This is an addendum to the Copyright HOWTO, because our
procedures for Rule 6 are rather detailed. Please note that we
seldom apply this rule, and can only accept Rule 6 clearances
from qualified persons, such as copyright lawyers and firms, law
librarians, and certifications from publishers.
Rule 6 in the Copyright HOW-TO describes the situation in
which an item copyrighted between 1923 and 1963 may be in the
public domain if it was not renewed. (Items from 1964 and
afterwards were automatically renewed; items prior to 1923 are in
the public domain.)
Here are the procedures for copyright non-renewal research. As
for any other Project Gutenberg contribution, you need to have
access to the physical item (book, serial, etc.) to demonstrate
that it matches the research you do.
- Search all records for the 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th year
from initial copyright in the Library of Congress renewal
volumes (available in most academic libraries in print or
- Before doing the renewal searches, search well known large
catalogs and other sources for psuedonyms for all the authors
and full names for all authors and real names in case the
author you have is a psuedonym.
- Before doing renewal searches, do what you can to find out
the name of the author's spouse and children and whether the
author was still alive in the renewal years listed above. If
dead, be much more diligent in your searches for other
- Before starting your renewal search, do bibliographic
research to find out if the work was published in a serial like
a journal, newspaper, or series. The serial might own the
copyright, or there might be multiple copyrights, or the work
might have spanned multiple years.
- Do the following searches,
- separate author search on each author
- search author name listed on the title page for each
author in the form listed on title page.
- search each author name using initials only instead of
first and middle name
- search each author name using full first name and
- search each author name using first initial and full
- search each author name using full first and middle
- search each psuedonym using all of the above
- if author name is a pseudonym search real name using
- do the same for each author's spouse
- do the same for each known name of a child of
- search all possible forms of the publisher's name you
can think of
- search the title as it appears on the title page
- search the title with any available subtitles
- search the title with any other possible forms of the
title, sometimes a series or the like
- make absolutely sure you search whatever publisher or
name appears in the copyright notice too.
This is not fool proof. You can miss things if the copyright
was transferred or if the publisher changed hands. Also if the
author died and left rights to someone whose name you don't have.
You can also miss renewals if the author, publisher or copyright
holder assigned the renewal rights.
But if you have done all of the above diligently, Project
Gutenberg can establish good faith of renewal research if we are
ever challenged in court.
If you have questions or trouble with the procedures, email