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Copyright Registration and Renewal Information Chart and Web Site

Visitors to this site who are unfamiliar with copyright terminology and context should begin with the
step-by-step tree-view chart for answers about copyright law.

(see illustration at right)

Once readers have visited both the tree-view chart and one or more illustrations pages such as this one, they are advised to learn how courts have ruled on specific aspects of copyright by going to pages of Citations and Court Summaries and by reading the copyright laws themselves.  (The CopyrightData web site has all versions of the United States Copyright Act in effect from 1909 to the present.)

For an overview of copyright law and this web site, visit the One Page Guide

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If the work was created in, copyrighted in, first published in — or is the work of a citizen of — a nation other than the United States, the work may be considered a foreign work for purposes of copyright.  The following questions will help determine whether it is and, if so, what copyright protections it may enjoy.  If the user is certain that the work is considered an American work for U.S. copyright purposes, this section can be skipped.  (Copyright Transfers illustrations page)

  • The following conditions point to the work being a non-U.S. work for copyright purposes: work made by a non-American company; by a resident of a country other than the U.S.; by Americans working on behalf of a non-U.S. company, individual or combination thereof; or commissioned by an entity which is not a citizen or company claiming the U.S. as its nation.
  • The following reasons cannot be used to deny copyright on foreign works: the work was never registered for copyright in the United States; there was registration but no renewal upon expiration of the first term; there was no copyright notice on the work itself; or the copyright notice contained a defect (example: wrong claimant). A A
  • If the work was first published so long ago that under American law any copyright it was ever entitled to would have expired, it is no longer eligible for copyright. However, a work merely performed but not published at an early time may not have used up its maximum potential term. In calculating terms, it must be remembered that a work published or exhibited in a source country when it was new may not have been published or exhibited in the United States until years later (sometimes decades later).
  • Citizenship or sovereignty status, not location where a work is made, establishes nationality insofar as copyright status is concerned.
  • For pre-1996 foreign works, publication “during the 30-day period following publication in such eligible country” of the same work in the U.S., disqualifies the work from obtaining copyright as a “restored work” (one on which the opportunity for American copyright had been lost when the work was new but then given the opportunity for protection beginning 1996). Any source-country copyright enjoyed by the work is irrelevant. A valid, timely American copyright registration is required for protection where American publication occured within the 30 days after eligible-country publication. A
  • A work that was (1) ever owned or administered by the Alien Property Custodian, and (2) owned in the source country by a government or an instrumentality of a government, is not entitled to be a “restored work.” A
  • Validity of copyright in the source country on January 1, 1996 (or date of the source country’s entry into Berne, if later) triggers American copyright protection for the remainder of the time it would have had copyright protection had American formalities been complied with earlier. This time span remains the case even for works on which copyright in the source country expires sooner.


Vocabulary Concerning Copyrights Where Foreign Copyrights Are Involved

Source country.  The country with which the United States has a reciprocal copyright agreement, where the work was first published (or, if the work is unpublished, where the author or majority of authors are nationals or domiciliaries), or (in cases where the work was first published in two or more countries on the same day) with which the work has the most significant contacts.

Restored work.  A work subject to copyright protection in the United States based on its being under copyright in its source country, in instances where the work did not have copyright protection in the United States prior to the legislation which enabled the work to become a restored work.

Member country.  A country which is party to an international copyright agreement to which the United States is also a member.

Reliance party.  Someone who used a work without authorization, owing to his understanding that the work did not enjoy copyright protection in the United States, and who upon the United States entering into reciprocal copyright agreements through URAA/GATT finds that the work which previously did not have a valid copyright in the United States now has copyright protection on the basis of the copyright in the source country.


So you think you know what “restoration” means?

In common everyday language, to “restore” something means to bring it to the state it had before.  “Restoration” is the process of bringing it to the condition where it was whole, before that something suffered.  In United States Copyright Law, as amended by the Uruguay Round Agreements Act and the General Agreement on Tarriffs and Trade (1994), “restoration” means the extending of copyright protection within the United States to works that previously enjoyed copyright protection outside the United States on the basis of foreign copyrights that did not come to be recognized in the United States until that legislation.  (The actual effective date was this copyright protection was January 1, 1996, although the legislation was passed December 8, 1994.)  The “restoration” would more accurately be called “mutual-respect copyright protection.”

How inaccurate can it be to use the term “restored” when talking about the “restored works” made such by this legislation?  Consider this: works that had never been under copyright in the United States are now said to be “restored” works; works that might have continued to enjoy several years of copyright protection in the United States (based upon the 75-year maximum combined terms in place in 1996) were given little or no additional time because the foreign copyrights were based on the lifetime of the author (e.g., “life plus fifty years”) and where the author died shortly after publication, the foreign term expired (and with it the only copyright recognized in the United States starting 1996, were there no separated U.S. copyright) sooner than the fixed-year-term United States copyright would have.  Given the slew of different copyright terms legislated by the countries of the world, there is no means of quickly saying (without reference to source materials) whether a work enjoys equivalent protection in the United States to what it would have otherwise enjoyed had a copyright registered in the United States been undertaken or maintained.

If you’re looking for several tables comparing different aspects of copyright law for 20 countries, these have been moved.  The comparison table has been upgraded — it’s much easier to use — and has a page of its own:  Persons with large screens and a willingness to grapple with abbreviations might appreciate the older version of the table, now at its own page.

The tables comparing the copyright laws of 20 countries enable people who are interested in using foreign works to see how long copyrights last in those countries, including differences for different media within the same country.  Americans who complain about the supposedly-lengthy durations of American copyrights might be surprised at how long some European copyrights can last!

The United States has Reciprocal Copyright Recognition Agreements with Almost Every Country on Earth

In the 19th century, a foreign entity holding a valid copyright in the country of creation had to jump through legal hoops to get a United States copyright as well.  (The difficulties of the older system comes across in some of the court verdicts of cases summarized on the citations and court summaries page on foreign works.)  Through most of the 20th century, it was easier for foreign entities, but not as simple as it became after an act of the United States Congress in 1994.  From then on, if a country is a signatory of an international copyright agreement to which the United States is also a signatory, copyright respected in the country of origin is likely to be respected in the United States as well.  Some exceptions involve works so old that under American law they would have entered the United States public domain before the 1994 legislation, so these works remained in the United States public domain even though copyright subsists in the country of origin and many reciprocal-respect countries as well.  This subject is further discussed later on this page.

To make this subject simple, here is the list of countries that (as of this writing) do not have reciprocal-respect copyright relations with the United States (or whose status is unknown by the United States Copyright Office):

Afghanistan • Bhutan • Comoros • Eritrea • Ethiopia • Iran • Iraq • Kiribati • Nauru • Nepal • North Korea • Palau • Samoa • San Marino • São Tomé and Principe • Seychelles • Somalia • Syria • Tuvalu • Vanuatu • Yemen

By contrast, here is the list of countries which pledge to uphold treaties with which the United States is also a signatory:

Albania • Algeria • Andorra • Angola • Antigua and Barbuda • Argentina • Armenia • Australia • Austria • Azerbaijan • The Bahamas • Bahrain • Bangladesh • Barbados • Belarus • Belgium • Belize • Benin • Bolivia • Bosnia and Herzegovina • Botswana • Brazil • Brunei • Bulgaria • Burkina Faso • Burundi • Cambodia • Cameroon • Canada • Cape Verde • Central African Republic • Chad • Chile • China • Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) • Colombia • Democratic Republic of the Congo • Republic of the Congo • Costa Rica • Cote d ’Ivoire • Croatia • Cuba • Cyprus • Czech Republic • Denmark • Djibouti • Dominica • Dominican Republic • Ecuador • Egypt • El Salvador • Equatorial Guinea • Estonia • European Community • Fiji • Finland • France • Gabon • The Gambia • Georgia • Germany • Ghana • Greece • Grenada • Guatemala • Guinea • Guinea-Bissau • Guyana • Haiti • Honduras • Hong Kong • Hungary • Iceland • India • Indonesia • Ireland • Israel • Italy • Jamaica • Japan • Jordan • Kazakhstan • Kenya • Kuwait • Kyrgyz Republic • Laos • Latvia • Lebanon • Lesotho • Liberia • Libya • Liechtenstein • Lithuania • Luxembourg • Macau • Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia • Madagascar • Malawi • Malaysia • Maldives • Mali • Malta • Mauritania • Mauritius • Mexico • Federated States of Micronesia • Moldova • Monaco • Mongolia • Morocco • Mozambique • Union of Myanmar • Namibia • Netherlands and Possessions • New Zealand • Nicaragua • Niger • Nigeria • Norway • Oman • Pakistan • Panama • Papua New Guinea • Paraguay • Peru • Philippines • Poland • Portugal • Qatar • Romania • Russia • Rwanda • St.Kitts and Nevis • Saint Lucia • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines • Saudi Arabia • Senegal • Serbia and Montenegro • Sierra Leone • Singapore • Slovakia • Slovenia • Solomon Islands • South Africa • South Korea • Spain • Sri Lanka • Sudan • Suriname • Swaziland • Sweden • Switzerland • Tajikistan • Tanzania • Thailand • Togo • Tonga • Trinidad and Tobago • Tunisia • Turkey • Turkmenistan • Uganda • Ukraine • United Arab Emirates • United Kingdom • Uruguay • Uzbekistan • Vatican City (Holy See) • Venezuela • Vietnam [reciprocal relationship through presidential proclamation rather than treaty] • Zambia • Zimbabwe

Persons wanting to know which treaties these countries signed, and when the agreements were entered, can find that information on a detailed table of international copyright treaties.

Berne, UCC and NAFTA

Prior to the 1994 legislation that brought about an unprecedented level of reciprocal copyright recognition between the United States and a substantial number of other nations, copyright relations between the United States and the rest of the world was a complicated “quilt” of different treaties that covered far-more-limited numbers of countries and had far less effect as to the numbers of works and the extent to which they were covered.

It remains the case that reciprocal-copyright recognition of the nature outlined on the tree-view chart does not apply to countries that are not members of the Berne Convention.  The information therein which deals with these earlier treaties is largely superceded (because of the prevalence of Berne membership), but is provided here for those who might need it.

Is the work you are interested in copying is one made in Canada or Mexico, read the following:

The United States entered a reciprocal-respect copyright arrangement with Canada and Mexico (within NAFTA legislation) one year prior to entering an arrangement with far more countries (through URAA/GATT legislation).  The effect upon works copyrighted in Canada and Mexico is much the same, other than minor differences in the effective dates and the deadlines for filing Intent to Enforce declarations.

  • NAFTA was implemented 1993 and was effective January 1, 1994 (Public Law 103-182, published 107 Stat. 2057, 2115)
  • URAA was passed 1994, and was effective January 1, 1996 (Public Law 103-465, published 108 Stat.4809,4976; this entirely replaced the §104A of Title 17 that had been introduced with NAFTA.)
  • URAA applied to all classifications of works, whereas NAFTA applies to motion pictures (and contents within them) from 1978 to March 1, 1989, that had been published without notice in the U.S.
  • Under URAA, copyright protection in the U.S. based on foreign copyright was automatic, whereas NAFTA required:
    “The protection provided under subsection (a) shall become effective, with respect to any motion picture or work included in such motion picture meeting the criteria of that subsection, 1 year after the date on which the North American Free Trade Agreement enters into force with respect to, and the United States applies the Agreement to, the country in whose territory the motion picture was first fixed or published if, before the end of that 1-year period, the copyright owner in the motion picture or work files with the Copyright Office a statement of intent to have copyright protection restored under subsection (a).”
  • URAA truly subsumes and supercedes NAFTA, with respect to copyrights.


“Under the NAFTA Implementation Act, (8 P.L. 103-182, 107 Stat. 2057) a number of Mexican motion picture owners timely filed a Statement of Intent to Restore with the Copyright Office. These works will continue to enjoy copyright protection, but such protection will be governed by the new section 104A substituted by the URAA.

“Copyright owners of these works need not file an NIE under the URAA. However, other works from NAFTA countries that are in the public domain in the United States, including motion pictures for which no NAFTA restoration was sought, are subject to copyright restoration under the new section 104A. NAFTA works that have not been registered may be registered using the URAA registration procedures, including GATT forms and deposit preferences.”   (Information Circular 38b)

Copyright Status of a Specific Work
Where the Source Country is Eligible for Reciprocal Copyright Recognition

At this point, you should have determined whether the source country of the work is eligible for reciprocal-copyright recognition between the source country and the United States.  Now that you know about the source country status, you should investigate whether the work itself is protected by copyright in that country, as that status is a key determinant to the work enjoying copyright in the United States.  (It can happen that a work which has gone out of copyright in the source country can nonetheless be in copyright in the United States.  This is the more uncommon condition, and is treated in subsequent tables on this page.)

If you have used the tree-view chart on this web site, you know that to determine the copyright status for an American work in the United States can entail answering numerous questions (which were spread out across several branches on the tree-view chart page).  To get a definitive answer about the copyright status of a foreign work can also entail answering a number of successive questions.  (Generally, however, there aren’t as many to answer in applying foreign laws as there are with American law.)   This web site is not of sufficient size to delineate every question for every country..

The copyright status of a work can be difficult to ascertain when the protection accorded that work is governed by the laws of a country other than the United States.   Coming up with a satisfactory answer as to the copyright status often necessitates knowledge of the laws of the nation wherein the work was made.  A thorough examination of the copyright laws of the scores of nations which have copyright laws, is outside the scope of this web site.  Those who endeavor into the study should realize that the laws are written in dozens of languages and that literal translations are subject to error.

(The laws of 120 countries [this number as of February 2007] are accessible online from the World Intellectual Property Organization at   This link is repeated at the bottom of this page.)

Please realize that in many countries, a work is considered to be copyrighted upon publication or upon creation, so questions about a copyright being “secured in a timely and proper manner in the source country” can be assumed to be automatically answered in the affirmed.

The tree-view chart deals with the subject of the following table.  The second table below provides examples of conditions outlined in the first table.

Where the work has a copyright through the source country and another in the United States (whether renewed or not), and these copyrights are set to expire on different dates, there may be a provision in American law that allows the later date to be the date of expiration, even where that date is the date that the American copyright would have expired had it been renewed even where it wasn’t.

This first table shows what happens in the four possible conditions given the two possible status in foreign countries combined with the two possible status in the U.S.

HOW THE LAW WORKS Status in source country 1/1/1996 or (if country joined later) the later date* Status in U.S. had work received maximum possible term at time of publication
where U.S. law had
work in the
public domain
Work stayed public domain in U.S. after URAA unless an aspect in the other three conditions overrode the work having entered public domain by foreign expiration.  (It doesn’t matter if the work became public domain in the source country if the U.S. term would have continued beyond the foreign expiration.) If the age of the work has already gone beyond the maximum amount of time that the U.S. would have given it, the work stayed in the public domain.
where U.S. had
foreign work
Copyright is granted until the last possible date that U.S. law would have allowed at the time of the original copyright. Copyright is granted until the last possible date that U.S. law would have allowed at the time of the original copyright.

* This later date is called the “date of restoration”

This second table shows examples of the above conditions:

EXAMPLES Status in source country 1/1/1996 or (if country joined later) the later date* Status in U.S. had work received maximum possible term at time of publication
where U.S. law had
work in the
public domain
All works of A. Conan Doyle are in the public domain in the United Kingdom.  They have been since 1980 (based on Doyle’s death in 1930), and the facts of his1923-and-later works having time left in their United States copyrights is not disturbed by the expiration of protection in Doyle’s native England.  Most other countries follow the British lead.  The pre-1923 Doyle works remain in the public domain in the U.S.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been out of copyright in its source country since April 1962.  It never had copyright in the United States, yet because April 1962 has come and gone, the original Dracula novel will never be in copyright in the United States.
Works copyrighted 1918 at the end of 1993, which was before URAA/GATT, thus 1918 works received no extra time.  1921 works would have entered the public domain at the end of 1996, but where a foreign-citizen/resident author remained alive for decades after 1921, a foreign copyright with a life-plus term will still be valid well beyond when the U.S. copyright expires.
where U.S. had
foreign work
A work that might have gone into the public domain in the source country immediately after the date of “restoration” (whether January 1, 1996, or later, if applicable) will nonetheless see its copyright protection in the United States continue for the term permitted by U.S. time limits.  Works which were in copyright in both countries on the “restoration” date are not governed by that provision.  It can happen that a work that would enter the public domain the day after URAA became effective could get a windfall of numerous years of new copyright protection. If U.S. copyright renewed while foreign copyright also in operation, there are two copyrights in effect.  However, works such as the 1930 German films M and The Blue Angel, neither of which was renewed in 1958, now have copyrights that “shall subsist for the remainder of the term of copyright that the work would have otherwise been granted in the United States if the work never entered the public domain in the United States”  (§104A(a)(1)(B))


(6) The term “restored work” means an original work of authorship that—

(A) is protected under subsection (a);

(B) is not in the public domain in its source country through expiration of term of protection;

(C) is in the public domain in the United States due to—

(i) noncompliance with formalities imposed at any time by United States copyright law, including failure of renewal, lack of proper notice, or failure to comply with any manufacturing requirements;

(ii) lack of subject matter protection in the case of sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972; or

(iii) lack of national eligibility;

(D) has at least one author or rightholder who was, at the time the work was created, a national or domiciliary of an eligible country, and if published, was first published in an eligible country and not published in the United States during the 30-day period following publication in such eligible country.

(E) if the source country for the work is an eligible country solely by virtue of its adherence to the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, is a sound recording.  (Title 17, §104A(h), as added December 1994, then amended October 1997 (adding item “(E)” at that time))


Which Foreign Works Received Copyright “Restorations”?
It Wasn’t Every Foreign Copyright That Became Respected by the United States

Year / Country / MediaCopyright Duration in Country of OriginCopyright Duration in U.S. pre-URAA where compliance with U.S. legal formalitiesCopyright Duration in U.S. pre-URAA if U.S. legal formalities were not complied withCopyright Duration in U.S. after URAA where no prior U.S. copyrightCopyright Duration in U.S. after URAA where there was prior U.S. copyright

Cinema films from Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa.  Also from corporate-copyrighted cinema films from Canada and Netherlands; documentary films from Canada; news film from Australia
Photos from Germany, South Africa, Sweden.  Also corporate-copyrighted photos from Canada
Anonymous and pseudonymous works from Hong Kong, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, South Africa
Collective works from Japan, Netherlands, Poland

Through 1991
Term: 50 Years
From date of creation, publication or exhibition, copyright protection lasts 50 years.  (In many countries, when the 50 years ends in the middle of a calendar year, the term continues through December 31.)
Through 2036 (counting renewals and extensions)
Total: 95 years
First term: 28 years, then renewal term of 28, expanded to 47, then to 67)
No copyright protection
The work was considered from to be in the public domain from the time it was published until 1996, when URAA provided automatic copyright protection.
No copyright protection
The new reciprocal copyright protections don’t apply to any work “in the public domain in its source country through expiration of term of protection”
Through 2036 (counting renewals and extensions), assuming renewal was registered.  Otherwise, failure to comply with U.S. legal formality of renewal is not forgiven, in that the new protections don’t apply to any work “in the public domain in its source country through expiration of term of protection”

Same media/country groups as above, but two years later

Into 1993
Term: 50 Years
Same details as above
Through 2038
Total: 95 years
Same details as above
No copyright protection
Same details as above
No copyright protection
Same details as above
Through 2038
Total: 95 years
Same details as above

Same media/country groups as above, but two years later

Through 1996
Term: 50 Years
Same details as above
Through 2041
Total: 95 years
Same details as above
No copyright protection
Same details as above
Through 2041
Total: 95 years
Given that the work was still under copyright in the source country when the URAA law went into effect, copyright “shall subsist for the remainder of the term of copyright that the work would have otherwise been granted in the United States if the work never entered the public domain in the United States.”
Through 2041
Total: 95 years
Regardless of whether renewal was registered, the fact that the work was still under copyright in the source country when the URAA law went into effect, copyright “shall subsist for the remainder of the term of copyright that the work would have otherwise been granted in the United States if the work never entered the public domain in the United States.”

Same media/country groups as above, but two years later

Through 1998
Term: 50 Years
Same details as above
Through 2043
Total: 95 years
Same details as above
No copyright protection
Same details as above
Through 2043
Total: 95 years
Same details as above
Through 2043
Total: 95 years
Same details as above

The table is intended to help the reader understand that under the copyright “restorations” of the URAA legislation (codified as §104A of Title 17, United States Code), there are disparities in the durations of copyrights in foreign works.  These incongruities exist even though U.S. laws are generally consistent in the amount of time given as copyright protection regardless of which year a work was first published.  Likewise, each foreign country generally chooses a particular copyright duration to apply to a given type of work and then applies that amount of time year after year, usually not changing the law for the better part of a century.  However, when the U.S. law granting copyright “restoration” was devised, eligibility and duration turned out to be based on two factors: the copyright term in the source country and the term for comparable works in the United States.  Thus, a work has to still be eligible for protection in the source country on the day of “restoration,” after which the duration for the comparable U.S. term becomes the term given.

Although the above examples show instances of U.S. duration being longer than the term in the source country, the opposite is often true.  Most foreign countries preceded the United States in going to systems whereby written works copyrighted by individuals are granted terms based upon the lifespan of the author.  In such cases, the foreign copyright is likely longer.  Examples appear at the bottom of this section.

A note about the end date of copyright terms

In many of the above cases, the copyright in the country of origin is the number of years shown here plus the remainder of the calendar year through to the next December 31st or January 1st.  These distinctions are dropped here, although these are spelled out in the tables on the page comparing aspects of the copyright laws of 20 countries.

Publication is not a stringent concern in foreign countries

Many of the countries listed in the table, in the case of the types of media shown here, predicate expiration of copyright on the basis of the date that the work became available to citizens of their country rather than creation date.  In the case of movies, the date that the work became available means the date that a movie was shown to audiences in theaters rather than the more complicated calculation (long applicable in the United States but possibly nowhere else) of when copies were distributed to such sufficient extent that it qualified as “publication.”  Where foreign countries did make a distinction between creation date and date of availability to the public, this generally won’t make a difference with the types of media shown here, since movies (for instance) usually don’t stay on the shelf long without their producers attempting to quickly get them into their own country’s theaters so that they can recoup their costs.  However, persons interested in exploiting a specific work should research the release history of that particular work.  As with the particulars in each country insofar as whether copyright expires at the end of the calendar year rather than on the anniversary of the copyright, the above table leaves out that distinction; the exact information is provided in the tables on the page comparing aspects of the copyright laws of 20 countries.

What about sound recordings?

The above table deliberately left out the following media/country combinations for 1941, 1943, 1946 and 1948:

Sound recordings: Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

Just like the cinema films, photos, anonymous and pseudonymous works, and collective works listed above, sound recordings are entitled to fifty years of copyright in the countries specified in the above paragraph.  However, sound recordings prior to 1972 do not qualify for copyright “restoration” under URAA.  Section 104A(h)(6)(C)(i) provides copyright “restoration” for “noncompliance with formalities imposed at any time by United States copyright law”; section 104A(a)(1)(B) provides “restoration” to works for “the remainder of the term of copyright that the work would have otherwise been granted in the United States if the work never entered the public domain in the United States.”  Sound recordings were not eligible for copyright under United States federal law prior to 1972 (although protection was offered by state law), so sound recordings did not enter the public domain owing to “noncompliance with formalities.”  No matter how stringently a foreign rights holder may have complied with the laws and formalities in place in the 1940s, there would not have been federal protection.  The 1994 legislation addresses this point implicitly in §104A(h)(6)(C)(ii), where it indicates that “restoration” provides “subject matter protection in the case of sound recordings fixed before February 15, 1972” (emphasis added).

Some long copyright terms

On March 12, 2008, Lazare Ponticelli died at age 110, believed to be France’s last WWI veteran.  He had been born December 7, 1897.  (Source: Associated Press story by Laurent Pirot, published March 14, 2008, in the Washington Post.)

On January 1, 2008, Erich Kästner came to the end of a life that began March 10, 1900.  He was believed Germany’s last WWI veteran, and the second oldest man in Germany.  (In considering Kästner as this, experts exclude a belatedly-naturalized German who had fought for the Austro-Hungarian Empire.)

Both of these centenarians were citizens of countries that provide copyright terms based on the lifetime of the author.  In both countries, it is the life of the author plus seventy years.  France adds the remainder of the calendar year through December 31st.  Furthermore, the laws of France provide that in calculating the expiration date for the works of an author who was a citizen of France, the following timespans are not counted: 8/2/1914 through 12/31/1918 and (if the work was under copyright as of 8/13/1941) 9/3/1939 through 1/1/1948. (Articles L123-8 and L123-9 of France’s Intellectual Property Code)  These are the periods of WWI and WWII, with some added time post-wars.  Although the obituary did not mention whether Mr. Ponticelli held any copyrights, if he did — even if these are for work created when he was 17 years old at the start of the first world war in 1914 — this copyright will last through the year 2090.

It’s probable that Mr. Ponticelli cannot be said to have died for France, but any members of his outfit who did were entitled to an additional thirty years on their copyrights. (Article L123-10) Thus, an author who died in late 1914 (perhaps among the first casualties of WWI) would receive the seventy years following his death, an additional dozen (plus fractions) for the two World Wars, plus thirty more for his sacrifice in uniform. His copyrights won’t expire until at earliest 2027.

Some examples of copyright-timespan calculations
in accordance with the URAA/GATT legislation

The two graphics below illustrate how copyright status has changed with respect to the British play Pygmalion (1913) and the movie by that title made from it (1938).   Both works figured into a lawsuit discussed on the Citations and Case Summaries page on derivative works.  (These graphics also help illustrate the rules concerning derivative works, which is the subject of a later illustrations page on derivative versions.)

The first graphic illustrates the time periods covered by the different copyright terms of the two different countries on the two different versions.  This first graphic makes no mention of reciprocal respect of copyrights (the so-called “restorations”), nor shows how it would apply.  Rather, it illustrates the diverse copyright status in the two countries at a time when each country did not recognize the copyrights of the other.

2067   movie under
copyright until
70 years after the
death of the last
survivor among:
• director
(last died 1968),
• author of
(last died 1997),
• author of
dialogue (d. 1950),
• composer (d. 1955)
(* see note below)
2020   1988: U.K.
copyright now
lasts until 70
years after death
1994: maximum term
for 1913 play already
elapsed, so URAA
provided no new term.
see next table
for changes
brought by
URAA (1994)
not renewed
1988   upon author’s
death in 1950,
play entitled
to 50 more
play renewed
1941 for
second term
of 28 years,
extended to
47 years; term
ended 1988 **
first term,
play under
copyright in
U.K. during
life of author
1938   play,
first term
year   play: British
play: American
movie: British
movie: American

* Playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote the dialogue and earned a screen credit for the screenplay.  Based on his death in 1950, the British copyright on the play will last at least through 2020.  Most of the other eligible contributors to the movie lived beyond 1950.  The 2067 expiration date takes into account the following credited persons (and death information): directors Anthony Asquith (died 2-20-1968) and Leslie Howard (died 6-1-1943), scenario writers Walter P. Lipscomb (died 7-25-1958) and Cecil Lewis (died 1-27-1997), playwright Shaw, and composer of original music Arthur Honegger (died 11-27-1955).  Not considered are uncredited reported screenwriters Ian Dalrymple and Anatole de Grunwald, and uncredited reported writer of additional dialogue Kay Walsh.

** The play Pygmalion was renewed by “George Bernard Shaw, London.  R93132, Jan. 18, 1941.”  (Renewal applies to American copyright.)

The graphic below illustrates to what extent the different copyrights on Pygmalion were recognized in the United States at different times.

2021 and  
copyrights in play
expired everywhere
British copyright
of movie
triggers United States to
grant remainder of the maximum
period for a 1938 work
1996-2020   British copyright
of play again
recognized by the
United States, based on
British term
1989-1995   American copyright
expired; pre-URAA,
British copyright
not recognized by U.S.
neither play nor
movie is under
copyright in
the U.S.
1966-1988   play protected by
second term of
American copyright
movie not under
copyright, but
copyright in
underlying play
unauthorized use
1941-1966   movie protected by
American copyright
1938-1941   play protected by
first term of
American copyright


play movie


 Another Qualification Where a Foreign Work Was Not Registered for Separate American Copyright:
The Number of Days Separating American Publication From Foreign Publication Can Cost a Work its Copyright “Restoration”


(6) The term “restored work” means an original work of authorship that—


(D) has at least one author or rightholder who was, at the time the work was created, a national or domiciliary of an eligible country, and if published, was first published in an eligible country and not published in the United States during the 30-day period following publication in such eligible country.



Owing to the wording of the §104A(h)(6)(D) as shown above, copyright protection in the United States for a foreign work not protected by timely American copyright registration and renewal, is subject to whether it was or was not first published in the United States in the thirty days following its first publication in an appropriate foreign country, and also subject to American publication not having occurred first.  The following table shows how this works:


Status of the WorkResult under
Published first in the United States (prior to publication in eligible source country)Not “restored”
Published first in an eligible source country and then also in the United States within the following thirty daysNot “restored”
Published first in an eligible source country, after which first publication in the United States (if any) doesn’t occur until at least 31 days later (possibly much later, possibly never)Gets “restored”


In the above situations, the only counties to consider are the United States and what are referred to as “eligible source countries.”  An eligible source country is defined in §104A(h)(3) as a a nation other than the United States adhering to WTO, Berne and/or WIPO, as appropriate, as of 1994 or later, or a nation subject to U.S. proclamation.


 More Foreign Works Disqualified from Copyright “Restoration”:
Works Previously Administered by the Alien Property Custodian that Are Owned by Foreign Government


TriumphWill.gif (30033 bytes)Leni Riefenstahl was an accomplished, respected movie director when she was commissioned by the Nazi Government to create a film documenting Nazi Party rallies. The resulting film has long been lauded as breathtaking and has rightfully been condemned for glorifying a repulsive cause.  Triumph of the Will (1935) has been studied in universities as an artifact that helps explain why a nation followed loathsome persons as their leaders.  The film became a model for subsequent propaganda filmmakers.

Upon Nazi Germany declaring war upon the United States in 1941, it’s understandable that the United States would regard the film an enemy government’s tool.  The film has Hitler appear to be a messiah.  Triumph of the Will was, in the United States anyway, under the control of the Alien Property Custodian.

After the war, Leni Riefenstahl contended that she owned all rights to the film.   (If the Nazi German government had obtained them, that government no longer was in place.)  She sued Transit-Film Gesellschaft mbH of Munich when that firm (following its start in 1963) began selling copies of Triumph of the Will.   Transit-Film Gesellschaft had been set up as a wholly-owned company of the then-current German government, and it had bought rights to films of defunct German companies which the government had not owned.  Transit-Film Gesellschaft did not see cause for buying rights from Riefenstahl, believing that the Federal Government was successor in interest to the Third Reich.  The German Federal Supreme Court of Karlsruhe agreed.  On January 10, 1969, it decided that the copyright had belonged to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (the formal name of the Nazis), that the German state was its successor, and that Transit-Film Gesellschaft had been delegated by it.

Triumph of the Will is a documentary that itself has been documented to 1) been administered by the Alien Property Custodian, and 2) been decided to have a copyright owned by a government.  These two facts, in combination, preclude a work from enjoying “restored” copyright protection under the 1994 act.


 An instance of American copyright continuing past that of the source country

SH5.jpg SH2.jpg

Sherlock_reg.gif (4332 bytes)

The Sherlock Holmes stories of British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were so popular that the American publisher was careful to work with the author to be sure that American publication was coordinated with that of the British edition in such a way as to ensure that American copyright was not forsaken.  (Such coordination is no longer necessary.)   Here above is the listing in the Catalogue of Copyright Entries for what was then a new volume by Doyle containing a dozen new stories about Sherlock Holmes.  (illustration: Part I, Books, Group I, vol. 24, no. 55: August 1927 “Books” Catalogue, pg. 763)

Sherlock_ren.gif (2751 bytes)

The American copyright for The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes was renewed in a timely manner by the author’s heirs.  (Illustration: pg. 692, the Jan-Jun section of the 1955 “Books” Catalog)


In 1998, Congress extended the renewal terms on copyrights on which the original term began in 1923 or later.  For these works, total copyright protection for the combination of all terms extends through the end of the 95th year from the time of the original registration.  For this reason, a 1923 copyright, if renewed, will run through 2018; a 1927 renewed copyright runs through 2022.  Thus, under American law, The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes remains in copyright for a long time to come.  (This information counters reports elsewhere that all of the Sherlock Holmes stories are in the public domain in the United States.)

The Sherlock Holmes stories published before 1923 are widely available in collections offered by American publishers, but the necessity that these last stories be licensed has limited their availability.  One publisher that did license them took to advertising on the cover that their volume contains The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle to call attention to the contents being unfamiliar to readers who had likely encountered all the stories but these twelve.

The passage by the United States Congress of the URAA/GATT legislation in 1994 has resulted in the United States recognizing and respecting British copyrights on British works.  For this reason, it now is incumbent to observe when expiration would occur under British law for any work with a copyright in which one is interested.  For the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, one applies British copyright law on the basis of Doyle’s lifespan having ended in 1930.  Thus, in the case of Doyle and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, the section of British copyright law most critical is the one indicating how many years after death the copyright would continue to be valid in Britain.   At the time of Doyle’s death in 1930, British copyrights were in effect for the life of the author plus fifty years thereafter.  This would lead to expiration of all of Doyle’s copyrights in 1980.  British copyright law did change in 1988 and again in 1995, with the 1995 amendment increasing copyright terms to seventy years beyond the death of the author, with the change being retroactive to works which had expired at the fifty-years mark since the law being amended had taken effect in 1988.  However, the expiration of Doyle’s fifty-year window in 1980 had preceded the 1988 statutes, so Doyle’s copyrights were not “revived” (to use the term used in the statute).   (Documentation and more information about these aspects of British copyright are in the supplementary page on U.K. copyright.)


It turns out the British copyright on this work is no longer operational.  This does not alter the validity of the American copyright undertaken in 1927 and renewed in 1955.  The claimants who properly fulfilled the necessary steps to obtain a second term are entitled to that second term and for it to continue for as long as any other renewal obtained in 1955 by any of the other rights-holders who renewed any work eligible that same year.  Had it been the American copyright which expired and the British copyright which continued, the British copyright would be valid and copyright protection would continue until that copyright had passed through the maximum number of years.  The key point here: whichever country has the term which ends at the later year, that is the one to govern the expiration date at the end.  There remain exceptions (as addressed elsewhere on this page).  It remains that where American copyright offers the longest coverage on a foreign work, the time beyond that offered in the source country is for coverage not given outside the United States; outside the American borders, the laws of other nations (principally that of the source country) are operational.

(For a contrast: Read the tables and explanations on this page about British author George Bernard Shaw and his play Pygmalion to see how the same copyright rules resulted in a reverse situation as to the British copyright continuing long beyond that of the American.)


Notices of Intention to Enforce Copyright

Readers who have become familiar with the foreign-copyright-“restoration” rules by consulting other resources might have noticed that this web site has yet to say anything about the right of a foreign copyright-holder to file a Notice of Intent to Enforce Restored Copyright.

Question: What about notice of intent?

Answer: The “notice of intent” in copyrights is the equivalent to a “No Trespassing” sign in land ownership.  The rights to one’s claim is established apart from these two things.  A notice of intent or a “No Trespassing” sign is a conspicuous declaration that the owner is serious against wrong-doers, but neither of these gives the owners any legal rights he doesn’t already have.

Question: Was the work published in the United States (for its first time in the U.S.) during the 30-day period immediately following its first publication in a country where an author or right-holder was a national or domiciliary?

Answer: If yes, the foreign copyright won’t be respected in the United States, and if there is no longer (if there ever was) a valid copyright in the United States, the work is free to use in the U.S.  Any “Notice of Intent to Enforce Restored Copyright” registered by a party claiming ownership should be regarded as a mistaken filing by someone who (perhaps through honest error) didn’t realize that the first U.S. publication occurred during the crucial time window.

Question: What are your sources for this information?

Answer: Section 104(A)(a) of the Copyright Act (as amendd 1994) is titled “Automatic Protection and Term.”  The first paragraph (which is item (a)(1) states “Copyright subsists, in accordance with this section, in restored works, and vests automatically on the date of restoration.”  The 30-day window is in §104A(h)(6)(D).

The Notice of Intent is useful for rights-owners to take legal action against infringers.

The tree-view chart deals both with derivative versions of works in general (examples of derivative works are in the derivative works illustrations page of this web site) and with derivate works based on foreign originals.  The 1994 law which established reciprocal-copyright respect has provisions for American works incorporating foreign works which had been in the American public domain when the American adaptation was created.  The next paragraph provides an example.

Example: The Fractured Flickers television series (see frames from the credits of that show in the illustrations page about copyright notice) incorporated brief film clips from the classic German films M and The Blue Angel (both 1930).  When the series was created from 1963 to 1964, such clips could be incorporated freely (so long as the resulting films were not shipped or exhibited in countries where the German copyrights were enforced).  The complete films were sold and rented at that time (and long thereafter) by firms that were under no obligation to license the film from the German companies holding rights derived from the original effort to produce the films (nor from any American licensees of the German companies).

Copyright status on the above-named two classic German films

M.  ©Foremco Pictures Corp. and Nassau Films, Inc. (Nero Films, author); 11May31; LP3800.  [Film Superlist includes a Copyright Office Search Report on this film, documenting that the Copyright Office sought a renewal record on this film among its records and failed to find one.  More about such search results are in the illustrations page on investigating copyright status.]

Blue Angel.  ©Paramount Publix Corp.; 2Jan31; LP1855.  [No renewal noted in Film Superlist.]  There is just one entry in the Catalog of Cumulative Entries for this title from 1912-1939, and the Catalog makes no differentiation as to whether this listing is for the German-language version or English-language version (which is a different performance made concurrently with the German-language version), although the listing does state a length of “8,848 ft.”, which is an appropriate length for the American release in the English language but not for the (longer) German-language original.

Given that M and Blue Angel are eligible for reciprocal-copyright-recognition on the basis of the nationality of production (and assuming no disqualification for other reasons; possible reasons are outlined above), anyone who now offers the Fractured Flickers programs is also disseminating excerpts from the two German films that were not under copyright in the United States in 1963 and 1964 (and thus not licensed from the German entities) and yet which now seem to be.  In other contexts, this would create a tangle of intertwined rights, but with respect to “restored works,” the URAA/GATT legislation permits affected works to take advantage for provisions extended to “reliance parties.”  (These provisions apply only to works subject to enforcement of a foreign copyright.  Where the works in conflict are each American, there remains a potentially-difficult legal quagmire.  More about this is in the illustrations and citations pages on derivative works and underlying copyright.

About reliance parties: “Subsection (d)(3) of the amended section 104A of the Copyright Act contains special rules with respect to certain derivative works created before December 8,1994, based on underlying restored works, such as the translation of a restored work or a motion picture based on a restored book or a play.  Such derivative works may continue to be exploited by a reliance party, if the reliance party pays the owner of the restored copyright reasonable compensation.”  (Information Circular 38b)

In practice, where an American adaptation of a foreign work is involved, the law can compel the publisher of an unauthorized translation to obtain a license and for the rights holder of the underlying work to accept payment.

Foreign Publication of the Work of an American

Quoting again from Title 17, §104A(h) (the full text of item (6) is above), here is the part of most significance to the narrow subject now under discussion:

(6) The term “restored work” means an original work of authorship that—


(D) has at least one author or rightholder who was, at the time the work was created, a national or domiciliary of an eligible country, and if published, was first published in an eligible country and not published in the United States during the 30-day period following publication in such eligible country.

Regardless of whether a British newspaper such as the The Daily Mirror registered in the United States its 1962 editions at that time, the enactment by the United States of the URAA/GATT legislation gives in 1994 to that newspaper (and all others with copyrights in force in Great Britain) protection in the U.S. in accordance with the terms applicable in the country of origin.  The scope of this mutual-respect protection has a slight limit: it is offered to copyright holders who are citizens of the country where the copyright is undertaken.

If one considers strictly the general policy of URAA/GATT providing mutual respect of copyrights from one country to the other signatory countries, one might assume coverage which is not enjoyed.  In the case of a 1962 British newspaper, British law did not require renewal, so a copyright undertaken by a corporation that is good in 1962 will be good past the end of the 1990s.  This might sound good for creators who have work that was first published in one of those editions.  For an American whose photographs appeared in 1962, URAA/GATT offered no benefit.

George Barris shot photographs of Marilyn Monroe which were published in the The Daily Mirror of August 14, 1962, although these same images had not been published in the United States as of November 21, 1986, when he copyrighted them in the U.S. as unpublished work.  Because the relevant photographs were published in 1962, a court later decided that the copyright term secured in 1986 began in 1962.  The twenty-eight year term ended in 1990.  Barris hadn’t computed this end date, so the copyright lapsed.

URAA/GATT came along in 1994 (effective 1996), and gave creators an opportunity to enforce copyrights that until then had no validity in the United States.  However, the URAA/GATT legislation that put this opportunity into the Copyright Act states that for “an original work of authorship” to qualify as a “restored work,” it must (among other things) have “at least one author or rightholder who was, at the time the work was created, a national or domiciliary of an eligible country”.   (§104A(6)(D))  For Barris, his American citizenship denied him the privilege he would have had as a Britisher.

The court decision that ruled that Barris’s copyright expired in 1990 did not take place until 1999.  Had the 1994 enactment of URAA/GATT provided relief to Barris, it would have begun to do so long before that trial.  His counsel would have had plenty of time to incorporate this knowledge into their arguments.  Instead, the court decision does not even mention URAA/GATT.

A more complete summary of George Barris v. Richard Hamilton, Madison Avenue Bookshop, Monacelli Press Inc., Anthony D’Offay Gallery Inc. and Tate Gallery Productions, Inc., Hacker Art Books, Inc. and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, with illustrations, appears in the Citations and Case Summaries page on renewal failure.

Links to Learn More

A page that I have prepared of important passage from the copyright law of the United Kingdom, cited and linked earlier on this page (in connection with The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes), is accessed at British law.

The government of the United Kingdom maintains a web page which offers the text of that country’s copyright law and legislation which modified it, available at   The most complete collection of these laws can be accessed directly as a PDF file.  Modifying acts are available in HTML format for acts from 1990 and 1996.

Significantly, British law (unlike its American equivalent) “is subject to Crown Copyright protection.  It may be reproduced free of charge provided that it is reproduced accurately and that the source and copyright status of the material is made evident to users.”

The World Intellectual Property Organization maintains a web page devoted to legislative texts from (when checked February 2007) 120 countries.  It is within WIPO’s Collection of Laws for Electronic Access.  WIPO also has a search page for Collection of Laws.  WIPO accurately describes it as “a unique electronic database providing easy access to intellectual property legislation from a wide range of countries and regions as well as to treaties on intellectual property.”

Important Dates in American Copyright Relations with Other Countries
(Excerpts from Copyright Office Information Circular 1a)

March 3, 1891
First U.S. copyright law authorizing establishment of copyright relations with foreign countries.

July 13, 1914
President Wilson proclaimed U.S. adherence to Buenos Aires Copyright Convention of 1910, establishing convention protection between the United States and certain Latin American nations.

September 16, 1955
Effective date of the coming into force in the United States of the Universal Copyright Convention as signed at Geneva, Switzerland, on September 6, 1952.

March 10, 1974
United States became a member of the Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms, which came into force on April 18, 1973.

July 10, 1974
United States became party to the 1971 revision of the Universal Copyright Convention as revised at Paris, France.

March 1, 1989
United States adhered to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

December 8, 1993
North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (NAFTA) extended retroactive copyright protection to certain motion pictures first fixed in Canada or Mexico between January 1, 1978, and March 1, 1989, and published anywhere without a copyright notice; and/or to any work embodied in them

December 8, 1994
Uruguay Round Agreements Act restored copyright to certain foreign works under protection in the source country but in the public domain in the United States


“The United States became a member of the Berne Convention on March 1, 1989. It has been a member of the UCC since September 16, 1955. Generally, the works of an author who is a national or domiciliary of a country that is a member of these treaties or works first published in a member country or published within 30 days of first publication in a Berne Union country may claim protection under them. There are no formal requirements in the Berne Convention. Under the UCC, any formality in a national law may be satisfied by the use of a notice of copyright in the form and position specified in the UCC. A UCC notice should consist of the symbol © ( C in a circle) accompanied by the year of first publication and the name of the copyright proprietor (example: © 1995 John Doe). This notice must be placed in such manner and location as to give reasonable notice of the claim to copyright. Since the Berne Convention prohibits formal requirements that affect the “exercise and enjoyment” of the copyright, the United States changed its law on March 1, 1989 to make the use of a copyright notice optional.”  (Copyright Office fact sheet FL100)


Watch Out for Works Unpublished — even Not Exhibited — in the United States for Long Periods of Time

In 1942, Scalera Film of Italy produced and issued a two-part film: Noi Vivi (English translation: We the Living) and Addio, Kira! (English translation: Goodbye, Kira!).  Italy was an aggressor nation in World War II at the time, so naturally Italian films were not welcome during that era in countries Italy was at war with: the United States, Great Britain, France, et al.  There was another reason why the two-part film could not be shown in the United States: the filmmakers had (faithfully) adapted the screenplay from a novel by American author Ayn Rand without her knowledge or consent.  No showings in the United States (or any other nation where her copyrights would be respected by law) would be possible until the underlying copyright was resolved.  (Underlying copyrights are discussed on the illustrations page on derivative works.)

The United States Government obtained, shortly after the war, a settlement on behalf of the author for the Italian company’s appropriation of the literary rights insofar as applied to showings of the film up to that point.  The author and the owners of the film didn’t reach an accord on distribution elsewhere for another two decades.  Subtitling in English and new editing followed.  The new version (edited into one feature film of 171 minutes) was first shown in the United States in 1986.  The first theatrical distribution in the United States began later that year.  The new version was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office under number PAu000952601, dated December 1, 1986.  From that point in time is measured its term of American copyright protection.  The original Italian versions then became (formally) copyrighted in the United States to the extent that they are incorporated in the English-subtitled edited version.  Under the GATT/URAA reciprocal-recognition copyright provisions legislated into American law in 1994, the portions of the Italian versions not incorporated in the edited version continue to enjoy common-law American copyright protection as unpublished works.  Nay-sayers may argue that this gives the Italian film more years of copyright protection than would have been accorded the film had its copyright term been the same fixed number of years but measured from 1942.  Nonetheless, American law has always taken into consideration that the movie did not require American copyright registration in 1942 (at which time it was not imported), nor at any other time prior to 1986, because it was never shown to general-public audiences in the United States (nor sold to the American public) at any time during those 44 years.  The lack of a copyright registration in the United States prior to 1986 does not constitute a sign of the movie entering the public domain.

Lesson: Don’t base a decision on the validity of a U.S. copyright of a foreign work on the basis of when the work was first made available overseas.  Its American publication or copyright date (whichever is earlier) is the determinant to look for.

The fact that the We the Living movie played in Europe long before 1986 did not impose any obligation on the copyright owners to register the work for an American copyright prior to its American publication in order to enjoy copyright protection.  (In the 19th century, American registration would have been necessary, but this requirement has long since ceased to be part of American law.  See the Citations and Court Decisions Summaries page to learn about 19th-century rules which have long since ceased to apply.)


This page provides examples on Foreign Copyright, so the passages on
• “Fractured Flickers”
only concern aspects of this work relevant to Foreign Copyright.
Other aspects are discussed on other illustrations pages.  All of the aspects are itemized and discussed on the examples page.  (Go there)


Readers who understand the concepts outlined on this page and on the companion Citations and Case Summaries page are invited to go to the foreign exercises page, which explores the complications involved in determining the copyright status of two foreign films after URAA/GATT introduced the possibility of reciprocal-treaty copyright protection.


You’ve seen the illustrations —
You’ve read the captions —
Now read passages from the law
and read what the courts decided.

Read Citations and Case Summaries on:
Foreign works

    •     •     •

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© 2007,2008 David P. Hayes