“Is it under copyright?” is such as straightforward question. There should be a straightforward answer, but Copyright Law is notoriously tricky. You can read the entire law to can answer your question (“Is it under copyright?”); however, even if a work is under copyright, you may be able to use it under certain circumstances. How the work will be used and how much will be used are important factors in the use of copyrighted materials. Always consult a legal professional, but you may be able to answer some basic questions with the resources listed below.
Copyright Basics (U.S. Copyright)
Duration of Copyright (U.S. Copyright)
How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work (U.S. Copyright)
Copyright and Fair Use Cases (Stanford University Libraries)
United States Copyright Case Law (Wikipedia)
Copyright Law Amendments (David P. Hayes)
Copyright (American Library Association)
Copyright Genie (American Library Association)
Fair Use Evaluator (American Library Association)
Public Domain Slider (American Library Association)
Tree-View Chart on Copyright Law (David P. Hayes)
Copyright law isn’t an easy thing for the non-librarian to understand. Too often the reasons for copyright are weighted down by what users can’t do and usage fees. I was recently delighted to see The University at Albany Libraries created a YouTube video which focuses on the reason for copyright – authorship!