I know the Google Books API, but if for whatever reason I can't access it, how do I check whether a book is in the public domain?

For whatever reason, Google doesn't think this is an information worth of the information pages or of the advanced book search.

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Google doesn't guarantee copyright status etc. etc., but in the HTML of the book description you can find a lot of information enclosed in a script tag, for example:

<script>_OC_addFlags(... {"volume_id":"qyi8-5g8dzAC","is_ebook":true,"volumeresult": ... ,"sample_url": ... ,"is_browsable":true,"is_public_domain":true}, ...);</script>

Checking for is_public_domain should be ok.

Of course you're really supposed to use the API, in the example:

"accessInfo": { "country": "IT", "viewability": "ALL_PAGES", "embeddable": true, "publicDomain": true, "textToSpeechPermission": "ALLOWED", "epub": { "isAvailable": false },

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