Public domain


Definition

Materials in the public domain may be copied, reused, shared, or distributed without permission from the creator or paying a fee. Government documents or works created by an office or employee of the federal government are automatically entered into the public domain whereas commercially published and privately created works enter after a statutory period. Commercially published and privately created (unpublished) works will enter the public domain after a statutory period has passed. This statutory period varies depending on when the item was published. In general, anything published before 1923 is in the public domain.

Public Domain Resources

  • Digital Copyright Slider
    The ALA Office of Information Technology Policy created a graphical slider to determine whether an item is protected by copyright.
  • Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States
    Cornell University has created a table titled “Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States.” It is updated annually.
  • Flickr: The Commons
    The Commons on Flickr is a public photography archive. It contains photos from participating institutions such as the Library of Congress, the Smithsoinian Institution, and NASA. The photos in the Commons have "no known copyright restrictions."