Click here for the Copyright Digital Slider, a great new tool for calculating the status of a copyright from the American Library Association’s Copyright Advisory Network. You drag an arrow to the date of first publication, and the site tells you the status of the copyright (in force or in the public domain) and whether you need permission to use the work (yes, no or maybe). Of course, it is not as good as consulting an attorney. This is particularly true because for many dates of publication, the answer to whether you need permission to use the work is maybe. Copyright terms are very complex and vary greatly depending on which version of the Copyright Act the work was published pursuant to and what actions the copyright holder has taken. It is far more complex than the patent regime where, at most you have to determine whether the patent’s term is 17 years from grant or 20 years from filing and then deal with any terminal disclaimers or added time listed on the face of the patent.
Hat tip to the Antitrust Review for pointing out this great tool.