Commons:Subsisting copyright

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"Subsisting copyright" refers to the US copyright on foreign (non-US) works subsisting from before the US joined the Berne Convention in 1989. As a general rule, foreign works which were not copyrighted in the US before 1989 but still in copyright in the source country in 1996 had their US copyrights restored by the URAA. This page is about cases where foreign works were covered by US copyright before the URAA.

Note that no works published before anywhere in the world are in copyright in the US, with the possible exception of sound recordings (which may be covered by US state common law, as US sound recordings from before 1972 are - Commons:Hirtle chart#Sound_recordings).

Ways in which foreign works could have subsisting US copyright:

  1. Due to a bilateral treaty (see en:Bilateral copyright agreements of the United States)
    • Requirements for initial protection: US-compliant copyright notice[1], i.e. © symbol (or the word "Copyright" or its abbreviation "Copr") + name of copyright holder (+ year of publication for works published 1978-1989, except for applied art).
    • Requirements for continued protection (pre-1964 publication only): renewal registration with US Copyright Office, giving 95-year term if done (otherwise work's copyright has lapsed)
  2. Due to joint (US and source country) membership of the en:Universal Copyright Convention
    • Requirements: US-compliant copyright notice[2]
    • Requirements for continued protection (pre-1964 publication only): renewal registration with US Copyright Office, giving 95-year term if done (otherwise work's copyright has lapsed)
  3. Due to being unpublished:
    • Requirements: USA law didn't allow unpublished works to enter the public domain before 2003. If the work never was published before the URAA date, then it has a subsisting copyright, unless {{PD-US-unpublished}} applies.

Issues to be clarified:

  • are works covered if published prior to treaty conclusion or Convention membership?
  • what formalities were required for US copyright protection to be gained?

Examples[edit]

Country Copyright term Country copyright tag US copyright tag
Romania For photos, 5 years since publication if published before 1991 {{PD-RO-photo}} for a photo created and published in Romania in 1990 none - work would be protected by copyright in the US as subsisting copyright, as USA had copyright relations with Romania and no longer required a copyright notice. US copyright terms would apply (see Commons:Hirtle chart).
Argentina For photos, 25 years from creation + 20 years from publication {{PD-AR-Photo}} for a photo created and published in Argentina in 1980
  • if work published in Argentina without US-compliant copyright notice: none - work would be in copyright in US due to the URAA, with same terms as if it did have a compliant notice (see Commons:Hirtle chart).
  • if work published in Argentina with US-compliant copyright notice: none - work would be in copyright in US as subsisting copyright, as Argentina joined the en:Buenos Aires Convention[3] in 1950. US copyright terms would apply (see Commons:Hirtle chart).
Argentina For photos, 25 years from creation + 20 years from publication {{PD-AR-Photo}} for a photo created and published in Argentina in 1970
Argentina For photos, 25 years from creation + 20 years from publication {{PD-AR-Photo}} for a photo created and published in Argentina in 1960 *if work published in Argentina without US-compliant copyright notice: {{PD-1996}}
  • if work published in Argentina with US-compliant copyright notice, but US copyright renewal registration not completed: {{PD-US-not renewed}} (with minor hiccup that the template says "Published in US"). The work would have had subsisting US copyright, which would have expired due to lack of renewal needed for pre-1964 works: Argentina joined the en:Buenos Aires Convention in 1950. US copyright terms would apply (see ).
  • if work published in Argentina with US-compliant copyright notice and US copyright renewal: none - work would be in copyright in US as subsisting copyright, as Argentina joined the en:Buenos Aires Convention[3] in 1950. US copyright terms would apply (see Commons:Hirtle chart)
Finland For photos, 25 years from publication (publication before 1966) {{PD-Finland}} for a simple photo created and published in Finland in 1925 {{PD-1996}} (Finland didn't have copyright relations with the United States before 1929, so all simple Finnish photos published before 1929 are in the public domain in the United States)

Notes[edit]

  1. There are some contradictory US legal cases on interpretation of the notice requirements of the Copyright Act 1909 for foreign works, but ultimately, compliance with US formalities required of US works is the most reasonable position, and "many of the then-existing bilateral treaties specifically required compliance with U.S. formalities as a condition of bilateral protection" - Tyler T. Ochoa (2008), "Copyright Protection for Works of Foreign Origin", p178 footnote 70; in J. Klabbers, M. Sellers (eds.), The Internationalization of Law and Legal Education, Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice 2, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-9494-1 9. Also here.
  2. http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl100.html
  3. a b c Note that the Buenos Aires Convention has the en:rule of the shorter term, but the US has never applied it and US copyright terms apply.