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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

An appropriation-friendly, image-rich, experimental research library. Independent and open to the public.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Periodicals: a great lode of public domain material

Here at the DLF Forum in Austin, where this morning John Mark Ockerbloom of the University of Pennsylvania presented his research on the copyright situation surrounding American periodicals. He's mined Copyright Office renewal records for periodicals and proven something we'd been thinking about at the Prelinger Library, but for which we had no empirical data. Of the approximately 200,000 periodical titles that he estimates were published between 1923 and 1963, only 1,300 seem to have copyright renewals on file. This means that periodicals provide the most accessible and reusable body of material on mid-20th-century culture and society, and ought to be high priority for any mass digitization project.

He's compiled a useful checklist showing first copyright renewals for periodicals. It's pretty amazing: entertainment magazines and pulp fiction were heavily renewed, but scholarly and scientific journals were not. Popular Science appears to be public domain through 1963, but not Popular Mechanics. Most daily newspapers were never copyrighted or renewed. In New York, only the Times and Herald Tribune were renewed, and only after a certain date. We encourage using his list as a starting point for deciding what to digitize, and as a way of deciding where to hunt for that perfect block of text or image you may need. Don't forget to read his caveats, and commit them to memory. -- RP


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