So, I turned to my colleagues and posted an inquiry to some division listservs. Here's a summary of my responses:
* Information Outlook has a regular column on copyright, "Info Rights", by Lesley Ellen Harris - they aren't available online right now but had a lot of good suggestions and resources for frequent copyright questions and uses. (I'll be sure not to skip over that section anymore, that's for sure!)
* (Amended to include this item) CFHT's Liz Bryson maintains a rather complete list of copyright resources that's got a lot of good information.
* If you're affiliated with a university or college, chances are very high that they subscribe to a copyright clearinghouse like the Copyright Clearance Center - check with them, they might have the answer. Or, if you have a legal department, ask them. (Lots of folks suggested these.)
* Also, be sure to check the CCC and LOC copyright sites directly. I actually found the answer I was looking for on the CCC web site; according to the "What is Copyright" page, in the "Public Domain" section:
I called CCC directly, briefly explained my situation, and asked for confirmation that they would, in fact, fall under #3 above. (In this arena, I don't trust my own first interpretation.) The very kind rep verified that yes indeedy, they would, and that it would not be a copyright violation to link a PDF of the manual (in its entirety, including the cover page) to our online observer's manual.
Public domain materials generally fall into one of four categories:
- Generic information, such as facts, numbers and ideas.
- Works whose copyrights have lapsed due to the passage of time or the failure of the copyright holder to renew a registration (a requirement that applies to works created before 1978).
- Works created prior to March 1989 that failed to include a proper notice of copyright.
- Works created by the U.S. federal government.
So. This has been a good lesson for me on copyright resources and information - thanks so much to everyone who replied to me with suggestions! dPAM and dSOLO rock :-)