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when does a creation enter the public domain

According to the Copyright Act, when does a creation enter the public domain? An inventor may gift his invention to the public. For example, the early developers of software for the Internet placed their work in the public domain immediately.

Discuss the implications of such acts. Also research the Internet to find incidents where creators have gifted their inventions by placing them in the public domain.

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Hi there,

Here is some information for you regarding the copyright act and the public domain:

All copyrights and patents have always had a finite term, though the terms for copyrights and patents differ. When terms expire, the work or invention is released into public domain. In most countries, patents expire 20 years after they are filed. A trademark registration may be renewed and remain in force indefinitely provided the trademark is used, but could otherwise become generic.

Copyrights are more complex than patents; generally, in current law they expire in all countries when all of the following conditions are satisfied (except Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Samoa):

* The work was created and first published before January 1, 1923, or at least 95 years before January 1 of the current year, whichever is later;
* The last surviving author died at least 70 years before January 1 of the current year;
* No Berne Convention signatory has passed a perpetual copyright on the work; and
* Neither the United States nor the European Union has passed a copyright term extension since these conditions were last updated. (This must be a condition because the exact numbers in the other conditions depend on the state of the law at any given moment.)

These conditions are based on the intersection of United States and European Union copyright law, which most other Berne Convention signatories recognize. Note that copyright term extension under U.S. tradition usually does not restore copyright to public domain works (hence the 1923 date), but European tradition does because the EU harmonization was based on the copyright term in Germany, which had already been extended to life plus 70.
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United States law

In the United States, copyright law has changed several times since the founding of the country. Generally, it is held under Feist v. Rural that Congress does not have the power to re-copyright works that have fallen into the public domain. Eldred v. Ashcroft transcript But re-copyrighting has happened before. "After World War I and after World War II, there were special amendments to the Copyright Act to permit for a limited time and under certain conditions the recapture of works that might have fallen into the public domain, principally by aliens of countries with which we had been at war." (Testimony of Dorothy Schrader, general counsel of the U.S. copyright office, hearing for H.R. 1623, serial 100/50)

Works created by an agency of the United States government are public domain at the moment of creation. Examples are: NASA photographs, military journalism, federal court opinions (but not necessarily state court opinions), congressional committee reports, census data, etc. However, works commissioned by the government but created by a contractor are still subject to copyright, and even in the case of public domain documents, availability of such documents may be limited by laws limiting the spread of classified information.

Before 1978, unpublished works were not covered by the federal copyright act. This does not mean that the works were in the public domain; it means that they were covered under (perpetual) state copyright law. Web sites that claim that "pre-1923 works are safe" are wrong for unpublished works. These works are under federal copyright for at least the life of the author plus seventy years. If they were created ...

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