An Exploration of Copyright Through Different Disciplines: First Stop, Copyright in Health Sciences

Hi everyone, my name is Tra’Vaysha Lanae’ Green, and I am a recent graduate of The Ohio State Moritz College of Law. During my time in law school, I focused a lot of my studies on copyright and intellectual property. I am now closing out on my tenure as Copyright Review Assistant for Copyright Services at OSU. I want to extend a special thanks to my supervisor, Maria Scheid, Head of Copyright Services. This would not have been possible without your encouragement and guidance. Also, thank you to everyone who took part in these conversations and everyone reading.

An Exploration of Copyright Through Different Disciplines

Copyright. What is that? No, actually, what is that? If you asked me, a law student, I would probably refer to Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution and say Congress has the power “to promote the progress of science and use arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”  While this may be what copyright is, I typically hear a different answer when I ask nonlaw students that question.

When conversing with my university peers, I found that the knowledge of copyright varies significantly depending on the college that student belongs to and their major. Unsurprisingly, students in the College of Arts and Sciences knew more about copyright and how it applies to their work—especially the art students. More often than not, the art, film, dance, music, English, and theatre majors knew the exclusive rights they were afforded in their work and, importantly, what copyright issues may arise in their industries. On the flip side, my medicine, business, engineering, public affairs, and agriculture peers appeared more unaware of copyright, how it applies to their work, or what copyright issues may arise in their industry.

That scares me. A person has a copyright in a work when fixed in a tangible medium and made with minimal creativity. If that sounds like a low bar, it is. Now, there is more to that as far as you can’t have copyright in facts, but you can have it in how you present those facts.[1] Nevertheless, you likely have copyright when you write an article, design a farm layout, create software, or record yourself giving a presentation on business plans.

Equipped with my love for copyright and my passion for education, I wanted to create an information blog series highlighting how copyright and copyright-adjacent issues arise for students in health, business, and engineering. I am not promising to spot every possible copyright issue– I genuinely would not be able to do that anyway. What I do hope for is that this at least exists so that if someone is searching about “copyright in X major,” they have somewhere to start.

This is a daunting task. To ensure I am hearing from actual professionals and scholars in this area with whom I need to familiarize myself, I have acquired the help of a group of phenomenal subject matter librarians to aid me in my mission. In this series, I will be looking at copyright issues that show up in Medicine and Health Sciences, Business, and Engineering.

Copyright in Health Sciences

For my first exploration, I picked the College of Medicine and other health sciences. For this one, I talked with Katherine Hoffman and Stephanie Schulte from the Health Sciences Library. Through conversation, I learned about some issues they see regarding copyright in their areas. The two significant areas of copyright they get questioned about are accessing and utilizing copyrighted work and questions about licensing and ownership of works.

Accessing and utilizing copyrighted workpieces is a universal copyright issue. In medicine and health sciences, making a copy of a work for handouts, excerpts of books, and more may be unauthorized. These unauthorized copies infringe on someone else’s copyright and could lead to trouble in your class or workplace if discovered. Stephanie Schulte let me know that the topic of fair use comes up a lot in the discussions of unauthorized access, and while that can be the case, fair use is a nuanced balancing test that must be done in every case, and it may not get you off the hook.[2] Library licensed resources and openly licensed materials may provide options for access,[3] but the case-by-case determination of fair use may still be an issue to be aware of.

Another significant copyright issue that arises is the issue of licensing, and I can understand why. Licensing is a doozy. Whether licensing to use someone else’s work or licensing your work, I learned some important things students of medicine and health science should be aware of. First, there should be a licensing agreement that is preferably in writing. You must know all of the terms of your agreement. Language matters. Is this license transferable or nontransferable? Is it perpetual or not? Exclusive or nonexclusive? Know what you are and are not allowed to do with someone else’s work, and know what you want or do not want someone to do with your work. Licensing can be a lucrative business for yourself, your university, or your place of employment, and licensing can go beyond copyright. You can also license patented works in the form of inventions and tools you may need, so make sure you know what you are signing up for. Ohio State has a detailed Intellectual Property Policy, and I encourage everyone to know it.[4]

The last issue that I want you to keep in mind is ownership. Katherine Hoffman told me that students do not always know what ownership rights they have or do not have in their works. Remember that copyright, authorship, and ownership are not mutually exclusive. You can create a work and not have ownership or copyrights in that work. This happens when you sign away your ownership rights through a contract or license or, in some cases, under the scope of your employment. Again, know the terms of all agreements you take part in. Katherine and Stephanie helped me understand that signing away your rights is standard in the medical and health science professions, especially when publishing or receiving certain credits. So, make sure you know that. It would be unfortunate if you believe you had copyright in the work you created and try to use it in the future only to find out that you signed away those rights and are infringing on that right holder’s copyright.

I have learned so much about the intersection of copyright in medicine and the Health Sciences, and I haven’t even scratched the surface. If you have more questions, I highly recommend that you reach out to Stephanie Schulte and Katherine Hoffman. They would be a great resource to talk to. For more copyright information, visit the Copyright Services website.

I look forward to sharing what I learned in the next installment, where I will see how copyright intersects with business.

[1] What Does Copyright Protect, U.S. Copyright Office. Available at:

[2] The Fair Use Checklist from The Ohio State University Health Sciences Library can be used to work through a fair use analysis. The checklist is available at Adapted from “The Fair Use Checklist ,” Kenneth D. Crews and Dwayne K. Buttler and from “Thinking Through Fair Use ,” the University of Minnesota.

[3] Find Research and Education support from the Health Sciences Library at

[4] The Ohio State University Intellectual Property Policy (Issued 05/03/1985, Revised 04/22/2024), available at

The Hardy Boys: Public Domain in 2023

This post is authored by Heidi Bowles, current student at the UC Davis School of Law and former research assistant at Ohio State University Libraries’ Copyright Services.

The first three novels of the popular children’s detective series The Hardy Boys (The Tower Treasure, The House on the Cliff, and The Secret of the Old Mill) entered the public domain on January 1, 2023, meaning that they are free from copyright protection in the United States. The Ohio State University’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Library has copies of the original 1927 editions of The Tower Treasure and The House on the Cliff.

The Tower Treasure (The Hardy Boys), 1927

The House on the Cliff (The Hardy Boys), 1927

The Hardy Boys was created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate and published by Grosset and Dunlap. The Syndicate was a book packaging company that produced many popular children’s series in the twentieth century, like Nancy Drew and The Rover Boys. To create so many books on a short timeframe, the Syndicate operated as a well-oiled machine that followed a standard process for creating a book: a Syndicate executive, often Edward Stratemeyer himself, produced a short outline of a story, which was provided to a contracted ghostwriter who then wrote it into a book for a flat fee. The book was then returned to a Syndicate executive for final edits before being sent to the publisher. When launching a new series, they would release three initial books to test whether or not there was a market for their idea. These first three test books for The Hardy Boys are now in the public domain.

In the early years of the series, Edward Stratemeyer provided the outlines to Leslie McFarlane, who wrote under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon. The first eleven books in the series were written by McFarlane, who also contributed to other Syndicate series under various pseudonyms. After Stratemeyer’s death in 1930, other Syndicate writers, including his daughter Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, contributed outlines to several uncredited ghostwriters writing as Franklin W. Dixon.


The Copyright Act of 1909, which applies to works created before January 1, 1978, provided new works that followed proper formalities with a 28-year period of copyright protection with the option to renew the copyright for another 28-year period. Changes in the law (in the Copyright Act of 1976 and the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA)) extended the second period, making the maximum copyright term for published works covered by the 1909 Copyright Act 95 years from the date of publication.

Under the terms of an agreement between the authors and Stratemeyer Syndicate, copyright in the works appears to have been transferred and then registered in the name of the publisher (Grosset and Dunlap). Under the agreement, actual writers of the series did not receive a share of the royalties for sales of the books.[1] Franklin W. Dixon (a pseudonym) was listed as the author in the copyright registrations for many of The Hardy Boys novels, rather than the actual writers.

Under the 1909 Copyright Act, a publisher who was assigned copyright could control the copyright for the initial term, but the author, if still living, could claim the copyright for the renewal term. If the author was not living at the time of renewal, the copyright in the renewal term could be claimed only by those designated under the law. Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, who took charge of the Syndicate after her father’s death, renewed the copyrights in 1955 and claimed them for the renewal term.

The Syndicate’s practices of hiring contract writers and publishing series under a pseudonym let them control their stories and their legacies. They were able to authorize many spinoffs, adaptations, and revisions. In the 1950s and 1960s, during the renewal copyright term, the Syndicate shortened and revised the original Hardy Boys series. Although they were based on the original public domain books, these revisions are still protected by copyright.

Releasing these revisions did not restart the copyright in the original books—as derivative works, the elements taken from the original books are not copyrightable, only the new creative elements in the revised versions. The revised wording, revised characterization, illustrations and other new elements are protected by a separate copyright that will last for 95 years after publication.

Similarly, characters and events from the revised version or later iterations of the series are still protected by copyright. In the 1927 Tower Treasure, Frank and Joe Hardy were sixteen and fifteen years old but they were eighteen and seventeen in 1959. Only the sixteen-year-old and fifteen-year-old brothers are public domain.

The later revisions also altered the sidekick characters. One snarky review explains:

All the same, the Hardy Boys’ gang was a model of diversity for its day. In addition to best pal Chet Morton (or as he’s referred to in the original books, “the fat youth”), there was strongman Biff Hooper and two bona fide ethnics—Phil Cohen, a brainy Jewish kid; and Tony Prito, who is so darned ethnic that his poor Italian-accented English is the subject of good-natured mirth in the 1927 version of “The Tower Treasure.” In the 1959 rewrite, the melting pot has done its work and only the ethnic names remain. Tony Prito becomes “a lively boy with a good sense of humor.” Phil Cohen is “a quiet, intelligent boy.”

Characters and their characterization are copyrightable elements of a story, so only the version of the characters as they appear in these three 1927 books are in the public domain. Later updates to the specific characters are still protected by copyright. The stereotypical versions of Tony Prito and Phil Cohen are in the public domain, but the homogenized versions are not. Anyone making an adaptation or using these characters should be careful to avoid using any later versions of the character to avoid copyright issues.

This does not mean that any adaptation has to include these characters as they exist in the 1927 books. They can be changed and updated; it is just important to make sure that any changes to the characters have not already been made in copyrighted materials. To take clothing as an example, an adaptation would not have to dress the brothers in their original 1920s clothing simply because that version is in the public domain. There would be no copyright issues with styling the brothers as punks with pink mohawks and leather jackets (assuming that no copyrighted version like this already exists). There might, however, be copyright issues with dressing them in sweaters and denim as they appear in the 1950s.

Public Domain

Now that these books are in the public domain, they can be freely copied, adapted, distributed, performed, and displayed without having to seek permission from a rightsholder, negotiating a license, or paying royalties. This means that they can be posted online so they are more easily available for researchers and general readers, and they can be adapted by creators.

Public domain children’s books are particularly valuable because they are more accessible to children who do not live near a library and cannot afford to buy their own books, and, as the Authors Alliance pointed out, there is a severe lack of children’s books in many non-English languages. Public domain books are easier and cheaper to translate into languages with fewer available books.

Public domain materials are also available to be updated to address past injustices. The original Hardy Boys books were filled with racist and sexist stereotypes, and other reflections of 1920’s white male middle-class prejudice.[2] These books have sentimental value for many, and their enduring popularity makes them important material for researchers. Although these books might not be the best option to give to children, it is important to preserve and understand the underlying values of a series that many remember fondly as a part of their childhoods.

The public domain is a valuable and essential part of the lifecycle of copyright that makes creative works available to be freely used and inspire new works. This year, many important and interesting works entered the public domain. A few other notable works include:

  • Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse
  • Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry
  • Langston Hughes’s Fine Clothes to the Jew
  • Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s Show Boat
  • Georgia Douglas Johnson’s Plumes: A play in one act
  • John Dewey’s The Public and Its Problems

Learn more about how Ohio State is celebrating the public domain at


[1] For more about the history and business practices of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, see Carol Billman’s 1986 book, The Secret of the Stratemeyer Syndicate: Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and the Million Dollar Fiction Factory (link to OSUL catalog).

[2] For an analysis of The Hardy Boys series, see Joe Arthur’s 1991 OSU dissertation, “Hardly Boys: An Analysis of Behaviors, Social Changes, and Class Awareness in the Old Text of the Hardy Boys Series.”


Popular Adaptations of Public Domain Works

Note: Today is Public Domain Day; the day that we celebrate new works that have entered the public domain. This year, we welcome works first registered or published in the United States in 1927. Works published during that time, that met all required formalities, enjoyed a maximum term of copyright protection of 95 years. With copyright term running to the end of the calendar year, works first published in 1927 officially enter the public domain in the U.S. on January 1, 2023.

Because public domain works are free of copyright, they may be freely copied, distributed, performed, displayed, and adapted. This blog post, by Heidi Bowles, discusses popular adaptation of public domain works.

Copyright in Derivative Works

Copyright provides authors with a bundle of exclusive rights in their creative works, one of which is to create—or authorize others to create—adaptations of their work. When a work enters the public domain, it becomes free for creators to adapt without worrying about seeking permission, paying royalties, or meeting an exception under copyright law. The lack of copyright restrictions makes it easier for authors to use public domain works for their adaptations. It is important to note that copyright terms can vary from country to country, so materials that are in the public domain in one country may still be protected by copyright in another.

Derivative works, in terms of copyright, are any works that are based on preexisting material.[1] When an author creates a derivative work, they only own the copyright in their new creative expressions (assuming that they used the work lawfully—any unlawful use of copyrighted material is not protected by copyright). Authors of derivative works do not have any copyright in the underlying work or in the elements of their new work that they took from it.[2] For a list of common types of derivative works, see the U.S. Copyright Office’s Circular on Derivative Works and Compilations.

Take, for example, Kenneth Branagh’s delightful and faithful 1993 movie adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing. This film used Shakespeare’s original dialogue and setting, which is in the public domain. No adaptation can create a new copyright in the original work. There is, however, a new copyright in the typesetting of the script and recording of the performed dialogue, which could make distributing a copy of the script or film a copyright infringement. However, because the elements taken from the original work remain free from copyright, anyone is free to transcribe Shakespeare’s original dialogue from the movie and distribute it without worrying about copyright.

Less faithful works have more independent and copyrightable elements, like Disney’s 1994 animated movie The Lion King, adapted from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. In a loose adaptation like this, it is more complicated to determine which elements are public domain and which belong to Disney, but essentially, the copyrightable elements taken directly from Hamlet remain public domain, while the new original elements added by Disney are protected by copyright.

Copyright does not protect ideas or concepts, only their tangible, fixed expression. It can be helpful to consider which elements of a story could be copyrightable:[3]

Not copyrightable:

  • Scènes à faire (elements that are customary or obligatory for a genre)
  • General themes
  • Overall plot
  • Names, titles, slogans, short phrases, and catch phrases


  • The specific expression of scènes à faire, an idea, theme, or overall plot
  • Characters
  • Dialogue
  • A recording of the performance

Therefore, Disney does not have an exclusive right in Hamlet retellings with an animated animal cast, but they do have an exclusive right in the particular way that they did it.

The iconic scene where Scar kills Mufasa is a good example to look at. Disney does not have a copyright in the idea of the king being killed by his brother so the brother can take his place, which was taken from Hamlet (neither would Shakespeare, for the record, if there had been copyright laws in 1600—fratricide is a common and intangible idea and therefore not copyrightable). They also would not likely have a copyright to Scar’s final words to his brother, “Long live the king,” even if they were original to them, because as a short phrase it is not likely substantial enough to be copyrightable. They do, however, have a copyright in other specific elements that they used to express this plot point—Scar holding Mufasa up by his claws, sneering, and dramatically letting go so that Mufasa falls off the cliff into a stampede blow. This specific and original expression of fratricide is what is copyrightable, not its use in the story.

Fair Use

Public domain materials are not the only available option for creating derivative works without the rightsholder’s permission. There are exceptions in the law that allow copyrighted works to be transformed without paying royalties or asking permission from the copyright owner.

The fair use doctrine allows for the use of copyrighted works in certain circumstances, which is determined using a four-factor test that considers the purpose of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality used, and the effect of the use on the market for the copyrighted work. Fair use is purposely vague to avoid unnecessarily limiting the use of copyrighted materials, but this vagueness could also result in uncertainty about whether a use is a fair use or an infringement until it is challenged in court.

So, while there are certainly many derivative works that are considered fair use, the lack of certainty with the fair use doctrine could mean that some creators would prefer the option of using public domain materials when creating derivative works.

Other Examples Based on Public Domain Works

DISCLAIMER: this list is nowhere near comprehensive and is heavily biased in favor of my personal tastes

Shakespeare’s plays have been frequently adapted. A musical adaptation of one of his best-known plays, Romeo and Juliet, gave us one of the most recognizable love themes in modern American culture (Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture” TH. 42, which itself is in the public domain and used in many movies and TV shows). Some other notable adaptations of Romeo and Juliet include:

  • West Side Story (1957, 1961, and 2021)
  • Gnomeo and Juliet (2011)
  • The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998)

Other popular movies adapted from Shakespeare’s plays include 10 Things I Hate About You (1999; Taming of the Shrew), She’s the Man (2006; Twelfth Night), and Ophelia (2018; Hamlet).

Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice, is another frequently adapted story. Some recognizable works adapted from Pride and Prejudice include:

  • The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012)
  • Fire Island (2022)
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
  • Bride and Prejudice (2004)
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001).

Other Notable Movies and TV Shows:

  • Clueless (1995; Jane Austen’s Emma)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975; legend of King Arthur)
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000; Homer’s The Odyssey)
  • Anne With an E (2017-2019; Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables)
  • Treasure Planet (2002; Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island)
  • Shrek the Third (2007; legend of King Arthur)

For more information on when a work becomes public domain, see Copyright Term and the Public Domain from Cornell Libraries. For a discussion of what is fair game and what is infringement in similar stories, see Protecting Your Stories by Mark Litwak.

Have any questions? Contact Copyright Services at


This post is authored by Heidi Bowles, current student at the UC Davis School of Law and former research assistant at Ohio State University Libraries’ Copyright Services.


[1] “Derivative work” is defined in 17 U.S.C. § 101 as “a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications, which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a ‘derivative work.’”

[2] 17 U.S.C. § 103

[3] For more information on the scope of copyright, see the Copyright Office’s Circular on Works Not Protected by Copyright.

Celebrating Public Domain Day 2021

Today is Public Domain Day; the day that we celebrate new works that have entered the public domain. This year, we welcome works first registered or published in the United States in 1925. Works published during that time, that met all required formalities, enjoyed a maximum term of copyright protection of 95 years. With copyright term running to the end of the calendar year, works first published in 1925 officially enter the public domain in the U.S. on January 1, 2021.

Public domain works are free of copyright. This means they may be freely copied, adapted, distributed, performed and displayed, without permission from a rightsholder.

A Selection of Public Domain Works

Below are just some of the creative works that have entered the public domain in the United States this year:


  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
  • The Informer by Liam O’Flaherty
  • Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos
  • An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  • In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
  • Gentleman Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos


  • The Circle, directed by Frank Borzage
  • Clash of the Wolves, directed by Noel Smith
  • Go West, directed by Buster Keaton
  • Seven Chances, directed by Buster Keaton
  • Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life, directed by Merian Cooper and Ernest Shoedsack
  • The Freshman, directed by Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor and starring Harold Lloyd


  • “Sweet Georgia Brown” by Ben Bernie, Kenneth Casey & Maceo Pinkard
  • “That Certain Feeling” by Ira and George Gershwin
  • “Sugar Foot Stomp” by Joe Oliver and Louis Armstrong
  • “Always” by Irving Berlin

Celebrating the Public Domain at OSU

The Public Domain Day Project at OSU continues this year to highlight and share public domain musical compositions.

We are offering a variety of 1925 works from the Music & Dance Library collections and creative projects, including: musical settings of fourteen children’s poems by A. A. Milne (featuring the first appearance of Winnie-the-Pooh) for voice and piano; a set of art songs inspired by the city of Paris, by American composer Kathleen Lockhart Manning; a piano solo by American avant-garde composer Henry Cowell; and popular sheet music by two Cleveland-based musicians, including a song inspired by a sensational 1920s serial fiction story in The Cleveland Press.

Visit the Music Scores & Audio page on the Public Domain Day Project site for access to available items, with more to be added throughout 2021.

Interested in learning more about the public domain? Explore the Public Domain Day website to learn more about the Public Domain Project at OSU, access public domain music scores and select audio recordings (dedicated to the public domain via Creative Commons CC0), and to view additional copyright and public domain resources.

Public Domain Christmas Songs (Part II)

A few years ago, we shared a blog post detailing some of the most popular Christmas songs that could be found in the public domain. These songs, many dating back to the 1700s and 1800s, are free to share, reproduce, or perform with no permissions or licensing needed.

Which Christmas songs entered the public domain this year?

Following the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, songs that were first registered or published in the United States before January 1, 1978 could receive a maximum term of protection of 95 years from the date of publication. This means that Christmas songs first registered or published in the United States in 1924 received a maximum term of protection through 2019 (1924+95 years). With copyright term running to the end of the calendar year, works first published in the U.S. entered the public domain in the U.S. on January 1st of this year.

In order to receive the maximum term of protection, a song first published in 1924 would require inclusion of a valid copyright notice and renewal of the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. That renewal had to have been made in the 28th year following publication. Failure to include a notice or file timely renewal would mean that the song would at that point enter the public domain. Copyright formalities have changed over time, but the charts found in Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States can help you navigate the requirements.

How do you check to see if a song was renewed? Copyright renewals and registrations were recorded in the Catalog of Copyright Entries (CCE). These records have been scanned and made available by a number of organizations—one great resource is the Online Books Page through the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. More recent copyright records (1978 to present) can be searched online through the Copyright Office’s copyright catalog.

To search renewals for songs first published in the United States in 1924, we searched records spanning from 1951-1952. Below are some just some of the songs that were published in 1924 and renewed in their 28th year. After enjoying a term of copyright protection of 95 years, these works entered the public domain this year:

  • CHRISTMAS FANTASIA; for string orchestra & piano by Benoit Hollander. © 9Dec24, E599510. R87828, 13Dec51, Grace Adeline Hollander (W)
  • CHRISTMAS NIGHT, from Earl Carroll vanities; w & m Earl Carroll. 2d ed. © 10Oct24, E600428. R86228, 13Nov51, Jesse I. Schuyler (E)
  • COWBOY’S CHRISTMAS; for violin & piano by Jaromir Weinberger, rev. Otakar Sevcik. © 18Feb24, E592070. R89247, 19Jan52, Jaromir Weinberger (A)
  • SAVOY CHRISTMAS MEDLEY; for piano, arr. Debroy Somers. © 8Dec24; E599194-599195. R89904-89905; 28Jan52; Debroy Somers (A)
  • CHRISTMAS BELLS; anthem, w & m Cecil Forsyth; mixed voices. © 10Oct24, E602740. R85214, 24Oct51, P. David Forsyth, Walters B. Forsyth & Hugh Forsyth (NK)
  • THE NEW BORN KING; Christmas anthem, W. C. Krensch, M Charles L. Espoir, arr. Hartley Moore; mixed voices. © on arr., 22Sep24, E602736. R86918, 26Nov51, Oliver Ditson Co. (PWH)
  • SANTA CLAUS BLUES; w & m Charley Straight & Gus Kahn. © 1Nov24, E602777. R91975, 19Mar52, Grace LeBoy Kahn (W)

Santa Claus Blues record from Internet Archive

Arrangements and Recordings

As you can see above, it is possible to register and renew a copyright in a new arrangement, revision, or edition of a work. This copyright extends only to the new creative expression included in the arrangement, revision, or new edition. A new arrangement of a public domain song does not alter or extent the public domain status of the underlying work.

This blog post has discussed public domain musical compositions. What about recordings that are made of the songs? Are 1924 recordings also in the public domain? The term of protection for sound recordings is measured differently, meaning it is possible for a composition to be in the public domain while a recording of that composition that is made and released in the same year remains protected by copyright. Our blog post, “When does music enter the public domain in the United States?” provides more information on this topic.

Coming 2021

New works enter the public domain every year on January 1st. Check out the Public Domain Day Project to learn how Copyright Services and University Libraries are celebrating Public Domain Day 2021.


By Allison DeVito (ODEE Library Services Liaison, Office of Distance Education and eLearning) and Maria Scheid (Copyright Services Specialist at Copyright Services, The Ohio State University Libraries)

Copyright Services Rights Review Project

In Fall 2018, Copyright Services began a pilot rights review project of material, mainly images, available through the Digital Collections (DC). The original goal was to research the copyright status of material in the DC and to select the appropriate rightsstatement to submit material to the Digital Public Library of America. We also had a goal of learning what content may be in the public domain. In beginning this project, we were inspired by the work of the University of Michigan’s Copyright Review Management System and the New York Public Library in determining copyright status of items in their collections.

We have had at least one student, and as many as three, working on this project since then. We’ve had a student in high school, undergraduates, law and graduate students working with us. Important skills we look for in a student are interest in copyright, research, and strong writing abilities. We provide training on copyright and how to research rights status to each student.

We ask the students to create detailed research reports on the artists and creators as listed in the DC. Here’s what the students look for and where they look:

Information for the rights review:

  • Who created the work and in what capacity (e.g. individual v. employee)?
  • What type of work are we evaluating?
  • Where was the work created/published?
  • When was the work created/published?
  • Why was the work created (to be used for a private/internal purpose or to be distributed to the public)?

Where they look:

The students access internal and external facing databases within the libraries. They may also visit the collection in person, search for registration and renewal records through the U.S. Copyright Office’s Copyright Catalog and through earlier digitized copies of the Catalog of Copyright Entries, and conduct outside online research on the creators in order to better understand the work they created and their professional lives.

The students also now use spreadsheets to track item level information for each collection.

These two documents (the narrative research document and the excel spreadsheet) will eventually be available for our curators and librarians to use.  

The process can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the depth of research needed. We cannot say for certain how long a review will take since the type of content and creators can vary. A typical rights review may involve research into the creator, their employment history, the publication a work was distributed in, a search through copyright registration and renewal files, and determination of public domain status under U.S. copyright law. 

We are undertaking this rights review to provide more complete and accurate information, specifically about copyright for the collections that researchers and the general public can access online. We appreciate the help and support that we’ve received so far. Because copyright creators and rightsholders are important in determining copyright ownership and status, the rights reviews are, where possible, focused on a particular author or creator. To continue to move forward we have requested from our colleagues in the Libraries:

  • Departmental priorities for authors/collections
  • Any known information/resources about the creators, for example:
    • birth/death dates
    • creation dates
    • copyright dates/notice
    • work history

This project has been extremely worthwhile and hopefully others can see the value in the work we are doing. For our students, we are providing meaningful work. The students learn or enhance their attention to detail, research, and writing skills. Additionally, they are able to see a tangible outcome of their work in updates to the Digital Collections or progression for other digital projects within the Libraries.

We have expanded the reviews to include content that may or may not be added to the DC. These additional reviews have varying levels of research and evaluation of status, but it has increased our involvement in looking into rights status for content for our Libraries.

If you are interested in learning more about how to get started with your own rights review project, please get in touch with us.


Additional Materials:

Copyright Review Student Training Manual

Ballinger, Linda, Brandy Karl, and Anastasia Chiu. 2017. “Providing Quality Rights Metadata for Digital Collections Through RightsStatements.Org.” Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice 5 (2): 144–58.


Public Domain Day 2019 Recap

Public Domain Day 2019 graphic

2019 began with a celebration; after a 20-year pause, works published in the United States in 1923 entered the public domain. In recognition of this occasion, Ohio State University Libraries began the Public Domain Day project, collaborating with partners across the university to bring attention to works whose term of copyright protection has expired and to encourage creative uses of public domain materials in the University Libraries’ collections.

In January of this year, the Public Domain Day project website was launched to share more information about the project and the partnerships involved. With a focus on public domain music, the project website highlighted a selection of musical scores that we believe entered the public domain in the U.S. in 2019.

Additionally, project partners worked together to provide a number of events throughout the year. Here is a recap of all the events for Public Domain Day 2019:

  • January 25, 2019: Public Domain Day Information Session. Copyright Services offered an information session with an overview of the ways a work may enter the public domain in the United States and how public domain materials may be used and shared to promote innovative research and creative expression. We also shared our plans for celebration at OSU with the Public Domain Day Project.
  • March 1, 2019: Public Domain Chamber Music and Chat. Two compositions, published in 1923, were the focus for this concert event. Composer Paul Hindemith’s Cello Sonata op. 25 no. 3 and String Quartet op. 22 were performed by OSU School of Music Professor Mark Rudoff and the Janus Quartet. The event included opening remarks on the significant public domain developments in 2019 and additional background on the two pieces performed. With the assistance of Professor Beth Black, Undergraduate Engagement Librarian for University Libraries, this event was also offered as a session for the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP).
  • April 11, 2019: OSU Symphonic Band concert featuring ‘McKinley’s Own’ march by Karl King. The OSU Symphonic Band, conducted by OSU School of Music professor Scott A. Jones, performed a new edition of composer Karl L. King’s march McKinley’s Own. Video of the performance is available online, with audio of the performance available on the Public Domain Day project website. The new edition, edited by Professor Alan Green and arranged by Scott A. Jones and Craig Levesque, was dedicated to the public domain through the CC0 waiver. The score and parts (imposed) are made available on the Public Domain Day project website.
  • November 4, 2019: Using Public Domain Materials in Your Teaching and Research. This workshop, offered by Copyright Services, provided participants with information and resources for identifying, finding, and using public domain text, images, and other creative works.
  • November 6, 2019: Safety Last! Film screening with the Wexner Center for the Arts. Safety Last!, released in 1923, is a silent film starring Harold Lloyd. This screening at the Wexner Center for the Arts featured a 1989 soundtrack composed by Carl Davis, with orchestration based on the line-up of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra of the 1920s and inspired by popular music of that era. The Ohio State University Libraries’ Silent Film Sheet Music Collection offers a number of musical scores that are arranged for the typical film theatre orchestras of the early 20th century. Three 1923 scores from that collection have been digitized and made available on the Public Domain Day project website. Scores from 1923 include:
    • Clark, C. Frederick, Midnight (Novelty Fox Trot)
    • Coots, J. Fred and Dave Ringle (arr. Ted Eastwood), Home Town Blues
    • Savino, Domenico, Misterioso all Valse (Dramatic Suspense)

On January 1, 2020, we will once again celebrate Public Domain Day. In 2020, we will welcome into the public domain works published in the United States in 1924. To keep up to date on new events offered in 2020 and to read more about the project, visit the Public Domain Day project website at DomainDay .


By Maria Scheid, Copyright Services Coordinator at Copyright Services, The Ohio State University Libraries

Articles of Interest: January-June 2019

This post highlights articles published in the first half of 2019 with a focus on copyright, especially as it pertains to libraries, higher education, and scholarly communication. Links to the full-text articles are provided; [OSU full-text] links will connect authenticated users through The Ohio State University Libraries, while [OA full-text] links point to an open access version of the article that should be available to all users.

Did we miss an interesting article? Please share the citation in the comments!


Bow, C. & Hepworth, P.  (2019). Observing and Respecting Diverse Knowledge Traditions in a Digital Archive of Indigenous Language Materials. Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship, 3(1), 1-36. [OA full text]

Bunker, M. (2019) Decoding Academic Fair Use: Transformative Use and the Fair Use Doctrine in Scholarship. Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship, 3(1), 1-24. [OA full text]

Katz, R. (2019). A Pilot Study of Fan Fiction Writer’s Legal Information Behavior. Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship, 3(1), 1-29. [OA full text]

Harbeson, E. (2019). Thinking Globally About Copyright: ARSC at the World Intellectual Property Organization. ARSC Journal50(1), 100–107. [OSU full text]

Mallalieu, R. (2019). The elusive gold mine? The finer details of Creative Commons licences – and why they really matter. Insights: The UKSG Journal32, 1–7. [OSU full text] / [OA full text]

Rosenblatt, B. (2019). Blockchain: The Hype and the Reality. Publishers Weekly266(12), 26. [OSU full text]

Russell, C. (2019). Librarian of Congress appoints new Register of Copyrights. College & Research Libraries News80(5), 298. [OSU full text] / [OA full text]

Schumacher, S. (2019). Unlocking the Public Domain. Visual Resources Association Bulletin46(1), 1–11. [OSU full text] / [OA full text]

Weeramuni, L. (2019). How to Fight Fair Use Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt: The Experience of One Open Educational Resource. Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship, 3(1), 1-21. [OA full text]

Legislation & Policy Developments

Abbott, N. (2019). Marrakesh Treaty in Action. Library Journal144(4), 32–34. [OSU full text]


Coates, J. (2019). Copyright: More Copyright Reform for Libraries in 2019. InCite40(1/2), 22–23.  [OSU full text]

Lipinski, T. A., & Henderson, K. A. (2019). Legal Issues Surrounding the Collection, Use and Access to Grey Data in the University Setting: How Data Policies Reflect the Political Will of Organizations. Grey Journal (TGJ)15(2), 77–90. [OSU full text]

Reed, J. B., & Jahre, B. (2019). Reviewing the Current State of Library Support for Open Educational Resources. Collection Management44(2–4), 232–243. [OSU full text]

Schmidt, L. (2019). Library VHS in Danger: Media Preservation in Academic Libraries. Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship, 3(1), 1-23. [OA full text]

Towery, S., Price, A. N. & Cowen, K. E. (2019).  Video Streaming Licenses: Using a Decision Tree and Workflow Chart. Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship, 3(1), 1-32. [OA full text]

Publishing & Scholarly Communications

Gumb, L. (2019). An open impediment: Navigating copyright and OER publishing in the academic library. College & Research Libraries News80(4), 202–215. [OSU full text] / [OA full text]

Heaton, R., Burns, D., & Thoms, B. (2019). Altruism or Self-Interest? Exploring the Motivations of Open Access Authors. College & Research Libraries80(4), 485–507. [OSU full text] / [OA full text]

Prosser, D. (2019). Researchers: stop signing away your copyright. Research Information, (101), 36. [OSU full text]

Willinsky, J. & Rusk, M. (2019). If Research Libraries and Funders Finance Open Access: Moving beyond Subscriptions and APCs. College & Research Libraries80(3), 340–355. [OSU full text] / [OA full text]


By Maria Scheid, Copyright Services Coordinator at Copyright Services, The Ohio State University Libraries.

Categories of Protected Works

The most current federal copyright statute includes eight categories of copyrightable works for both published and unpublished materials. But these eight categories weren’t added all at once, rather these broad classifications were added gradually over time as new technologies gave rise to new works.

When the first federal copyright statute was enacted in the United States, the Act only extended protection to “maps, charts, and books”, what we now generally categorize as literary works. The first addition came in 1802 when the 1790 Act was amended to include “engraving, and etching historical and other prints”, and also included the first instance of formalities that required creators to include a prescribed copyright notice on every work distributed to the public.

David L. Richardson and I.T. Norton registered the first musical work, “Maid of My Love” in 1831 after a revision of the general copyright law. Under current copyright law, Section 102(a)(2) provides protection in “musical works, including any accompanying words” that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Dramatic works received protection in 1856 which included for the first time, the right of public performance.

In 1865, just a few weeks before his death, Lincoln signed a new law that granted copyright protection to photographs and photographic negatives. Many speculate that the work of famous Civil War photographer Mathew Brady had a strong influence on the bill.

Twenty six years later, U.S. copyright law was amended again when President Benjamin Harrison signed the International Copyright Act of 1891 which was the first US copyright law authorizing the establishment of copyright relations with foreign countries. It was the first U.S. congressional act that offered US copyright protection to citizens of other countries. The first foreign work registered was the play Saints and Sinners by British author Henry Arthur Jones.

Public performance rights for musical compositions were formally established in 1897. In 1903, the Supreme Court extended protection to commercial art after Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co. sought protection for circus advertisements.

Before motion pictures were formally protected in 1912, copyright owners were required to register the works as a series of still photographs. “Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze” from 1894 is the oldest surviving motion picture deposited as still photos. The first motion picture registered under this new category was “Black Sheep’s Wool” from the Republic Film Company.

The last two additions to the categories of copyrightable works came in in the late 20th century. In 1980 the law was amended to affirm the copyrightability of computer programs, which falls under the broad category of literary works. Ten years later, architecture works were added in 1990, though they unofficially been protected since the 1909 Copyright Act as “[d]rawings or plastic works of a scientific or technical nature”, which were commonly interpreted as blueprints. In 1976, “an architect’s plans and drawings” were included as pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, but the protection was limited by the concept of useful articles. When the U.S. joined the Berne Convention in 1989, architectural works were formally added a requirement of the agreement.

Are you ready to test what you’ve learned above? Check out the interactive tool to put the categories of copyrightable works in the order they were added to law.

Do you want to learn more about copyright history in the United States? Visit the interactive Copyright Timeline available through the US Copyright Office.


By Allison DeVito, Copyright Services Specialist at Copyright Services, The Ohio State University Libraries.

2018 DMCA Section 1201 Exemptions Announced

On October 26, 2018, the Librarian of Congress issued the final rule for the current exemptions to the section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that prohibits circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyright protected works. We have written before about this area of the law and the rulemaking process involved (see our post on the previous exemptions from the last triennial proceeding in 2015).

The Prohibition against Circumvention under Section 1201

Section 1201(a) of U.S. Copyright Law prohibits the circumvention (e.g., descrambling, decryption, or removal) of a technological measure employed on or behalf of a copyright owner that effectively controls access to the copyright protected work. In order to ensure that non-infringing uses of copyrighted works are not unnecessarily inhibited by the prohibition on circumvention, however, a rulemaking session is held every three years to identify exemptions for particular classes of works.

Exemptions are determined by the Librarian of Congress, upon recommendation from the Register of Copyright, and remain in effect for three years.[1] There is no presumption that that a previously adopted exemption will be readopted, but new to the seventh triennial proceeding was the introduction of a streamlined process to renew exemptions adopted in 2015.

2018 DMCA Exemptions

On October 26, 2018, the final rules from the most recent triennial proceeding were announced.[2] The final rule includes exemptions covering 14 classes of works. We have created a chart to summarize all of the exemptions for this rulemaking proceeding. Exemptions include:

  1.  Short portions of motion pictures (including television shows and videos) for purposes of criticism or comment;
  2.  Motion pictures (including television shows and videos), for the purpose of adding captions and/or audio descriptions by disability services offices or similar units at educational institutions for students with disabilities;
  3.  Literary works, distributed electronically, protected by TPM interfering with screen readers or other assistive technologies;
  4.  Literary works consisting of compilations of data generated by patient’s implanted medical devices and personal monitoring systems;
  5.  Computer programs that that operate cellphones, tablets, mobile hotspots, and wearable devices to allow connection to a wireless network (“unlocking”);
  6.  Computer programs that operate smartphones and all-purpose mobile computing devices, to enable interoperability or removal of software applications (“jailbreaking”);
  7.  Computer programs that operate smart TVs for the purpose of enabling interoperability with computer programs on the smart television;
  8.  Computer programs that enable voice assistant devices to enable interoperability or removal of software applications;
  9.  Computer programs contained and controlling function of motorized land vehicles to allow diagnosis, repair, or modification of a vehicle function;
  10.  Computer programs that control smartphones, home appliances, or home systems to allow diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of the device or system;
  11.  Computer programs, for purposes of good-faith security research;
  12.  Video games in the form of computer programs, where outside server support has been discontinued, to allow individual play and preservation by an eligible library, archive, or museum;
  13.  Computer programs, except videos games, no longer reasonably available in commercial marketplace, for preservation by eligible libraries, archives, and museums; and
  14.  Computer programs operating 3D printers, to allow use of alternative feedstock.

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