This page discusses copyright issues with The Waste Land.
The Waste Land is still under copyright restrictions in the United Kingdom and most likely in the countries of the European Union, the Commonwealth of Nations and other countries. Copies of T.S. Eliot's poems, plays, essays and other of his works that are placed on computers for public access through the internet may be infringing on copyrights held by Faber and Faber, Mrs. T.S. Eliot and others.
However, as far as I can tell, The Waste Land has been in the public domain in the United States since January 1, 1998. The laws in the United States have periodically been changed to lengthen copyright. However, works that were registered with the copyright office prior to 1923 had, at most, 75 years of protection plus the remainder of the calendar year in which the protection lapsed. Since The Waste Land has been posted at many web and ftp sites and it is freely available I offer my own HTML formatted version annotated with hypertext.
Currently, most countries, including the United States, have copyright laws that automatically cover an author's work even when the copyright is not officially registered or even if a copyright notice is not printed on the work. The copyright extends for the life of the author (or longest lived author in the case of multiple authorship) plus a period of time after death (50 or 70 years). These laws apply to may own work.
The following paragraph was extracted from the Copyright Basics page at http://www.loc.gov/copyright/circs/circ1.html (December 17, 1999) The paragraph is part of the section entitled How Long Copyright Protection Endures accessible with URL: http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/circs/circ1.html#hlc
Works Originally Created and Published or Registered Before January 1, 1978
Under the law in effect before 1978, copyright was secured either on the date a work was published with a copyright notice or on the date of registration if the work was registered in unpublished form. In either case, the copyright endured for a first term of 28 years from the date it was secured. During the last (28th) year of the first term, the copyright was eligible for renewal. The Copyright Act of 1976 extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years for copyrights that were subsisting on January 1, 1978, or for pre-1978 copyrights restored under the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), making these works eligible for a total term of protection of 75 years. Public Law 105-298, enacted on October 27, 1998, further extended the renewal term of copyrights still subsisting on that date by an additional 20 years, providing for a renewal term of 67 years and a total term of protection of 95 years.
Here are how the copyright laws in the United States apply to The Waste Land. Remember, these are the laws in the United States. Other countries have different laws and the chances are that The Waste Land still has copyright restrictions in those countries. That is why I stress in the United States.
The copyright was registered in the United States sometime in 1922.
The copyright gave 28 years of protection plus any additional time to cause it to expire after midnight on the last day of the year. Thus it was protected up to and throughout 1950 (1922 + 28).
In 1950 the copyright could be renewed for 28 more years meaning that it would enter the public domain in the United States after the end of 1978 (1950 + 28).
In the United States, the Copyright Act of 1976 extended the renewal from 28 years to 47 years giving The Waste Land protection for 19 more years or throughout 1997 (1950 + 28 + 19).
On January 1, 1998, The Waste Land went into public domain in the United States.
On October 27, 1998 U.S. public law 105-298 extended renewal of copyrighted items (that were still under protection) by 20 years.
The Waste Land was, however, already in the public domain in the United States and thus remains in that state.
If The Waste Land was written in 1923 it would be protected for 95 years (28 + 28 + 19 + 20) plus the remainer of the last calendar year meaning that it would go into the public domain (in the US) January 1, 2019.
The rules for determining protection of items copyrighted in the U.S. in 1923 and beyond are somewhat complicated. For items originally copyrighted in 1922 and earlier the rules are clearer; they are in the public domain in the United States.
Here are a few websites that discuss copyright:
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