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Public Domain Defined

public domain symbol

Public Domain

When a work is not covered by copyright (because the copyright term has expired, the creator has released the work, or the work was never copyrighted) it is in the public domain. A work that is in the public domain is a creative work that is not protected by copyright and which may be freely used by everyone.


The reasons that the work is not protected can include:

  • the term of copyright for the work has expired
  • the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to extend the copyright
  • the work is a work of the U.S. Government


Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.

Is it in the Public Domain?


1923 calendar year copyright expires


The copyright has expired.

In the US, andy work published anywhere in the world before 1923 is in the public domain. 


copyright waived


Copyright waived.

The content was released into the public domain by the copyright holder.


US government agency


Created by a US government agency.

In the United States content produced by a government body, and paid with tax dollars, resides in the public domain.



Factual information.

The content does not rely on human creativity for an editorial or analytic perspective. (e.x. there are 365 days in a year).