Copyright Rule 6 HOWTO

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.

  1. 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 microform).
  2. 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.
  3. 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 names.
  4. 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.
  5. Do the following searches,
    1. separate author search on each author
    2. search author name listed on the title page for each author in the form listed on title page.
    3. search each author name using initials only instead of first and middle name
    4. search each author name using full first name and middle initial
    5. search each author name using first initial and full middle name
    6. search each author name using full first and middle name
    7. search each psuedonym using all of the above
    8. if author name is a pseudonym search real name using all above
    9. do the same for each author's spouse
    10. do the same for each known name of a child of author
    11. search all possible forms of the publisher's name you can think of
    12. search the title as it appears on the title page without subtitles
    13. search the title with any available subtitles
    14. search the title with any other possible forms of the title, sometimes a series or the like
    15. 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