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Academics & Copyright: Public Domain

The information in this guide has been gathered from the American Library Association, Library of Congress, United States Copyright Office, Copyright Clearance Center, Miami Dade College, and Columbia University Library.

What is Considered Public Domain?

Public Domain is creative work that is not protected by copyright and may be freely used by everyone. Works are considered Public Domain if:

  • Work is published before 1923

  • Copyright for work has expired

  • Work of the U.S. government; federal documents

  • Author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect copyright

  • Facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation 

  • Freeware or unlicensed software

  • Published before 1964 and copyright was not renewed. Renewal was a requirement for works published before 1978

There are both copyrighted and not copyrighted materials online. Always assume a work online is copyrighted.