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Copyright for Faculty

What is a Public Domain Work?

A public domain work is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone.

When is a Work in the Public Domain?

Works fall into the public domain for three main reasons:

1. the term of copyright for the work has expired

2. the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright

3. the work is a work of the U.S. Government

Most works are considered in the public domain because of old age. This includes any work published in the United States before 1923, those works published before 1964 and whose copyright was not renewed, and a few works that were published without copyright notice (copyright notice was necessary for works published in the United States before March 1, 1989).


17 U.S.C. § 303

U.S. Copyright Office. (n.d.). Circular 15: Duration of copyright. Retrieved from

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