The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or reproduction that is not to be "used for any other purpose other than private study, scholarship or research". If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use" that use may be liable for copyright infringement.
The following chart is provided as a quick reference for unpublished (manuscript) works and works published in the United States. It was originally published in Hirtle, Peter B. "Recent Changes To the Copyright Law: Copyright Term Extension," Archival Outlook (January/February 1999): 1-4, and is updated annually. The complete version includes works published outside the US, some special cases and more extensive explanations and may be found at https://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm.
|Type of Work||Copyright Term||In the Public Domain as of January 1, 2020|
|Unpublished works||Life of the author + 70 years||Works from authors who died before 1950|
|Unpublished anonymous and pseudonymous works, and works made for hire (corporate authorship)||120 years from date of creation||Works created before 1900|
|Unpublished works when the death date of the author is not known (1)||120 years from date of creation (2)||Works created before 1900 (2)|
|Date of Publication||Conditions||Copyright Term|
|Before 1925||None||In public domain|
|1925 through 1977||Published without a copyright notice||In public domain|
|January 1, 1978 to March 1, 1989||Published without notice and without subsequent registration||In public domain|
|January 1, 1978 to March 1, 1989||Published without notice but with subsequent registration||70 years after death of author, or if work of corporate author, the shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation|
|1925 through 1963||Published with notice but copyright was not renewed (3)||In public domain|
|1925 through 1963||Published with notice and the copyright was renewed (3)||95 years after publication date|
|1964 through 1977||Published with notice||95 years after publication date|
|1978 to March 1, 1989||Published with notice||70 years after death of author, or if work of corporate author, the shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation|
|1978 to March 1, 1989||Created before 1978 and first published with notice in the specified period||The greater of the term specified in the previous entry or December 31, 2047|
|From March 1, 1989 through 2002||Created after 1977||70 years after death of author, or if work of corporate author, the shorter of 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation|
|From March 1, 1989 through 2002||Created before 1978 and first published in this period||The greater of the term specified in the previous entry or December 31, 2047|
|Anytime||Works prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person's official duties. (4)||None. In the public domain in the United States (17 U.S.C. § 105)|
These two charts are based in part on Laura N. Gasaway's chart, "When Works Pass Into the Public Domain," at http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm (dead link) and similar charts found in Marie C. Malaro, A Legal Primer On Managing Museum Collections (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2012): 170.