Because copyright laws are not the same all over the world, there are many circumstances that could allow a book that's public domain in one country to still be under copyright protection in another.
For instance, just because a book published in the U.S. is now in the Public Domain, doesn't automatically mean it's in the public domain in the U.K. as well...or vice versa.
Fortunately though, many countries have provisions in their copyright laws allowing the following of what's commonly referred to as "the rule of the shorter term".
For a full discussion regarding this topic, see "The Global Copyright Dilemma" ebook included with the Public Domain Treasure Hunter's Survival Kit.
For more information regarding "the rule of the shorter term" see this article on the PDTH Blog...
Also, review this informative article on Wikipedia...
When we use the statement...
"Public Domain in the United States and countries following the rule of the shorter term"
...it means that we have verified that the work in question is in the Public Domain in the United States (usually due to lack of copyright renewal in the 28th year after publication).
In the case of U.S. published books (which is primarily what we deal with in the club), the book's public domain status also ensures automatic public domain status in all countries following the rule of the shorter term as well.
These countries currently consist of the following...
• Cote d'Ivoire
So when we release a book in the club and use the phrase ""Public Domain in the United States and countries following the rule of the shorter term" in conjunction with the book, it means the book is public domain in the U.S. and all of the countries in the list above (thanks to the rule of the shorter term).
To determine a book's copyright status in any country outside of the U.S. or not included in the list above, the book must be assessed using the copyright laws of the country you are trying to determine the copyright status in. For instance, in Germany, copyright duration of protection is set at 70 years after death of author. Germany does not follow the rule of the shorter term, so a book published in the U.S. would only be in the public domain in Germany as well if it's been more than 70 years since the author has died.
The link that we provide to the LOC Card Catalog Entry for each book is provided as a courtesy so that members can verify the origins of a particular book for themselves if they would like. The LOC entry acts as proof that a particular book really was published when and where we say it was. The LOC entry is a research starting point, it does not act as proof that a book is in the public domain...in fact the LOC entry has nothing at all to do with a book's copyright status, it's merely a record of the book's publishing history.