Answered By: Deborah Kelley-Milburn
Last Updated: Jul 15, 2015     Views: 239

We are not Copyright experts.  However, according to a handy chart compiled by Cornell University, the status of a 1923 publication would depend on whether there was an original copyright notice, and whether that notice was renewed.  If there was no notice, or if it was not renewed, it would be in the public domain.  The following footnote to the Cornell document is instructive:

A 1961 Copyright Office study found that fewer than 15% of all registered copyrights were renewed. For books, the figure was even lower: 7%.  See Barbara Ringer, "Study No. 31: Renewal of Copyright" (1960), reprinted in Library of Congress Copyright Office. Copyright law revision: Studies prepared for the Subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Eighty-sixth Congress, first [-second] session. ( Washington: U. S. Govt. Print. Off, 1961), p. 220.  A good guide to investigating the copyright and renewal status of published work is Samuel Demas and Jennie L. Brogdon, "Determining Copyright Status for Preservation and Access: Defining Reasonable Effort," Library Resources and Technical Services 41:4 (October, 1997): 323-334.  See also Library of Congress Copyright Office, How to investigate the copyright status of a work. Circular 22. [Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 2004].  The Online Books Page FAQ, especially "How Can I Tell Whether a Book Can Go Online?" and "How Can I Tell Whether a Copyright Was Renewed?", is also very helpful. 

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