RETRACTED, 14 May 2009. See this entry.
I've written before about how the restoration of foreign copyrights has made it very difficult to determine the copyright status of many works. Here is another problem that is going make the copyright duration chart much messier the next time I revise it.
In the chart, I state that works published abroad before 1923 are in the public domain (though the chart does recognize the contradictory court decisions in the 9th Circuit that could extend protection back to 1909). I wrote the chart this way on the assumption that on 1 January 1996, when most foreign copyrights were restored, they got a 75 year term.
Two things have happened since 1996, however. First, copyright term was extended by 20 years in 1998. Second, some countries have established copyright relations with the US through one of four means:
- Membership in the Berne Convention
- Membership in the World Trade Organizatin
- Adherence to the WIPO Copyright Treaty
- Presidential proclamations
It looks like there are 23 countries that have established copyright relations with the US since 1 January 1998. They are:
- Korea, Democratic People's Republic
- Kyrgyz Republic
- Saudi Arabia
Publications that are still protected by copyright in the home country when copyright relations with the US were established would have a 95 year term in the US (assuming the relations are established after 1 Jan. 1998). That means that works published from 1914 to 1923 in these countries would still be protected by copyright in the US, in spite of what the chart says.
The numbers I don't believe are large. For example, WorldCat shows just 5 books published in Vietnam between 1914 and 1923, and 6 from Tonga. Nevertheless, it is just one more messy exception that conscientious copyright investigators must build into their procedures - and that I need to include in the next edition of the chart.