Copyright No More: 2021 Public Domain Works

Happy New Year!

Each year, January 1 is recognized as Public Domain Day and Copyright Law Day to raise awareness of the intellectual property rights of both authors and the public that enjoys their works. It also marks the day when thousands of U.S. copyrights expire.

The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (Pub. L. 105-298, 112 Stat. 2827) amended the Copyright Act of 1976 to set the duration of copyright protection for any work at 95 years, after which the work will enter the public domain and may be used freely by anyone to entertain, enlighten, or earn revenue.

As of January 1, 2021, copyrights for all works published in 1925 and before have ended. Other works that have shifted into the public domain are those published before 1964 whose registration was not renewed in their 28th year of protection.

Some Background on U.S. Copyright Law

For copyright protections to apply in the first place, a work must be original and in a fixed, tangible form – for example, a written story, a play, a painting, a sculpture, or a recording or composition of music. (See 17 U.S.C. § 102, and Title 17 – Copyrights of the U.S. Code more generally.) Individual states also have copyright laws, but they are only applicable in narrow areas not preempted by federal copyright law, often relating to criminal infringement and piracy. (See the U.S. Copyright Office compilation of state copyright laws.)

Some works are “born” in the public domain, without copyright protections from their creation onwards. Important examples are all laws published by the U.S. federal government, including statutes, regulations, and judicial decisions. State laws vary as to whether and to what degree works by their governments are copyrightable or in the public domain; Harvard University Library provides a good resource for these state guidelines.

Copyrights Expiring in January 2021

A helpful guide to works whose registered U.S. copyrights have expired (1870 to 1925) has been compiled by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, using digitized Catalog of Copyright Entries from the Library of Congress. Some of the notable works joining the public domain in 2021 are also highlighted in a new display at the W&L Law Library (pictured above), including:

Visual Arts




New ElgarOnline Ebooks Collection for W&L

ElgarOnlineThe W&L Law Library is pleased to announce University-wide access to over 120 full-text ebooks from leading academic publisher Edward Elgar, through the ElgarOnline platform.

The new collection includes electronic versions of 94 titles that the Law Library also owns in print, plus 30 additional open-access titles that are available to all internet users. Books and chapters are viewable online and downloadable in PDF.

The selection includes works on legal, public policy, political, business, and international affairs topics, with several highlights from the W&L Law faculty:

Access to ElgarOnline off campus requires log-in with valid WLU credentials. For an extensive list of ebook collections and other legal research platforms available from the W&L Law Library, see our Databases and Online Resources page.

New Online Guide on World Correctional Institutions in the COVID-19 Pandemic

World Correctional Institutions in the COVID-19 PandemicThe W&L Law Library is pleased to announce a new online research guide on World Correctional Institutions in the COVID-19 Pandemic.

In April 2020, W&L Law professor Nora Demleitner asked the Law Library to begin tracking how COVID-19 is affecting correctional institutions around the world. With the UCLA Law Covid-19 Behind Bars Data Project already compiling information on U.S. jails and prisons, Prof. Demleitner, a scholar of international and comparative law, sought to expand data collection to foreign countries.

Franklin Runge, Head of User Services at W&L Law Library, and his team of McThenia Research Assistants were up to the task. They developed a site on the LibGuide platform that is freely available to researchers worldwide.

“Our approach is to start small and slowly add countries in which RAs are fluent in the language and can find and comprehend the data,” says Runge. “The goal is to provide an ‘apples to apples’ comparison between countries. That said, some correctional regimes are radically different and data distribution is not uniform.”

As of October 2020, the guide has resource pages for eight countries: Belarus, Colombia, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, and Ukraine. The pages are updated as new data becomes available, and more countries may be added in the future.

The guide is the most recent in the Library’s collection of LibGuides on researching legal subjects, finding and using materials, and conducting legal research. If you have feedback or questions, or a suggestion for a new LibGuide that the Law Library might offer, please email us at

New Online Guide for Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism Resources

Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism Resources
W&L Libraries LibGuide on Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism Resources

The W&L Law Library is pleased to announce a new online research guide on Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism Resources.

The guide is a collaboration between the Law Library and W&L University Library, and brings together resources on racism and violence against Black people in the United States to support curricular and extracurricular efforts to oppose racism. It includes information about and links to a diverse range of fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, biographies, poetry, films, and online resources, all specially selected for their value in the ongoing study and discussion of race and racism in America.

The guide on Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism Resources was created with the W&L community in mind. If you have any questions, suggestions, or other feedback on the guide, please email the Law Library at or the University Library at

New Online Guide for Docket and Court Records Research

The W&L Law Library is pleased to debut a new online research guide on Federal and State Docket Research.

The guide is the most recent in the Library’s collection of LibGuides on researching legal subjects, finding and using materials, and conducting legal research. It highlights the best resources for court docket and records information, including subscription products like Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg Law, and HeinOnline, which W&L and other law schools provide for their students and faculty, as well as free resources available to anyone.

The Federal and State Docket Research guide was compiled by W&L Law Library Director and Professor of Practice Alex Zhang. If you have any feedback or questions about the guide, or a suggestion for a new LibGuide that our library might offer, please email us at


Racial Justice in America: Some Reading Recommendations

A new display at the W&L Law Library features books recommended by the Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project.

The eleven titles include non-fiction, fiction, history, and biography, and are recognized as valuable in helping law school communities understand and address the complex issues of systemic racism in our society and criminal justice system.

The Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project was formed in the spring of 2020 by law school deans and members of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS):

By creating a space for our collective voices as leaders of law schools to engage our institutions in the fight for justice and equality, we strive to focus our teaching, scholarship, service, activism, programming, and initiatives on strategies to eradicate racism.

Find more information and suggested resources at the Project’s website,

Also on display are titles from the W&L Law Library collection that contribute context, insight, and proposals in the ongoing nationwide discussion of racial justice in America.

All titles are linked below to where you can find them at a library near you.

Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project Recommended Books

  • The Space Traders (2001), by Derrick Bell (in Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, Sheree R. Thomas ed.)

W&L Law Library Recommended Books

New Washington and Lee Law Journal Rankings Now Online

The 2019 Washington and Lee Law Journal Rankings are now available at

Maintained by the W&L Law Library, the Rankings are a world-recognized resource for identifying and comparing law journals by subject, country of publication, or rank across several categories relevant to scholars and publishers.

Data for 2019 includes the top 400 U.S.-published law journals and the top 100 law journals published outside the United States, based on citation counts and publication statistics for a 2015-2019 survey period.

New Rankings are released annually based on data up through the preceding calendar year. Historical data from the 1996-2003 to 2014-2018 survey periods remains accessible on the site for reference and comparison.

For more information about W&L Law Journal Rankings, please visit the the How to Use and Methodology pages of the site. Questions and comments are welcome at

Wolters Kluwer Study Aids and Casebooks: Free Online through June

The W&L Law Library is pleased to announce complimentary access to dozens of online study aids and casebooks from leading legal publisher Wolters Kluwer.

Through June 30, 2020, all W&L Law students, faculty, and staff can enjoy the following materials online, free of charge:

Wolters Kluwer Study Aids
Over 180 study aids and supplements on virtually every core law school subject, all available to browse as e-books online or download in PDF. Click here for full access, including:

  • Examples & Explanations
  • Emanuel Law Outlines
  • Law in a Flash flashcards
  • Glannon Guides
  • Casenote Legal Briefs
  • Emanuel CrunchTime

Connected Casebooks
Students may register at to access up to five digital e-textbook titles, featuring:

  • Search, highlighting, and note-taking capabilities.
  • Additional learning materials and practice questions from leading study aids such as Examples & Explanations and Glannon Guides.
  • Video explanations, multiple-choice questions, short answer questions, and flashcards.
  • Outlining and case-briefing tools to help you work more efficiently.

Constitutional Law Videos
A helpful supplement for all Constitutional Law courses, An Introduction to Constitutional Law by Randy E. Barnett and Josh Blackman teaches the narrative of constitutional law as it has developed over the past two centuries. The online library of 63 videos brings the Supreme Court’s 100 most important decisions to life. The videos are enriched by photographs, maps, and audio from the Supreme Court. Students can watch the videos to prepare before class, or afterward to fill in any gaps in their notes. The entire collection can be viewed in roughly 12 hours in preparation for exams. See Professor Blackman’s guide to the resource and instructions for accessing it on the Wolters Kluwer platform.

Prepare to Practice Webinars & Online Training: Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg Law

In light of current events, Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg Law are each offering an expanded range of online “Prepare to Practice” programs this spring. Below is an outline of upcoming virtual trainings and live webinars from these three major legal research platforms, designed to help get you ready for summer positions and post-graduation jobs.


Westlaw will host a live national webinar on Prepare To Practice/Cost Effective Research on Tuesday, March 24 at 12:00pm EDT, and again on Thursday, April 2 at 1:00pm EDT. Visit to register. The program description from Westlaw:

Academic and Law Firm specialists will provide you with an awareness of Westlaw – the tools, resources and content that help you to be a successful and productive summer associate. This 45 minute webinar will focus Practical Law, efficiency tips and Westlaw in the law firm. Registered attendees are eligible to win a $100 Amazon gift card.

Bloomberg Law

A series of upcoming live webinars on a range of topics will help students get the most out of the Bloomberg Law platform. All webinars begin at 2:00pm EDT on the specified day and will last 30 minutes. Click on the webinar titles below to register.

  1. Tuesday, March 24 – Legal News & Current Awareness
    • Learn how practicing attorneys stay ahead of new legal developments by reading special legal news publications, including top sources such as US Law Week.
  2. Thursday, March 26 – Searching News
    • Stay on top of the news using Bloomberg Law’s tools to easily browse and search news reports.
  3. Tuesday, March 31 – Advanced News Sources
    • Explore key resources available only to Bloomberg Law customers to stay on the leading edge of legal, business, and government news.
  4. Thursday, April 2 – Business Intelligence Center
    • Use the Bloomberg Law Business Intelligence Center to keep track of news, current awareness, client research, docket tracks, and developing case law.


Lexis offers a multi-faceted Prepare to Practice online program, focusing on research and other practical skills for summer success. Students who complete the requirements also earn a Practice-Ready Certification to show value to employers.

Visit the LexisNexis Prepare to Practice website to discover training and certification opportunities you can complete at your own pace, including guided modules, on-demand video tutorials, and weekly tips on researching and drafting.

Lexis will also host a nationwide webinar series during the month of April. Click on the program titles to register.

  1. Thursday, April 2 at 4:30pm EDT – Litigation: Problem Solving vs. Researching
    • Are you ready to work with a litigator? They’re a different breed who uses a variety of sources and tools to problem solves issues before, during and after trial. This 30-minute webinar walks you through a typical litigation assignment and the tools litigators use to solve problems for their clients.
  2. Thursday, April 9 at 4:30pm EDT – Working at the Federal Government
    • Whether you’re planning to work for a federal judge, agency, or the DOJ, it’s best to know what to expect. This 60-minute webinar in 20-minute segments walks you through a typical day in the life of three of the most popular government lawyer positions:
      • U.S. Courts: 4:30–4:50pm
      • U.S. Department of Justice: 4:50–5:10pm
      • Federal Agencies: 5:10–5:30pm
  3. Thursday, April 16 at 4:30pm EDT – Ethics of Open Web Searching
    • Have you considered the risks of open web research? You probably don’t even think about it. Everyone starts their research on the open internet. What could go wrong in the practice of law? This 30-minute webinar explores the benefits and risks of performing factual and legal research on the open web.

W&L Law Library Resources and Services During the Coronavirus Outbreak

Per Washington and Lee University policy, the Law Library facilities are closed until further notice to students, guests, and visitors from outside W&L. On-site Library services for faculty and staff, including Circulation and Reference, are also limited.

The Law Library continues to offer our services online. Please see our guide on Accessing Law Library Resources During the Coronavirus Outbreak for current policies and information on using the W&L Law Library, and our modified service hours and contact information below.

Circulation Desk – (540) 458-8552

Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday Closed

Reference –

Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.