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What is public domain?

What is public domain?

Public domain is a work that is no longer under copyright protection. Works in public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner (US, Copyright Office, 2013)

All work is in public domain when it meets this criteria: 

  • Published in the United States prior to 1923  
  • Published between with a copyright notice from 1923 through 1963  and copyright registration was not renewed. 
  • Work without a copyright notice from 1923 through 1977  
  • Work without a copyright notice from 1978 through March 1, 1989 with no copyright registration. 
  • Works created by the US Government

Work created after 1977 does not fall into public domain until 70 years after the death of the author. For corporate works it is 95 years from publication date or 120 years from creation date. 

Work created since 1989 are presumptively protected by copyright. 

What resources are in public domain?

  • Facts, common knowledge information
  • Works that are considered "Classic" 
  • Creative Commons works

Digital Copyright Slider

Use this handy tool to determine if the resource you want to use is protected by copyright? Use the Digital Copyright Slider from ALA's Office for Information Technology Policy.