliminated common law copyright

Life +70 years or 12/31/2047, whichever is greater


Determining Fair Use:

Reuse of Material:

Likely Available for Fair Use:

Likely Not Available for Fair


  • Non-profit use
  • Create new work
  • Commercial use
  • No new works


  • Reference, nonfiction
  • Published
  • Fiction, Art
  • Unpublished


  • Small Portion (relational to the whole)
  • Complete Work
  • Heart of Work


  • Doesn’t hurt market or original
  • Hurts market or potential market

Ask a Librarian

Profile Photo
Research Librarians
chat loading...
203.254.4000 ext. 2188 (c)
203.295.7542 (t)
Library Tutorials
Troubleshooting Guide

Proud of your research project? Want to win $1000? Apply for the Library Research Prize! An undergrad and graduate student (or team) will win. Click image to go to the info page.