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Works in the Public Domain

Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner. A work of authorship is in the "public domain" if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain include the following:

  • Works published in the U.S. before 1923
  • Post-1923 publications that did not satisfy U.S. copyright requirements (typically notice requirements) of the time
  • Publications of the U.S. federal government
  • Works donated to the public domain by the copyright holder (usually by providing a statement saying anyone may copy the work)

Public Domain Determination Tables

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Content in this page was used or adapted with permission from one or more institutions. Please see acknowledgements.

Information in this page was reviewed and approved by legal counsel. Please see disclaimer. Review date: January 2007.

Did you know...

...public domain does not mean "I can use it because I found it in a public place" (e.g., on the Internet)? The phrase "public domain" refers purely to copyright status.

...works in the public domain might still be protected by trademark, trade secret, or contract law?

...publications of Connecticut state agencies may be copyrighted, unlike those of the federal government?


Related Links:

Center for the Study of the Public Domain (Duke U.)

Electronic Frontier Foundation (nonprofit group "working to protect your digital rights")

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