About Newspaper Copyright

Copyright is a complicated subject.  However, there are some basic rules that apply to both users and authors. Among the most critical for bringing a previously printed newspaper online are:

  • Any newspaper printed prior to 1926 is in public domain and may be digitized and brought online
  • Any newspaper published after 1925 and prior to 1964 has a strong probability of being in the public domain. If it is, it may be digitized and brought online without requiring any permissions.
    • To be protected by copyright a paper published between these years was required to include a printed copyright notice within the paper itself.  If there is no notice, the paper is not copyrighted.
    • If notice was published, copyright expired after 28 years, unless a renewal was requested.  A convenient online tool through which you can determine if a renewal was requested is http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/cce/
  • Any newspaper published before 1978 may be in the public domain.  If it is, it may be digitized and brought online without requiring any permissions.
    • Prior to 1978, to obtain copyright a newspaper was required to publish a copyright notice in the newspaper in order to obtain copyright.  Beginning in 1964, renewal was automatic.
  • Newspapers published after 1977 are copyrighted. Permission of the copyright holder is required to digitize and bring such a paper online.
    • After 1977, copyright was automatically granted upon publication, with or without written notice.
  • Remember, you can copy anything with the written permission of the copyright holder, so ask!

Copyright information is subject to change due to a subsequent revision of federal law or court ruling.