Author, Editor, Programmer, & Believer

Copyright Renewal Search Tool

Summary: A free tool to help research whether or not a written work had its copyright renewed.

What this program does

This program searches through records published by the copyright office from the period that authors and publishers needed to renew their copyrights. There are two main databases built in to search, one is renewals made by magazine publishers for the individual issues, and one is for individual works, and was filed by authors. The program also includes links to other repositories of similar information. If you search for a work of fiction in all the necessary places and you can't find a record, it is likely that the work is now in the public domain in the United States of America.

How it came to be

As I put together my first book of reprinted articles, Pulp Era Writing tips, I was always hoping that there would be an easier way to research the public domain status of articles and magazine issues. But I never could find a great way to search for those pesky records.

I'm a programmer, so I decided to build my own little tool.

Since I began, I've bumped into several people, including Jesse at SFF Audio, who have spent time researching similar records. Jesse passed along a good text file compilation of many of the renewal records I had been using. Having that particular data set in one place was a little easier than the multiple files I had been been looking for, and it was more complete than the data set I had dug up.

So, I started over, and this is what I came up with. It is not super beautiful, and it is a tiny bit clunky, but it gets the job done and is much faster than scrolling and searching through a 30mb text file.


There are two versions, both freely available to anyone who wants to use them. One is just a windows installer that will (get this) install the tool just like any other program. The other is a zip file that has an html version of the tool, just unzip it, then double click the index file.

Both versions do exactly the same thing, I just wrapped up the html version into a windows app to make it easier to launch. There's a screenshot below.