Seekers or Sharers of Truth
I have gotten some inquiries regarding access to public domain works on the Internet. Some people have old texts that they would like to share with other seekers of spiritual knowledge. There is a growing body of New Thought Works on the Internet. The General Rule of Thumb is that works copyrighted prior to 1978 could be protected up to 75 years after their initial copyright. Thus in 2003, all works published prior to 1928 are in the Public Domain. Thus Ernest Holmes first edition of Science of Mind which was published in 1926 is in the Public Domain but the Revised Edition of Science of Mind was copyright in 1938 and this will will be under copyright until 2014. There are a lot of articles and early books by New Thought Writers that are now in the public domain. For instance Nona Brooks Mysteries was published in 1924, so it has been in the Public Domain for a few years. This may explain the renaissance of Divine Science. Works by Emma Curtis Hopkins are in the Public Domain, as are works by Warren Felt Evans and John Murray. More are available all the time as they come into the Public Domain but this is dependent on people scanning them and posting them.
As to the questions about why such works are not released by their respective denominations onto the Internet for general consumption, I can't answer that. I can tell you that Charles Fillmore (cofounder of Unity) did not copyright his works because he wanted to empower all seekers of Truth. His works are fully available online. We strive to keep a full set of links to New Thought Works in the Public Domain. Sites such as Northwoods are valuable resources for your research and as you send us more links to Public Domain works, we will link to them.
Below is an email which explains copyright rules in more detail:
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 93 15:19:32 -0500
From: email@example.com (Richard A. Anderson)
Subject: Re: Expiration of a copyright.
Mr. Manaster's query does not have a simple answer, which may explain
why there is some confusion. I will attempt to explain how to figure
Under the 1909 act a copyright initially lasted for 28 years. If a
renewal was filed during the 28th year, the copyright extended for an
additional 28 years, for a total of 56 years. Thus, provided that
certain formalities were met (such as copyright notice, registration
during the initial term, etc.) copyright for pre-1978 works laster
XXX lasted either 28 or 56 years.
About 1962 Congress started looking at a general revision of the
copyright act. Pending the outcome of such legislation, Congress
basically passed legislation to extend those works that were
reaching the end of their 56 years. Each Congress from 1962 up
through the passage of the 1976 act enacted such legislation.
When the 1976 act was passed, it contained a provision whereby
pre-1978 works would get a second term of 47 years (an extra 19
years). This would give a total potential term of 75 years, provided
a renewal was made. If renewal was not made, the copyright expired
after the first 28 years.
For works created January 1, 1978 or after, a new way of determining
duration was in force. Copyright would last for the life of the autho
XXXauthor, plus 50 years after the author's death. In the case of
a joint work, copyright would last for 50 years after the death of
the last surviving author. For works made for hire, anonymous or
pseudonymous works, copyright would last for 75 years from
publication or 100 years from creation, whichever is shorter.
An additional provision said that for works CREATED BEFORE 1978,
but neither PUBLISHED nor REGISTERED, the works would come under
the provisions of the new law (life+50). But in no case would
copyright expire before December 31, 2002, and further, if there
was an authorized publication between January 1, 1978 and
December 31, 2002, the work would be extended and additional
25 years, through December 31, 2027.
Congress added a further wrinkle last year when they amended the
law to automatically extend those pre-1978 works first published
or registered from January 1, 1964 through December 31, 1977.
In other words, these works will enjoy 75 years of protection
from the time copyright was first secured, regardless of whether
or not a renewal is filed. Of course, Congress provided some
incentives to encourage voluntary renewals, but the bottom
line is that failure to renew the 1964-1977 works will no
longer result in the expiration of copyright protection.
See, I said it wouldn't be simple. But I hope this provides
the needed clarification.
By the way, a more formal explanation of this can be found
in Copyright Office Circulars 15 (Renewal of Copyright),
15a (Duration of Copyright), and 15t (Extension of Copyright
Renewal Terms). They may be ordered through the Copyright
Office Hotline at (202) 707-9100 (24 hours), or by writing
Copyright Office, Washington, DC 20559.
Some of these publications, as well as other copyright
documents, are also available by telnetting to
MARVEL.LOC.GOV, logging on as MARVEL (no password
needed), and selecting COPYRIGHT off the main menu.
Richard A. Anderson
Senior Information Specialist
U. S. Copyright Office
Washington, DC 20559
Beyond any factual information relayed, any opinions or
interpretations are solely mine, and do not necessarily
reflect the positions or opinions of the Copyright Office
or the Library of Congress.