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Copyright, Fair Use & Creative Commons Licensing

A guide to inform faculty and students about copyright.
What is Public Domain?

"Public domain" works are not protected by copyright. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.

Some works are born into the public domain, while others reach that state after they have outlived the copyright creator's protection laws.

Born Public Domain works include:

  • Government Documents
  • Slogans
  • Facts and Ideas

Expired into the Public Domain works includes:

  • Works published before 1923 in the United States, whose author died 70+ years ago


Please remember that, while public domain works are freely available, transformative works based on public domain works may be protected by copyright.  For example, William Shakespeare's Hamlet is in the public domain because it was written around 1599.  Kenneth Branaugh's film version of Hamlet is protected by copyright because it was completed in 1996.

Works in the public domain