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Copyright: Public domain

What is the public domain?

The public domain consists of works that are not protected by copyright and that may be freely used by anyone for any legal purpose without permission.

Public domain collections

Public domain tools

What works are included in the public domain?

  • works produced by the U.S. government 
  • works for which copyright protection has expired
  • works that do not contain the requisite originality (e.g., compilations of facts)
  • works that copyright holders placed in the public domain

When do copyrighted works enter the public domain?

Broadly interpreted, the following categories of works are now in the public domain:

  • works published in the United States before 1923 
  • works published between 1923 and 1963 if the copyright holder did not renew copyright claims with the Copyright Office
  • works published  between 1923 and 1977 if they do not feature a copyright notice

For more information, consult the Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the USA table created by the Cornell Copyright Information Center (CC-BY).