Copyright:Public Domain

An overview of copyright as it pertains to instructors and students

What is Public Domain?

If a work is in the public domain, that means it isn't copyrighted. There are three ways for a work to enter the public domain:

  1. It is born in the public domain. Works created by the U.S. government are automatically in the public domain, for example.
  2. The creator decides to release the work into the public domain (more on this in the licensing section).
  3. The work used to be copyrighted, but the copyright has expired.

When Does Copyright Expire?

Currently, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, and then the work goes into the public domain.

However, U.S. copyright law has undergone a lot of changes over the years and copyright expiration dates can be complex. To check whether the copyright on a specific work has expired, consult a public domain chart or timeline: