A publication published in the United States between 1978- March 1, 1989 that had a copyright notice but was not registered- public domain or no?

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  • Hello all, 

    So- I have some publications that were published in the United States between 1978 - March 1, 1989 that I'm assigning rights statements to. Several have copyright notices with Students of InsertUniversityNameHere identified as the copyright holder in the notice. However, 

    1. None of these were actually registered for copyright (I've checked all the appropriate records)

    2. Students of InsertUniversityNameHere is not an actual entity and so I don't think these could be considered work for hire. 

    Now, accoriding to what I can find- if a work published in the United States in this time frame was not registered, then you can't sue for infringement- aka the work is in the public domain in the US due to not complying with required formalilties. 

    However, every resource I consult specifically says that for works published during this time period, it's only in the public domain if it was published without notice. Some just don't include an option of published with notice but without registration, whereas others (like the copyright slider) say specifically that published with a notice means it's still in copyright. I don't understand why. If registration was a required formality in this time period, then why does the inclusion or absence of a copyright notice make any difference when something wasn't registered?


    Thanks for any advice you can provide,


  • The answer is that there were times when registration was required, when notice was required, and when notice and registration were required.  Probably done just to confuse us!

    Peter Hirtle is always cited for being the guru regarding public domain and the rules associated with registration.


    If you look at this site, at the bottom, Peter provides citations to other resources that best explain why and when copyright formalties required both registration and a copyright notice.

    Good luck!



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