Public domain definition, what is public domain, how and when works enter in the public domain?

Public domain definition
The public domain is generally defined as consisting of works that are either not copyrighted ineligible for copyright protection or with expired copyrights. Public domain refers to the total absence of copyright protection for work The public domain is a range of abstract materials commonly referred to as intellectual property which are not owned or controlled by anyone. The term indicates that these materials are therefore “public property”, and available for anyone to use for any purpose.
No permission whatsoever is needed to copy or use public domain works. Public domain material is available for anyone to use for any purpose, private and commercial. Public domain works can serve as the foundation for new creative works. Public domain works can also be copied and distributed without any permission or paying royalties.

Public domain works (“works in the public domain”) are considered to be a part of the “public’s cultural heritage, anybody is entitled to make use of them for any purpose, including copying, modifying and even selling. Moreover, it is even permissible to remove the original author’s name.

The public domain can be defined in contrast to several forms of intellectual property; the public domain in contrast to copyrighted works is different from the public domain in contrast to trademarks or patented works. A creative work is said to be in the public domain if there are no laws which restrict its use by the public at large.
Public domain is a phrase that describes something that belongs to all people in general. It is “public property”.

How works enters in the public domain?

Works become part of the public domain when original author place its own works in public domain, and more common is the expiration of the copyright or work is no longer owned by original author, when works reach a certain age and/or when the original author/owner does not renew their copyright.

Works are in the public domain wherever no law exists that establishes proprietary rights to them or where they are specifically excluded from existing laws. Works that were created before copyright laws are part of the public domain.

When creative work will enter in the public domain?

Public domain in the United States of America.

Under current U.S. copyright law work created by an individual enters the public domain on January 1, 70 years after the author’s death. If the work is a joint effort of two or more authors, it enters the public domain on January 1, 70 years after the death of the last surviving author. In the case of a work made for hire, a work published under a pseudonym or a collective work, it enters the public domain on January 1, 95 years after the date of first publication or 120 years after creation, whichever occurs earlier.

Also, works created by the U.S. Federal Government automatically and immediately enter the public domain.

When works pass into the public domain?

Date of work Protected Term
Created 1/1/78 or after When work is fixed in tangible medium of expression Life + 70 years (or if work of corporate authorship, the shorter of 95 years from publication, or 120 years from creation
Published before 1923 In public domain None
Published from 1923 – 1963 When published with notice 28 years + could be renewed for 47 years, now extended by 20 years for a total renewal of 67 years. If not so renewed, now in public domain
Published from 1964 – 1977 When published with notice 28 years for first term; now automatic extension of 67 years for second term
Created before 1/1/78 but not published 1/1/78 but not published 1/1/78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life + 70 years or 12/31/2002
Created before 1/1/78 but published between then and 12-31-2002 1/1/78, the effective date of the 1976 Act which eliminated common law copyright Life + 70 years or 12/31/2047

Eventually, all works will fall into the public domain, assuming that copyright law does not deviate from its original intention of providing protection only for a limited duration.

Once in the public domain, it is always in the public domain.
“Public domain work is not copyrighted, no rights reserved.”


However, any variation on any public domain work becomes the property of the person making the variation, and it receives an automatic copyright, just as do completely original works.

Disclaimer: The material above is for reference purposes only.

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Public domain definition updated: 8 months ago . Tags: public,domain,definition,public domain. page ID: public-domain-definition.