Recorded Music

Decision Process

Can I Use It? A Map of the Issues
Published by the University of Minnesota

Determining whether the work is protected by copyright

Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States
Published by Cornell University

If you are trying to determine whether or not a recording is still under copyright protection, this chart will help you. There are also many important resources listed in the footnotes, including links to other useful copyright tools. As you work through this chart, use the links below to search Copyright Records and Copyright Renewal Records.

Search Copyright Records: Registrations and Documents 1978-Present
Published by the United States Copyright Office

This page includes two ways to search copyright records: eCO Search, which is their new and more user-friendly search of all records from 1978 to the present, and their older LOCIS (Library of Congress Information System) Search System. These systems search registered items as well as copyright documentation (indicating ownership, change of ownership, and the like). Both systems are unavailable from 5:00pm on Saturdays until noon on Sundays, eastern time. (That's 6:00pm on Saturdays until 1:00pm on Sundays, central time.)

Selected Copyright Renewal Registration, 1950-1977
By the United States Copyright Office, Published by Project Gutenberg
Works published between 1923 and 1977 had to carry a copyright notice in order to be protected, and the copyright had to be renewed after 28 years (see Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States). Without this renewal, the works passed into the public domain. Copyright renewal notices were published by the United States Copyright Office, and Project Gutenberg has digitized most of these records for renewals that occurred between 1950 and 1977. For records 1978 to the present (with a several-month delay), search the copyright office's copyright records database.

Copyright Renewal Records
Published by Michael Lesk of Rutgers University
Michael Lesk has made his database of copyright renewals available online. This is a great place to check after you have gone through the Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States chart and need to determine whether copyright was renewed.

Is the intended use fair?

Thinking Through Fair Use
Published by the University of Minnesota Libraries
When deciding whether or not individual uses of copyrighted material falls under fair use, you must weigh four factors: 1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; 2) the nature of the copyrighted work; 3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and 4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work (U.S.C Title 17, Section 107).


Music Library Association Copyright Guidelines

Getting Permission

Please see our Requesting Permission page for assistance if you wish to use copyright-protected material in a manner that does not qualify as Fair Use.