How can we find who owns an old book's copyright today, especially if the publishing company who printed said book no longer exists? This would also apply for other (non-book) publications.

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    According to the French Wikipedia, Gauthier-Villars was bought by Dunod in 1971. Dunod is now part of the Hachette group. Is the copyright held by the publisher rather than the author for the book?
    – mkennedy
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 21:45
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    It's not really clear to me how this is about academia as defined in the help center; this seems to be a general question about books and copyright (not specifically about copyright of academic works; there's no difference between academic and non-academic books in the context of this question)
    – ff524
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 21:49
  • @mkennedy: Thanks. The book I'm inquiring about was published in France in 1923, and the author is dead. If it were published in 1924 or later, it might have been in the public domain (at least in the US; cf. this).
    – Geremia
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 22:01
  • Some things that might help: If the author died more than X years ago (where X depends on the legislation), it might be public domain. Also, it may be an orphan work, which would allow you to do certain things with it.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 6:54
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    Different countries have different laws. For US law, see copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm . For a database of renewals in the US, see comminfo.rutgers.edu/~lesk/copyrenew.html .
    – user1482
    Commented Aug 7, 2014 at 15:17

1 Answer 1


Columbia University Libraries has a helpful document that provides guidance on determining the copyright status of books published in the United States. The guide provides links to online resources to allow you to determine the copyright holder.

Researching the Copyright Status of a Book: Protected or Public Domain?

A project of the Copyright Advisory Office Columbia University Libraries
Kenneth D. Crews, Director


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