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Copyright Renewal Database  

About the Collection

Stanford's Copyright Renewal Database compiles all US Class A (book) renewal registrations for works published between 1923 and 1963. These renewals were received by the US Copyright Office between 1950 and 1993.

Determining the copyright status of books has become a pressing issue as libraries and business concerns develop plans to digitize older literatures and make public domain works widely available. In order to appropriately select materials and manage digital files, these organizations need to determine, efficiently and with some certainty, the copyright status of each work in a large collection. There is therefore significant interest in automating copyright analysis as much as possible.

Copyright status of works published in the US between 1923 and 1963 is of particular concern, as it is dependent on whether the original copyright was renewed. Changes in copyright law have removed this question for works published after 1963. The Copyright Office has never made available in machine-readable form the renewals it received between 1950 and 1977, which would generally cover renewals for books published between 1923 and 1950. This has made it difficult for libraries and archives to determine which books are in the public domain.

Several organizations have taken steps to make the Copyright Office's records more accessible. Most noteworthy is Project Gutenberg, which scanned and transcribed the printed renewal records. You can view their work here. This database builds on their work, making the text searchable by field in a single file. We are also grateful for the early efforts of Michael Lesk in the creation of this database.

The full data set for the Copyright Renewals Database is available for download here (zip file, 12.8 MB). Stanford welcomes reuse of the data in other systems and search tools.

We welcome and encourage comments on the database. Please send comments to Mimi Calter at mcalter@stanford.edu.