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[personal profile] melodiousb
In the US, anything published before 1923--no matter where in the world it was published--is in the public domain. As I understand it, that date doesn't move forward until 2019. I'm not sure why. Beyond the basics, this gets really confusing (if you understand it, I'd love an explanation).

Many countries have much simpler rules. In Australia, it's Life + 70 years, unless the author died before 1955, in which case a book is definitely in the public domain. This means that there are a lot of texts on Project Gutenberg Australia that aren't available on the U.S.-based Project Gutenberg, but depending on where you are, it may not be legal for you to use them.

There are also a lot of countries that have a simple Life + 50 or Life + 70 policy. Other countries, like, say, France, are much more complicated. Wikipedia has a handy list that will help you figure out what is in the public domain where you are.

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