Authority Records and Copyright Determination

What do Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock Holmes, British Insects and How to Identify Them, and Sixty Years a Bookman have in common? These books are all in the public domain, like many others collected on our library shelves. What information does it take to know if they are in the public domain, and where do enhanced authority records fit into this? Virtually all copyright terms around the world are based on some variation of the formula:

author’s life + years = copyright term

To calculate when a book enters the public domain, it is important to know the death date for the author.

For the past five years the IMLS-funded Copyright Review Management System (CRMS), based at the University of Michigan Library, identified public domain works one copyright determination at a time. As part of CRMS, we started to identify author death dates that were not already in authority records. We began depositing our discoveries of author death dates in NACO authority records as a pilot project in 2013 to enhance the data that has been so helpful to CRMS.

In this webinar we present our copyright-centric view of authority records and the impact you can make by simply adding an author death date. We will show you how NACO-trained catalogers improve authority records by including death date information that will be of value to a copyright review. We will also outline how cataloging practice relates to bibliographic copyright determination, including examples like federal documents, publication date range, and associated country.

This webinar was originally presented on November 19, 2014.

Learning Outcomes

Webinar attendees will learn:

  • how authority record data--including death dates, nationality, and publication dates--support copyright determination
  • why enhancing NACO authority records can help
  • awareness of the gap between legal definitions and cataloging practice
  • the impact enhanced authority records can have in the identification of public domain works

Who Should Attend

The webinar is aimed at catalogers interested in learning the copyright implications of the data they put in catalog authority records, those engaged in rights issues, and HathiTrust partners who will learn from our copyright review activities.


Matt Carruthers is a NACO-trained cataloger and metadata projects librarian at the University of Michigan, where he creates and transforms metadata in support of library and university projects. He has experience with name authority metadata in both bibliographic and archival contexts, utilizing MARC and EAC-CPF, and he was a team member of the Remixing Archival Metadata Project (RAMP).

Kristina Eden is copyright instruction librarian for the University of Michigan Copyright Office. She leads the training team for the Copyright Review Management System, a series of three IMLS National Leadership Grant projects based at the University of Michigan which have collectively identified more than 239,000 public domain works. She helped initiate the pilot project to send author death dates found during the course of copyright review to NACO certified catalogers for updating authority records.




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For all other questions or comments related to the webinars, contact Julie Reese, ALCTS Events Manager at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5034 or