Public Domain

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A public domain image of the White House
A work is in the public domain if nobody holds any intellectual property rights on it. Works that are in the public domain can be freely copied.

Two examples of material in the public domain are United States government works, and writings for which their copyright has expired. In the United States, anything published before 1923 no longer has copyright protection and is in the public domain.[1] Laws vary by country, but in most of the world, works whose authors died at least 50, 70, or 100 years ago are in the public domain.

Fair use is not needed when copying material that is in the public domain because there is no copyright holder. However, physical access to the works may be controlled by a museum that makes users promise not to make any reproductions. Texts and images published in the U.S. before January 1, 1923 are in the public domain. Work created by the federal government is in the public domain (but not work created by state of local governments). Before the Copyright Act of 1976, copyright expired after 28 years and had to be renewed for an additional 28 year term; items published prior to 1964 that were not renewed are in the public domain.[2] Items that were published in the USA before 1989 without a copyright notice are, with a few exceptions, in the public domain.

See also

External links


  1. Public Domain
  2. For a list of renewals see the Project Gutenberg collections at [1], which cover everything except music.